Staines Town 1-0 VCD Athletic - We have to show a bit of character and fight for our lives, says Keith McMahon

Tuesday 16th February 2016
Staines Town 1 – 0 VCD Athletic
Location Wheatsheaf Park, Wheatsheaf Lane, Staines, Middlesex TW18 2PD
Kickoff 16/02/2016 19:45

Ryman Premier League
Tuesday 16th February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Wheatsheaf Lane

VCD ATHLETIC manager Keith McMahon has challenged his relegation-threatened side to show a bit of character and fight during their last 12 games to maintain their Ryman Premier League status.

Hosts Staines Town went into the game on a run of seven straight league defeats and had two players sent off in their 2-0 defeat at Tonbridge Angels on Saturday in Johnson Hippolyte’s first game in charge of the club.

The Swans were relegated from Conference South last season went into this relegation six-pointer in the bottom five on 32 points from 31 games, a place above VCD Athletic, who arrived at Wheatsheaf Lane on 28 points from 33 league outings.

Staines Town deserved to claim the three points in a poor quality encounter, which they secured early in the second half through striker Paul Cox tucking home his 25th goal of the season.

“I thought we deserved more out of the game,” said McMahon immediately after stepping off the pitch after a warm-down with his players out on the immaculate playing surface.

“Really disappointed with the goal, poor defending but their goalkeeper has made four unbelievable saves.

“A bit unlucky, obviously with the traffic. Rob Budd turned up five minutes before the kick-off and Ricky Sappleton came here late and we had to stick him on the bench.  You could see second half the difference he made.”

A sparse crowd of 109 braved the chilly conditions to watch an forgettable tight battle between the two sides.

It could have been so different had VCD Athletic took their first chance after only 83 seconds.

Winger Nigel Neita whipped in a low cross from the left towards the near post but striker Mark Nwokeji failed to score against his old club, as the ball flashed across goal and past the far post.

“We created an unbelievable chance down the flanks. Nigel got in behind, a great cross and Nockers should score near post,” said McMahon.

“It’s exactly like their goal and he hasn’t made a good enough connection and it just gone wide and we should’ve been 1-0 up.

“I thought we started the game quite well to be fair.”

The Crayford-based club received a huge slice of luck with only two minutes and 36 seconds on the clock.

Prince M’Bengui played a short free-kick to Tommy Brewer, the central midfielder bursting down the right before floating over a deep cross. Jack Bennett was on the left by-line and directed his header back across goal from a tight angle, which looped over men on the line to bounce off the top of the crossbar.

McMahon said: “It looked like it’s going over didn’t it? It’s dropped down and hit the top. It didn’t bother us too much.

“I didn’t think we were looking too bothered to be fair.  They didn’t cause us too many problems. We’re away from home and I was pleased with the way things were going.”

VCD Athletic then enjoyed a spell of pressure and Ashley Probets played the ball into quiet striker Lheurex Menga, but his poor shot lacked power and rolled into the hands of Staines Town keeper Jack Turner.

The hosts wasted a decent chance when man-of-the-match Jack Bennett floated in a cross from the left into the box where an unmarked Cox glanced his header across goal and past the far post from 16-yards.

VCD Athletic’s best chance of the first half arrived in the 21st minute, through Richard Avery, who sat in front of the back four.

Probets hooked the ball up field from left-back and Nwokeji held the ball up before releasing Neita charging down the left.  He whipped a low ball into the box for Nwokeji and Davidson Tejaiye, who was tackled in the box.

The ball came out to Avery, who looped his right-footed shot towards the top right-hand corner from 25-yards, forcing highly-rated Turner to use his outstretched right-hand to palm the ball behind for a corner.

“Goalkeeper’s a decent keeper and he’s made a fairly decent save but like I said I thought there wasn’t much in it,” added McMahon.

“That’s why I was quite pleased being away from home, I thought we were more likely to get the goal.”

Staines Town created good opportunities from their first two corners of the game from the left.

Bennett and Ahmed Abdulla trotted over to take a short corner routine and Abdulla whipped in a deep cross towards the far post and goalkeeper Rob Budd denied Devante McKain at his near post, the former Gillingham central defender having a couple of bites of the cherry to score.

Holding midfielder Abdulla then swing in another corner towards the far post and this time right-back De’Reece Vanderhyde planted his free header just wide from eight-yards.

Staines Town continued to press for the opening goal towards the end of the first half.

The impressive Bennett linked up with M’Bengui down the left and the ball was played inside to Brewer, the skipper slicing his right-footed shot past the far post from 30-yards.

Bennett cut the ball back to M’Bengui, whose right-footed angled drive from 20-yards deflected past the diving Budd and past the far post.

The small crowd inside Wheatsheaf Park hoped for a vastly-improved second half as the first half was uninspiring to watch on such a cold night.

McMahon said: “It was tight. I was pretty pleased with it because we’re away from home, we just tried to frustrate them and try to get the shape and see if they would tire.

“I thought we could’ve been a goal up with the two chances that we had.  I just said more of the same, a little bit more quality in the final third and we’ll get a goal.

“We came in at half-time, they’ve kept a clean sheet, half a job done, now a little bit more quality, let’s get back into the game.

“We should be patient and get a goal.”

It was evident that Hippolyte tore into his side during the half-time interval as Staines Town scored the winning goal, two minutes and 28 seconds into the second half.

Vickers right-back Frantz Tchonang and two central defenders Joe Bruce and Ricardo Joseph switched off and paid the price as VCD Athletic suffered their 20th league defeat of the season.

It was a good slick move from Staines Town as left-back Chinua Cole played the ball into M’Bengui, who flicked a pass into Bennett, who whipped in a low cross for Cox to nip in to tuck home a first time left-footed shot past Budd from 12-yards.

“We’ve lost our shape a bit,” admitted McMahon.

“Frantz has come out to the halfway line to close a ball down and he hasn’t got there and they’ve put the ball in behind him and they’ve put a cross in and both the centre halves just stood there and watched and Pat’s run across both of them and scored!  That’s really poor defending from us!

“Listen he’s a handful. Pat’s good in the air but he ain’t got great pace and there’s no way he should be getting in front of your two centre halves from behind and scoring.

“I thought we switched off and defensively it’s probably one of our shakiest displays we’ve had for a little while.

“We went for a bit of experience and I thought the experience lads didn’t deal with it!”

Bennett played the ball from left-to-right and M’Bengui cut inside and his left-footed drive bounced off Budd, who gathered the ball at the near post.

Bennett then cut inside and stroked a low left-footed drive from 20-yards, which was gobbled up by Budd in front of him.

VCD Athletic’s big target-man, Ricky Sappleton, arrived late so had to make do with a place on the bench before replacing Nwokeji at the break.

He had the perfect chance to score but he steered his right-footed 25-yard free-kick wide of the left-hand post.

Staines Town keeper Turner pulled off a world-class double save on the hour-mark to prevent the poor Kent side grabbing an equaliser.

Sappleton bulldozed his way through the middle and the loose ball was stroked towards the bottom left-hand corner by Lheureux Menga from 25-yards.

The ball was destined to nestle inside the bottom left-hand corner, but Turner dived full-stretch low to his right to flick the ball onto the base of the post.

Somehow, Turner managed to get straight back up and pulled off a world-class block to prevent the onrushing Neita powering home the equaliser into the corner.

McMahon said: “He’s made a great save! He’s pushed it onto the post and he’s got up and it’s an unbelievable save.

“People say in hindsight Nigel could’ve dummied him but he’s had a really good connection right in the corner and somehow he’s got up and saved it!

“I can’t have people say it’s a big miss, it was an unbelievable save from him and it’s kept them in the game because we was on the front foot.”

Staines Town striker Adrian Clifton – who is on loan from National League South side Havant & Waterlooville – cut inside and from 20-yards his shot was caught by Budd on his knees.

McMahon handed midfielder Alexander Kelly, 17, his debut, having snapped him up on a 28-day loan from Charlton Athletic.

Despite wearing the number 7 shirt, he played in a central midfield role rather than out wide on the left.

But in the 66th minute he produced a fine solo run down the left, picking the ball up on the halfway line before cutting into the penalty area, and was denied a debut goal by Turner using his legs to turn the ball around the post.

When asked how the youngster performed on his Ryman League debut, McMahon replied: “I thought he was excellent. I thought he gave us a lot of legs. He kept the ball when we gave it to him, especially in the first half and he worked continuously hard.  Even in the last few minutes he’s bursting beyond their back four.

“He was unlucky not to score, again a decent save. He’s come this morning so he doesn’t know (his team-mates) at all and he’s just popped in and he’s done a job for us.”

The Swans created further chances to win the game by more than the one goal.

Cole played the ball inside to Abdulla, who was given time and space to drill a right-footed screamer from 30-yards, which only just cleared Budd’s crossbar.

Staines Town struck the woodwork for the second time in the 79th minute.

Substitute Michael Chambers swept the ball in from the right into the penalty area for Bennett to stroke his shot on the turn, which bounced off the left-hand post, bounced off Budd’s head before going behind for a corner.

“Again, indecision at the back,” admitted McMahon.

“We’re looking to go forward, it’s a long ball forward, both the centre halves are looking to go and deal with it and it’s dropped and the geezer’s hit it and not a great connection and h’s hit the post and come back. It’s shaded his head. It weren’t going in.”

VCD Athletic created a couple of late chances to snatch a point.

Probets swung in their third and final corner from the left for Sappleton to guide his towering header comfortably into Turner’s hands from 15-yards.

Avery launched a throw into the Staines penalty area and the ball was cleared to Sappleton, who stung Turner’s fingers with a powerfully struck hooked shot from the 12-yards.

“We’re looking to try to get an equaliser but Ricky was a handful when he came on,” said McMahon.

VCD Athletic remain in deep relegation trouble and on tonight’s evidence will be suffering relegation at the end of the season because this was a poor performance in a game they could not afford to lose.

The Vickers are now six points adrift of safety (Needham Market are now one place above the drop zone).

Hendon arrive at Oakwood on Saturday afternoon sitting three places higher on 35 points from 33 games, before McMahon takes his side to league leaders Hampton & Richmond Borough next Tuesday.

“There’s 12 games left to go, we just have to believe and fight,” said McMahon.

“We just need to put a run together, four or five wins and you’re back in it.

“We’re missing Donovan Simmonds where he broke his collarbone last week and we need to replace him.

“We need to keep believing and doing the basics but when you’ve got someone like Ricky (Sappleton) up front you are going to take some of the chances, we need to take them.

“We need to win games, simple as.  People have got to show a bit of character and fight for their lives, like we did previously against Dulwich and Enfield.”

VCD Athletic stunned then league leaders Dulwich Hamlet with a 3-2 home win on 6 February, before crashing to a 6-1 defeat at Mersham on Saturday and were poor again tonight.

“The Merstham one was really, yes it was a bad day at the office,” admitted McMahon.

“Yes, it was disappointing, the lads can win games and we can show that and if they stick to it and fight.

“I thought we showed that tonight, away from home, especially in stages. It was just a bit of quality that would’ve won us the game.”

When asked how many points the club require to survive a third season in the Ryman Premier League, McMahon replied: “We need to put a run together and we need to do what we’re asking and fight and get a bit more quality and get some results.

“I reckon we need maybe another 12-15 points. 

“We just need to worry about ourselves and see what happens if we get those points, see if it’s enough.

“They’re gutted in there, they know they made a mistake for the goal.  They gave it everything. A couple of them let us down a little bit on Saturday, tonight they’ve worked their absolute socks off.

“I probably won’t put it now past us to beat Hampton, like we did Dulwich!”

Staines Town: Jack Turner, De’Reece Vanderhyde, Chinua Cole, Tommy Brewer, Devante McKain, Joe O’Cearuill, Prince M’Bengui (Michael Campbell 73), Ahmed Abdulla, Pat Cox, Adrian Clifton (Jeremy Boakye 82), Jack Bennett.
Subs: Harry Churchill, Michael Kalu, Jack Hutchinson

Goal: Pat Cox 48

VCD Athletic: Robert Budd, Frantz Tchonang, Ashley Probets, Richard Avery, Joe Bruce, Ricardo Joseph, Alexander Kelly, Davidson Tejaiye (Harry Brickwood 81), Mark Nwokeji (Ricky Sappleton 46), Lheureux Menga (Mathias Bakare 81), Nigel Neita.
Subs: Jose Figura, Jack Barnes

Attendance: 109
Referee: Mr Garry Maskell (Greenwich, London SE10)
Assistants: Mr Ronald Albert (Catford, London SE6) & Mr Simon Parbery (Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire)