Sporting Club Thamesmead 4-1 Forest Hill Park - I felt like we made it really hard work and I don’t think we were at our best tonight, admits table-topping SCT boss Aaron Jeffery

Monday 26th October 2020
Sporting Club Thamesmead 4 – 1 Forest Hill Park
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 26/10/2020 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Monday 26 October 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

SPORTING CLUB Thamesmead manager Aaron Jeffery admits his side haven’t been playing well after reaching the Southern Counties East Football League First Division summit for the first time in only his eighth league outing as a rookie manager.

The Acre leapfrogged over title-favourites Kennington with a flattering 4-1 win over Forest Hill Park at Bayliss Avenue.

Max Williams opened the scoring inside the opening four minutes before Forest Hill Park levelled through Alvin Turyatemba’s fourth goal of the season.

Sporting Club Thamesmead took the lead for the second time through Chris Hubbard’s volley but both sides cancelled each other out during a quiet second half before Merrick Simms, 21, came off the bench and scored twice inside the final nine minutes to make it seven wins out of seven.

“Obviously very pleased with another three points. I felt like we made it really hard work and I don’t think we were at our best tonight,” admitted Jeffery.

“I don’t think we’ve been at our best the last few weeks really but we’ve been winning games of football.

“We’ve got to keep on the heels of Kennington, all we can do is keep winning games.

“A sign of a good side is winning when you’re not playing well and I think we’ve done that again. I think we’ve done that on Saturday (winning 3-1 at Greenways).

“I don’t think we deserved to go in at 2-1 up. I think it was a pretty even game. We were a bit sloppy on the ball, I think the game itself was sloppy.

“Second half, I just said to the boys to come out here try to tidy it up. We made two changes and it freshened us up and we looked more of a threat moving forward.

“I think Merrick Simms when he came on for us getting two goals really, really freshened us up and we looked a threat going forward with his pace in behind and Ryan Solan, the other side when he came on, I thought he was outstanding.

“So overall, really pleased with the boys. That’s seven wins on the bounce now, which is great. The club’s never had that so the whole club and as a team we’re over the moon.

“We have no game on Saturday, we’ve got Meridian and Bridon so I’m aiming for six points from the next two games. That hopefully sees us still sitting top, hopefully keep challenging Kennington up there.

“I won’t lie. I didn’t think after my first eight games as manager that I’d be sitting top of the league. When we done our pre-season and got the players in, I thought we would do well, I was confident we’d do well.

“We were aiming for a top-four spot (to win promotion) but to be sitting top after this many games, yes, it’s a good achievement for the boys first of all. They’re the ones who put the hard work in on the pitch. All I can do is pick the team and put them out there. I can’t get the three points and they can.”

Forest Hill Park boss Darrell Queeley endured a frustrating night while on the touch-line and admitted it was “a bit hard to take, very hard to take. I thought 4-1 is very harsh.

“They're a very efficient side, a very clinical side, however, I thought for the vast majority of the game it was quite even.”

Queeley was forced to withdraw both of his wing-backs, Reece Caine (hip); Kris Queeley (calf) and lost attacking midfielder Mason Saunders-Henry in the final 15 minutes with a hamstring pull and they had no time to recover after Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Dartford against Kent Football United.

“We got killed with our three best players had to be taken off. We had to take two off at half-time and the other one was struggling with a hamstring, then we had to change formation at that point, it’s 2-1 and we’re just wide open. They’ve scored goals when we were going for an equaliser with three of our best players off the pitch.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead started the game on the front foot and created their first opening after only 135 seconds.

Tyriq Grant – who plays on the right of a three-man defence – was penalised for a high foot and Hubbard drilled his right-footed free-kick from 30-yards off the wall and watched the ball clip the base of the far post and 11-goal striker Mayowa Olufeko couldn’t steer the ball over the line.

“It’s ricochet off their centre-half and fell to Mayo and it was a bit of a scramble on the goal-line and he couldn’t steer it home,” said Jeffery.

“I would’ve liked to see him get another goal. He’s scored in every game that he’s played this season, that’s probably why I left him on towards the end.

“I spoke to him before the game and he was feeling tired, his legs were stiff after Saturday’s game and our plan was to probably give him 60 minutes but he hadn’t scored and he wanted to get another goal.

“He wanted to carry on scoring in every game that he plays so I left him on there.

“Since he’s come to us (from Erith Town), he’s been massive for us. We lost Tim Beckford, who scored a lot of goals for us, so we had a bit of a void to fill and Mayo’s come in and he’s just hit the ground running and to score in every game that he’s played in is a great achievement.  It’s a shame he couldn’t get another one tonight.”

Queeley added: “I just want bodies in the way and there were enough bodies in the way for them to get a clean shot on target. He’s looking for a gap and he couldn’t find one and he’s hit it into one of our players.”

The home side did take the lead with only three minutes and 57 seconds on the clock when Forest Hill Park switched off following the first corner.

Hubbard cut the ball back from the left-hand side and no-one had marked or pressed Williams, who drilled his right-footed shot towards goal from 18-yards. His first attempt was blocked and his second one was drilled right-footed over a crowded box into the top right-hand corner from 16-yards.

“It’s a great finish. He got lucky when the first one fell back to him but he’s put it in the top corner,” said Jeffery, who is pleased to be able to select the diminutive central midfielder after injury.

“He’s come back into the side tonight, he’s coming back from a serious injury. He broke his leg, so this is his first start of the season tonight and I thought he was outstanding. He got through 90 minutes tonight, which was great. 

“A lot of people know Max Williams, he’s a really good player and when he gets fully fit he’s going to be another asset for us and I thought he did really well tonight.”

A fuming Queeley said: “Terrible goal to concede. What happened there was we’ve left three up for the corner and then one person got back late and ran into the box and he got followed by Williams. 

“Williams held back on the edge of the box and then no one’s picked him up. It’s gone short and he’s shot and the rebound sat up really nice for him and he hit it really well. There’s nothing the keeper could’ve done.”

The away side’s direct approach wasn’t working early on but they scored a good goal to equalise with 17 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

Lone striker Destiny Oladipo did well to hold the ball up inside the centre-circle to await support from his team-mates. He prodded the ball inside to Barciro Bario, who played a diagonal pass over to right-wing-back Kris Queeley and then Mason Saunders-Henry’s cross was charged down by Connor Dobson inside the box and striker Turyatemba hooked a first-time right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

“Alvin’s in a little bit of form. He’s actually scored in the last three games now. He should’ve had a couple in the last game and he’s taken that really well and I think we deserved it at that point,” said Queeley.

“I thought the game was really even and we’re actually playing some good stuff at that point and the equaliser was more than deserved.”

Jeffery added: “That was a smart finish. I won’t take nothing away from the finish. I thought we wasn’t tight enough, no one really closed him down but I think that just summed us up in the first half. 

“We were just that two or three yards off them. We weren’t at the races for the first 45 minutes and that’s why we made hard work of it. We came back out second half and we sort of upped it and went on to win 4-1.”

The goal inspired Forest Hill Park to enjoy a good spell of pressure and they were the better side against the new league leaders.

Their two central midfielders combined to create an opening from long range at the half-way point.

Tristian Toney played the ball inside to Bario, who took a touch before drilling a right-footed shot from 35-yards, which was spilled by goalkeeper Aaron Cathrew, who gathered at the second attempt in his midriff.

“I thought we were the better side and we played some good football and created some good openings where we could’ve done better with the final ball to create a better chance. I thought we were quite strong,” said Queeley.

“We strung some good passing moves together, we moved it from one side to the other and found Tristan in space. I wouldn’t expect those to go in but we were testing the keeper.”

Jeffery added: “I thought we were under pressure for maybe 10-15 minutes in that first half when they equalised and their tails were up.

“I said to them before the game, ‘if you give this side a chance they will take it.’ 

“They’re a good side and are very good going forward and if you’re not tight to them they can punish you and that’s what they’ve done but we rode it, we sat in and we dug in and went in at 2-1 up and rode the storm and came out second half and controlled the game and got a couple of late goals, which may be made it a flattering scoreline towards the end but I think we were well worth the 4-1.”

However, Sporting Club Thamesmead weathered the storm and grabbed the lead with a clinical finish with 29 minutes and 23 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Stefan Dixon quickly threw the ball to quiet right-winger Danny Edwards and played the ball back to Dixon, who whipped in a cross which was headed clear by Queeley, only as far as Hubbard, who cracked his right-footed volley straight into the top left-hand corner from 16-yards to cap an impressive personal performance with a goal.

Jeffery said: “Another good finish, the first three goals were all good finishes, including their goal.

“Hubbard’s got that in his locker, he’s been doing that for years. He’s getting older now, he’s our club captain, another big player for us in the changing room and on the pitch and he’ll play his part this year.

“He got through 63 minutes tonight, got a goal, a great finish and he knows what his job is in the team. He gets on the ball, gets us playing and I thought he done that tonight the whole time he was on the pitch.”

Queeley said: “Am I allowed to say it should’ve been our throw in the first place?

“It was given to them and they took it quickly and that upset me a lot. I didn’t think the defending was good enough. Kris has had to come across to win the header and they’ve stood a man over unmarked so it’s not good enough!

“We haven’t dealt with that. All it takes is for everyone to take one step back and pick up a man and then we deal with that. That should never be a goalscoring opportunity.”

Forest Hill Park goalkeeper Dillon Green pulled off a great save to prevent the home side from increasing their lead further.

Edwards played the ball to Hubbard, who floated in a great cross from the right towards the far post where Olufeko planted his header towards goal from three-yards, only for Green to tip the ball onto his crossbar and watched it drop behind for the home side’s second of five corners.

“A great ball by Hubby, he picked it up on the right, put it on a plate for Mayo. I thought he probably headed it too well. He headed it so clean, straight at the keeper. They’re the ones you want to come off your nose or your face into the ground, anywhere apart from the keeper’s throat.

“I think it was a good save. The keeper pulled off a good save. That sort of summed up his night. He had a couple of sniffs in the second half that didn’t really fall for him tonight.”

Queeley added: “A great cross from Hubbard as well. It’s gone over two or three defenders and dropped right onto his head. It was a good header. We’ve done quite well to keep him quiet for most of the game but he’s got away from us that time. A nice clean header and a great save from Dillon.”

Forest Hill Park created an opening to deservedly draw level three minutes before the interval.

Queeley delivered a high, hanging free-kick from the right flank and Saunders-Henry jumped up at the near post to steer his free-header over the top of the near post from eight-yards.

“It would have been nice to go in on equal terms. I thought it was quite an even game. We definitely didn’t deserve to be losing, if anything, if I’m being greedy, I would’ve liked to have been winning at that point. We played quite a strong 45 minutes but it wasn’t to be,” said Queeley.

At half-time, Jeffery said: “I just said to them I didn’t think we were good enough in the first half. I thought we were a couple of yards off the pace. We gave them too much time in the midfield, same with their goal really, they had too much time in the box to bring it down and score.

“We said as a group we had to get tighter and we need to start to win more first and second balls really and that’s what we all agreed to come out second half and try to start really fast and start pressing them higher up the pitch.

“I got a reaction at half-time and they came out for the first 15-20 minutes of the second half and I thought they started doing that and it wasn’t until a bit later when Merrick’s come on and got the goals but I think it was coming.”

Queeley added: “Well first of all I’m dealing with Reece and Kris telling me they can’t continue. They’re two players who create most of our chances, two players who defend and attack well, so I spent five minutes trying to tell them they’re alright, try to do a bit of a Jedi trick but my Jedi powers didn’t really work.

“We had to make the changes, other than that it was ‘keep your head up’, we haven’t done badly. We have to continue to move the ball quickly and other secrets I won’t tell you but we believed we were still in the game.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead created the first chance of the second half inside the opening five minutes.

Left-back Bode Olajide played the ball inside to an unmarked Dobson, who took a touch before unleashing a right-footed swerving drive from 35-yards, which stung Green’s fingers as the shot was too hot to handle and all he could do was beat the ball towards safety.

Jeffery said: “Connor’s had a good run in the team and he’s been one of our better players in our last five or six games. He’s been excellent for us. He’s been playing the more advanced role out of the three midfielders, which allows him to get on the ball and it allows him to get away his shots and he’s got a good shot on him as you saw how he stroked that one today.”

Queeley added: “Similar to our strikes, good strike, a nice clean strike but you don’t expect a keeper at this level to let that go in so I expected Dillon to save that.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead were to be denied by the far-post in the 58
th minute.

Olufeko won a free-kick down the left-channel after being sandwiched by two Forest Hill Park players and Hubbard delivered a quality ball towards the far post for centre-half Rolex Buiti to plant his downward header across the keeper and against the far post from six-yards.

“We did create a lot of chances tonight. We wasn’t clinical enough until we got our third goal,” said Jeffery.

“I was a bit disappointed we did miss quite a few chances and as the season goes on and as you play the top teams in the league you need to be taking these chances, you won’t always get away with missing them. Hopefully, we can build on that and take more of our chances when we get them.”

Queeley added: “I mean, I used to play with Hubby when I was playing. I don’t even know how old he is, he won’t want me to mention it but he’s still got the legs. He’s still got the magic in his boots. He can create chances.”

The second half had no tempo to it and Buiti squandered a second headed chance after meeting Dobson’s cross towards the far post but he appeared to close his eyes and steer his weak header past the near post.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, the home side created another chance from a set-piece.

Dobson floated in their fifth and final corner of the night from the left and centre-half Mason Simms rose to steer his header over the crossbar from four-yards out.

Olufeko cut in from the left wing before drilling his right-footed shot past the near post from 25-yards as he experienced not scoring in a game for the first time this season.

The game needed to be kick-started into life and Jeffery brought on Merrick Simms in the 77
th minute and he was given a gift from the goalkeeper to score his side’s third goal with 35 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Hitting a tiring Forest Hill Park side on the counter-attack both of their substitute wingers were involved in the move as Ryan Solan played a crossfield pass from right-to-left to Merrick Simms, who was left in acres of space to drill a low left-footed shot towards the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards.

Goalkeeper Green scrambled to his right and let the ball creep underneath his body to nestle inside the bottom corner.

“Maybe their keeper could’ve done slightly better with it but it was another good strike from the edge of the box,” said Jeffery.

“He did change the game when he came on, same as Ryan, who assisted him on the goal, they both changed the game, not that the other wingers did anything wrong but at that time in the game when it’s 30 minutes left and you can bring on players with that threat of pace and they’re both so direct, it’s going to hurt any team.

“I thought they were both excellent, they were both direct. Merrick’s got his two goals and every time he got the ball he was a threat.”

Queeley added: “You’ll never hear me blame my keeper. I thought he had a heroic scramble across the goal and something must have got in his eyes and it’s gone under him.

“Dillon’s had a great game today. At this point we’ve got our three best players off the pitch, there’s nine minutes to go and we’ve stuck three up front and we’re trying to throw the kitchen sink at it.”

A poor touch from now struggling Grant resulted in Dobson feeding Olufeko who put Merrick Simms through on goal but he dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

The away side switched their formation to 4-3-3 for the final 10 minutes and this left them open at the back.

They did create a chance when their two substitutes combined. Flavio Jumo floated a deep free-kick towards the far post where Olugbenga Jubrill, playing at right-wing-back, smashed his volley past the near post.

Queeley said: “We were just trying to create anything at that point. The game was quite tight both ways, I didn’t see many chances either end for either team in the second half.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead completed their scoring with one minute and 43 seconds into stoppage time when last defender Grant resorted in a desperate attempt by cutting Merrick Simms in half just outside the corner of the penalty area as he raced past him (after latching onto Dobson’s pass) before drilling his left-footed shot across the keeper from a tight angle into the bottom far corner and through a hole in the goal-net.

Where are all the scouts? Merrick Simms should be playing at a higher level of football than the tenth tier.

“I weren’t sure what happened, I thought it just went wide and the ref’s pointing back to the centre spot and they’ve wheeled away celebrating so I knew it was a goal,” added Jeffery.

“Another good finish, there were many good finishes tonight and that was another one but when Merrick does that he’s a dangerous player when he’s that direct and he gets the ball and goes at full-backs. He’s a really good player.”

Jeffery, a striker himself, has challenged Merrick Simms to score more goals this season.

“We both agreed, he wanted to add goals to his game. He’s got everything else. He’s got pace, he’s direct, he’s learning this level and there’s a lot to learn. It’s evident, he’s learning and taking on board what me and the coaches say. He’s one of the fastest players in the league and he just needs to use that pace and when he does like tonight he will get goals and he’s scored another two tonight and that puts him on three and hopefully he continues to chip in with goals with performances like that.”

Queeley added: “I thought it went wide as well, I saw it come out the other side but I could tell by the look on my players’ faces that it’s gone in!

“No one had the cheek to say it went wide. I probably said some unkind words, threw my hands in the air a few times and spun round a few times and sat down.

“We were losing 2-1 when we were doing the right things when we weren’t throwing the kitchen sink at it. I’m not going to criticise my players for the last two goals, I will take that on my chin.”

Both sides are without a game at the weekend but are back in action on Saturday 7 November with Jeffery taking his side to bottom of the table Meridian VP, while Queeley faces third-placed Holmesdale at Oakley Road.

Sporting Club Thamesmead are top of the tree tonight with 21 points from eight games, having played a couple more than Kennington, who have collected 18 points. Holmesdale follow with 15 points from six games and Rochester United have banked 14 points from six games to make up the promotion quartet.

Forest Hill Park remain in eleventh-place in the pecking order with seven points from seven outings.

“We wanted to carry on from last year. A top-four spot was the aim and that is our aim as a club and as a team,” added Jeffery

Queeley admitted: "It’s really frustrating to be 2-1 down, it was frustrating, forget the 4-1. The 4-1 is ridiculous. Anyone at the game will know it was not a 4-1 game at all.

“To be 2-1 down was frustrating enough for me. Hats off to Thamesmead, let’s not take anything away from them. They’re well drilled, they don’t give anything away silly, they don’t make mistakes. They continue to make the right decisions consistently and they were clinical today but from our perspective, we were unlucky to lose, let alone 4-1.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Aaron Cathrew, Stefan Dixon, Bode Olajide, Connor Dobson, Rolex Buiti, Mason Simms, Mike Nduakulu (Merrick Simms 77), Max Williams, Mayowa Olufeko, Chris Hubbard (David Jesus 63), Danny Edwards (Ryan Solan 56).
Subs: Aidan Smith, England Kurti

Goals: Max Williams 4, Chris Hubbard 30, Merrick Simms 81, 90

Booked: Mayowa Olufeko 45

Forest Hill Park: Dillon Green, Kris Queeley (Olugbenga Jubrill 46), Reece Caine (Adrian Brown 46), Cameron Lovatt, Matthew Faithorn, Tyriq Grant, Mason Saunders-Henry (Flavio Jumo 75), Barciro Bario, Destiny Oladipo, Alvin Turyatemba, Tristan Toney.

Goal: Alvin Turyatemba 18

Booked: Destiny Oladipo 39

Attendance: 70
Referee: Mr Sikiru Idris
Assistants: Mr Kevin Greenhead & Mr Amechi Onwugbonu