Phoenix Sports 3-4 Whitehawk - We've come out of it with our heads held high, says Phoenix Sports Academy manager Jack Parkinson

Wednesday 18th October 2017
Phoenix Sports 3 – 4 Whitehawk
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 18/10/2017 19:45

The FA Youth Cup Third Qualifying Round
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS Academy manager Jack Parkinson says his players’ can exit The FA Youth Cup with their heads held high after being knocked out in the final Qualifying round.

The Bostik South club have defeated VCD Athletic and Dartford both 2-1 at home, before an impressive 2-0 win at Vanarama National League club Ebbsfleet United in the last round followed but their longest run in the competition came to an end against Vanarama National League South club Whitehawk.

END OF THE ROAD: Phoenix Sports longest run in The FA Youth Cup came to an end when they lost 4-3 at home to Vanarama National League South club Whitehawk.
Photo: Phoenix Sports FC

Phoenix Sports wide-man Alfie Alridge gave his side a dream start by scoring after only 34 seconds, before Whitehawk seized control and levelled through Alfie Rodgers’ penalty, before Phoenix central defender Matt Poole scored an own-goal.

Phoenix Sports changed formation to five at the back (three central defenders) at the break but Whitehawk killed the game off through Rodgers’ free header inside the opening five minutes and man-of-the-match Robert Deda capped off an impressive display with a 40-yard drive.

Phoenix Sports showed great character to mount a late comeback, courtesy of two late penalties from Aldridge, 17, but the Brighton-based visitors’ came out deserved winners and were the better side on the night.

“They were a better side than us, there’s no two ways about it,” admitted Parkinson, 28, afterwards.

“They had some very good boys, they had a good mix. They had some big boys, they had some very technically good boys, they were better than us, there’s no reason hiding it.

“The scoreline probably flattered us a little bit but do you know what? Massive credit to our boys to get this far, mostly being a school team is testament to how hard we’ve worked and the boys have worked so far.

“Yes, it is a defeat but no one’s going to walk away from here with their heads on the floor because I thought at times they were on top but we’ve come out of it with our heads held high.  To be this far in the competition is a credit to them.”

A crowd of 203 were in attendance and they saw Phoenix Sports grab the lead with only 34 seconds on the clock.

Starting with three men up top, right-hand-side striker Ben Allen flicked a pass into Aldridge’s feet and he drove forward before driving a low right-footed shot underneath keeper Gregor Shaw from 25-yards.

“The old cliché isn’t it? We probably scored too early,” said Parkinson.

“Look, Alfie is a real, real talent. He’s someone who’s with our first team. He played last night as well with Ben Allen as the front boys. He’s a huge talent and he’s getting better and better. It was a great strike. It was a fantastic strike but do you know what? I think we scored too early that is almost didn’t matter because there was still 90 minutes to play.”

Aldridge then swung in a corner from the left and Luke Garrod came up from the back to guide his header straight into Shaw’s hands from six-yards.

But Whitehawk seized control and Rodgers whipped in a cross from the right channel, which was cleared out to Deda, who stung Lewis Watson’s fingers with a powerful first time deflected drive from 22-yards.

Deda had a great game bossing the Whitehawk engine room and made a number of penetrating runs with the ball, which was not dealt with on several occasions.

“I think that’s where we lost the battle tonight,” admitted Parkinson.

“Their three in midfield were very dominant. We had two first years in there against three of their second years and it showed at times. They were physically stronger, technically they were very good and unfortunately that’s where we’ve been strong over the three games in the Youth Cup so far.”

Deda burst into the box down the left-hand side and Garrod came across and brought him down and referee Andrew Simmonds pointed to the spot.

Rodgers drove his right-footed free-kick just right of centre, sending the keeper the wrong way, with 14 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

“Do you know what? It was frustrating but they could’ve had a penalty just before that. It was definitely a penalty.  Luke got the wrong side of his man and unfortunately, we were a little bit fazed.  The two boys up front were very strong for them tonight and our two boys haven’t come across that for a little while so it’s a great learning curve for us so it’s one they’ll take a lot from and hopefully going forward they’ll be able to cope with that.”

Phoenix keeper Watson used his fingertips to make a fine save in the 20th minute when Deda delivered a deep free-kick towards the far post, central defender Robert Malila knocked the ball across goal and Anesu Sisimayi’s effort was tipped over the bar.

“Lewis, our goalkeeper, has been fantastic for us this year,” praised Parkinson.

“He’s a big boy, he kicks well. We need to get him a little bit sharper. I thought he pulled off some good saves tonight. They were very strong down the right-hand side in the first half and they caused us a lot of problems and I think he kept us in it.”

Whitehawk striker James Waters found a pocket of space out on the left to drag his left-footed angled drive across the goal and past the far post.

Aldridge latched onto Walpole’s flick, cut into the penalty area before drilling his shot into the base of the side netting from a tight angle in the 27th minute.

Phoenix midfielder Donit Mehmeti’s miss-placed pass was intercepted by Joel Daly, who burst forward before stinging Watson’s fingers as he dived to his right to palm away, the ball heading towards goal and being headed away by Garrod.

But Whitehawk deservedly took the lead with another run forward from midfield from Daly, who sprinted into the penalty area with the ball before drilling his shot towards the bottom corner, the ball being turned in by Poole at the near post.

“It was an own-goal, the second one. He sort of drilled it across goal and Matty Poole tried to block it. It’s come off his knee and he’s changed the angle and gone in so the first two goals, ones a penalty and an own goal.

“Unfortunately, at this age where you have to be mentally strong when things like that happen, you’ve got to get on with it.  I think it effected our two centre halves. One gave a penalty away and one scored an own-goal and it affected them at half-time, again it’s a learning curve for them.”

Whitehawk won eight of their 10 corners during the first half and they missed a glorious chance just before the break.

Deda swung in a lovely corner from the left and an unmarked Rodgers planted his far-post header over the crossbar from four-yards out.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Parkinson replied: “Stick at it! I knew they were a good side, I watched them in their previous game. I knew their strengths but unfortunately their strengths were just too strong for our weaknesses. I told the boys to stick at it.

“We stuck an extra boy in at centre half for the first 10 minutes of the second half, hoping we could stay in the game for the first 10 minutes of the second half.”

Allen was released down the right and his angled drive almost flew through Shaw’s fingers high above his head but the Whitehawk keeper grabbed hold of the ball at the second attempt after 95 seconds.

But Whitehawk killed off the game by scoring their third goal with only four minutes and 45 seconds in.

Once again Deda was given the freedom to run from midfield into the final third and he played the ball out to Waters on the left, who cut in towards the by-line before wrapping his foot around the ball to cross towards the far post where the unmarked Rodgers guided his header into the right-hand corner from six-yards.

Parkinson said: “Unfortunately the ball went wide and they crossed it and Matty switched off a little bit and the boy’s come in with a free header behind him and that puts you outside a bit really because mentally it looked like it deflated everybody.”

Parkinson admitted he got it “tactically wrong.”

“That was the idea of putting him (Davis) in there. We were hoping we could stay in the game for 10 minutes. They were well on top coming into half-time so we flooded the central area.  It was working, they had a lot more of the ball but it wasn’t hurting us but unfortunately Matty switched off and they stood one up at the far post and he’s got in between the centre halves and the full-back. It’s a good header, but it’s just too easy.”

Phoenix missed a glorious chance to find their way back into the game on the hour-mark.

A long ball was cleared out of a packed Phoenix penalty box for Allen to chase down the heart of the pitch. He beat the last defender, skipped past the keeper but a poor touch saw the ball run out of play and the striker smashed the ball into the hoardings behind the goal in sheer frustration.

“He’s made a great run to get in there. Ben’s another one with huge talent. He’s only 16-years-old and he played 90 minutes for the first team last night and he got through 90 minutes tonight, which was credit to him. 

“Maybe if he hits it early, it’s probably a goal. He’s tried to take it around the keeper and his touch has taken it wide but if that goes in does it change the game? Quite possibly.”

Whitehawk eased their passage into the First Round with their fourth goal of the night in the 67th minute.

Deda, who was on loan in the left-back berth at the time, picked up a loose ball, cut inside and was given acres of space before drilling a low drive into the bottom right-hand corner from 40-yards.

Parkinson said: “He’s a good player, I know he’s been around their first team. They’ve had a few boys, their right-back plays in their first team quite regularly as well. He was good. It was too easy at times. As good as he was at this level we made it too easy for him and it’s something we should’ve done a lot better with.

“The fourth goal obviously killed us. It was a great strike from their lad but miles too easy. He’s picked the ball up from inside his own half and he’s run a long way. It looked like he was playing everywhere at that point. He was a good player, don’t take anything away from him or the strike, it was a good goal.”

“The most pleasing thing for me is we kept going to score the two goals late on, which was credit for how hard we worked.”

Rodgers delivered a deep cross, Whitehawk substitute Leon Moore hooked the ball inside to Sisimayi, the winger teeing up Deda, who hit a first time drive straight into Watson’s hands from 25-yards.

Sisimayi then turned provider for Rodgers, who unleashed a right-footed drive which forced Watson to dive to his right to beat away.

“He’s made a couple of good saves,” added Parkinson, who was then asked how he was feeling with his side 4-1 down at the time.

“Is there a gate where I can hide?

“At that point knowing the boys that we’ve got, we’re a school team. Let’s not hide behind the fact, we’re a school team that’s over-achieved to get where we’re at and we shouldn’t be competing against sides like Whitehawk.  When it gets to 4-1 you want to get the score down.”

Phoenix Sports, however, showed great character to not fold and they gave it a right good go late on.

Substitute winger Jack Pye’s cross from the right struck Daly’s hands in the box and Aldridge slotted his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner with 40 minutes and 8 seconds on the clock.

Aldridge picked the ball out of the net and ran with it to place it on the centre circle – but it was too late for them to mount a serious comeback.

“A good run from Pye, he tried to get something out of it. He wins us a penalty and a nice finish from Alfie,” added Parkinson.

Aldridge’s corner from the left was met by Poole’s free header at the far post which he planted over the Whitehawk crossbar.

Phoenix Sports scored a flattering third goal with 46 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock.

This time it was Allen who was sent to the ground by a combination of two Whitehawk players and Aldridge tucked home his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner – the final whistle was blown after only 2 minutes and 14 seconds of time added on.

“I don’t want to blow Alfie’s trumpet too much. It’s a great bit of composure and I’m really pleased for him. He’s had 60 minutes for the first team last night, he's something like 25 goals for the season already.”

When asked about scouts’ interest in Aldridge, Parkinson replied: “He was on trial with Millwall but I let other people make a decision on that.

“Alfie’s a young boy, he’s playing in the first team. He’s got bundles of ability. He trains full-time with us. Is he good enough to go to a pro club? Who knows but I let other people make their decision on that.”

Summing up, Parkinson spoke of his pride tonight.

“When I was at Maidstone United, we won the National Cup and we got to the First Round proper of the Youth Cup at Southend and got narrowly beat 3-2 in extra time and it was great but running this side, winning the Kent Cup last year, finishing in the top three in the Conference Youth League and seeing these boys who are effectively a school team.

“Some of these boys have played in the Bexley B and C divisions for their clubs and to see them competing now where they’re competing in the league and in night’s like tonight in front of 203 people is so pleasing. I get so much more satisfaction out of this than I ever did.

“We were expected at Maidstone to beat sides. We’re not expected to beat anyone here. We’re little old Phoenix, Erith School.  We had the two headmasters here tonight, they were probably about 25 people here form the school so for me to see that and see the boys do what they did is so, so pleasing and I can’t speak highly of the group that we’ve got.”

Phoenix Sports: Lewis Watson, Sam Warren (Jayden Hussian 59), Billy Oak, Jimmy Martin (Jack Pye 75), Luke Garrod, Matt Poole, Qendrem Murselaj, Donit Mehmeti (Jamie Davis 46), John Walpole, Ben Allen, Alfie Aldridge.
Subs: Rohan Badbhagi, Jesse Anderson

Goals: Alfie Aldridge 1, 86 (penalty), 90 (penalty)

Booked: Ben Allen 60, Matt Poole 82

Whitehawk: Gregor Shaw, Fintan Walsh, Lewis Broughton, Lewis Bond (Adam Bukleb 76), Robert Malila, Daniel Addy, Joel Daly, Robert Deda, James Waters (Leon Moore 62). Alfie Rodgers, Anesu Sisimayi (Joe Bull 76).

Goals: Alfie Rodgers 15 (penalty), 50, Matt Poole 37 (own goal), Robert Deda 67

Booked: Adam Bukleb 83

Attendance: 203
Referee: Mr Andrew Simmonds (Grays, Essex)
Assistants: Mr James Beadle (Meopham) & Mr Kevin Greenhead (Bexleyheath)

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