Thamesmead Town 2-1 Tilbury - Until it's mathematically impossible in my heart I think we can still do it, says play-off chasing Terry Spillane

Monday 07th March 2016
Thamesmead Town 2 – 1 Tilbury
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 07/03/2016 19:45

Ryman League Division One North
Monday 7th March 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

THAMESMEAD TOWN manager Terry Spillane says there is no pressure on his players as they go in search of grabbing a play-off spot in their last nine league games of the season.

The Mead sealed their third win on the spin to remain in the top eight in the Ryman League Division One North table on 64 points but they have closed the gap to seven points adrift of fifth-placed Cray Wanderers.

Thamesmead Town went into the break a goal to the good as makeshift central defender Richard Butler slotted home a penalty to score his eleventh goal of the season.

The home side doubled their lead early in the second half through Theo Fairweather-Johnson’s composed finish, his sixteenth-goal of the season.

Ninth-placed Tilbury pulled a goal back when central midfielder Jack Carlile bundled in his sixth goal of the season.

“It’s a great win, it puts us right back amongst it really,” said Spillane, following his side’s nineteenth league win of the season.

“We said to the boys a few weeks ago we really need to have a really strong finish.  We had a bad blip in November, we had a two or three game spell as well about a month back and we need to a strong finish.

“Generally this club knows all about that. There’s one that sneaks in at the end and this club done it a few years ago against my club actually when I was at Maldon so this club knows all about it and I’m hoping history repeats itself.

“I’m not taking anything for granted, not by a long shot. All we want to do, all we said to the players is, realistically the play-offs are a distant target but saying that it’s still a target that we can reach and if teams above us or around us start dropping games we want to make sure we’re there or there abouts.

“We feel we can beat anyone at the minute.  We’re on a strong run.”

There was a surprise at the heart of central defence as Butler was partnered by striker Paul Vines, whose performance earnt him the home club’s man-of-the-match award.

“He played there Saturday. We had four centre halves out this week so we pulled Buts (Butler) in who’s played there before but he’s a centre midfielder, whose scored 11 goals for us this year.

“Vinsey, to be fair to him, volunteered it. He said he’s played against the best centre halves in the non-league for how many years and he got man-of-the-match tonight. He knows how to play the game.”

Butler’s lack of pace was caught out when striker Dwade James latched onto Matt Game’s ball over the top but goalkeeper Andy Walker rushed off his line to make a vital block after only 92 seconds.

“Again, how many times do we say that? Walker’s Walker ain’t he? That’s bread and butter stuff to him,” said Spillane.

“People who have come over and have rarely seen him then it’s a good save.  I’m not saying it’s not. We’ve just got used to him making those sort of saves - and his head’s big enough as it is!”

Luke Stanley swung in Tilbury’s second corner of the game but Jimmy Cook’s header bounced into the hands of the Thamesmead keeper.

Thamesmead Town’s first opening came following their first corner of the game inside nine minutes.

Lee Prescott swung the ball in towards the near post which Butler glanced his header across goal and sailing past the far post from ten-yards.

Both teams were found guilty of playing an uninspiring long-ball game during the first half that lacked spark.

Tilbury almost scored when Carlile released James down the right and his shot from an acute angled rolled past Walker but Thamesmead right-back Ben Glasgow slid in to hack his clearance over his own crossbar from close range.

“That’s just good play from us, that’s what defenders do,” said the Mead boss.

“That’s something that Tony Faulkner, my coach, drills into them that you never give up, you always get round and cover your goalkeeper and I give Tony that one tonight, he’s put that one in their heads and that’s what’s happened.”

Prescott floated in a free-kick from the right and striker Tyrus Gordon-Young nipped in between two defenders to glance his header wide of the left-hand post.

“Tyrus has come back strong the last few weeks after a little time on the sidelines,” said Spillane.

“He’s a battering ram Tyrus and you’ve seen tonight he’s given their back four a torrid time.

“He’s just on a bad run at the minute but he’s getting in some good positions, which is the main thing, that’s what we’re saying to him.   His work-rate is second to none, especially the last two or three games and the goals are certainly coming. If he doesn’t score them, he makes them as you saw tonight.”

But Thamesmead Town made the breakthrough from the penalty spot, the goal timed at 28:03 after Dockers’ central defender Danny Smith tripped Fairweather-Johnson as he cut in to the penalty area.

A calm Butler stepped up and slotted the resulting penalty to the goalkeeper’s left as the keeper dived to his right.

“I think that’s six or seven penalties this year,” Spillane said of Butler’s strike-rate.

“He’s so cool and casual. Once we get a penalty you just think - unless the keeper guesses the right way and makes a good save – because you never know what way he’s going.  Every penalty he’s taken this season he’s changed. He hits them high, low, chips the keeper, top right. You can’t read him because he’s a school teacher, he hides things.”

Thamesmead Town squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off just 88 seconds later.

Winger Harrison Carnegie – who hasn’t replicated his electrifying performances for rivals and neighbours Phoenix Sports – released Fairweather-Johnson through on goal but he hooked his shot over the bar from 25-yards.

Spillane said: “Theo’s been getting lots of goals for us. The easier ones at the moment, he seems to be having problems but the hard ones he just sticks them in the bottom corner but we’ll take that with Theo at the minute.  He’s on a great run, he’s a great team player, a great player to have in your team because he's just so strong, you play the ball to his feet.”

Tilbury’s penalty-scoring left-back Danny Glozier floated over a cross towards the penalty spot but Aiken failed to keep his header down.

Tilbury right-back Bradley Webb reached a clearance ahead of Gordon-Young and smacked a volley towards goal from 40-yards, which dipped into Walker’s hands.

Thamesmead Town created the last chance of the first half, through route one football.

Vines pumped a ball forward and Jay Porter (playing further up field on the left) shrugged off Webb and steered a low shot into Clarke Bogard’s hands from 25-yards.

When asked what he said to his players during the half-time break, Spillane said: “Just carry on doing what we’re doing! We know they were going to have a ten minute spell when they were going to get on top of us because they’ve got to have a go.

“As I’ve said many times this year there are no easy games in this division. Every team has got five, six, seven good players and Tilbury are no different.”

Thamesmead Town were celebrating doubling their lead only five minutes and 54 seconds into the second half.

Gordon-Young slipped the ball in behind the Tilbury defence to his strike partner Fairweather-Johnson.  His first shot was blocked by Bogard but the striker maintained his composure to stroke his left-footed shot into the bottom far corner of the net from 12-yards.

“That’s what Theo does! We had a go at him because he’s so laid back, he’s horizontal! He’s so laid back. His six foot four, built like a brick house and we said to him we want him to be more physical and more direct.

“But it’s just in his nature to be cool and its situations like that, that’s his character. Another one of our players will get into that position and try to snatch at it and miss – when those chances come to Theo, it’s generally a goal.”

Smith went on mazy run towards the edge of the Thamesmead Town penalty area but his attempt was woeful, slicing his shot well wide of the target.

But Tilbury did pull a goal back with 15:36 on the second half clock but Spillane claimed the goal should have been ruled out through offside.

James ran down the right and reached the by-line before he cut the ball back to Aiken, whose shot rolled across the face of goal and Carlile took a touch at the far post and bundled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from a couple of yards out.

“They brought a boy (Martin) on in the second half, he came on in the second half on Saturday and got three goals (in a 4-0 win at Aveley), so they’re a strong, strong outfit.

“All we wanted to do really was more of the same, a little bit more finesse perhaps in our final ball and hopefully take more of the chances that we were creating.

“Second half, although we were on the back foot for 10-15 minutes, they’ve had three or four chances.  We’ve had five or six breakaway chances that we’ve not taken. “

But Spillane admitted he felt the goal should have been chalked off, adding: “It was well offside! There’s not might have been, he was well offside! We can’t do nothing about that now. Referees and linesmen make errors the same as players do so we just have to take that one on the chin.”

Tilbury manager Gary Henty decided to bring on 21-goal striker Tony Martin and he was denied a stunning goal with his first touch of the game by Walker.

Martin cracked a right-footed volley towards the roof of the net from 20-yards, but Walker used his outstretched right-hand to tip the ball onto the bar and the ball landed on the top of the roof of the net.

Spillane said: “We say great save but that really was!  We see him make those saves week-in-week-out but that one, that just shows his professionalism and his athleticism.

“He won’t thank me for saying it, but he’s the wrong side of 30 shall we say but he looks after himself and it shows there you watch football a lot and that was a great save, kept us in the game, won us the game maybe.”

Tilbury were cursing their luck from the resulting corner, however.

Stanley swung in the corner from the right towards the near post where Aiken’s glancing header clipped the near post and Martin smashed the rebound against the crossbar.

Spillane said: “Well I’m pretty sure I’ve said this as well this season, we’ve had bad luck. I remember sitting with you against Cray and they scored, they beat us over their place in the last minute when I thought we deserved something. Perhaps tonight was pay back for hat game in particular. It’s swings and roundabouts.

“Tilbury will be upset about that but I’m sure they’ve had games where the same has happened to them and they’ve won!”

This signalled a good spell from the Dockers and Game’s pass was latched onto by James, whose first shot was blocked by Vines, his second drew an excellent diving save out of Walker, who dived low to his right.

Thamesmead Town escaped some scary moments as Tilbury went for an equaliser inside the final four minutes.

James hooked the ball out to Aiken on the left who reached the channel before flashing in a cross that was somehow missed by Martin at the far post and fellow substitute Andy Edmunds screwed his shot across goal instead of in it.

Walker, 34, proved just why he is the best goalkeeper in this division when he maintained his side’s vital victory.

Webb delivered a deep cross into the penalty area, which Aiken cushioned his header down. The ball landed at Martin’s feet and the ball was destined to nestle inside the bottom left-hand corner, but Walker pulled off a world-class save, getting down quickly low to his right and stretching to parry the ball before grabbing hold of it.

Spillane said: “Again, that’s got goal written all over it!

“Tony played for me at Maldon, we know all about him. He’s a good lad, he’s quick, he’s a confidence player. When his confidence is high as it is now he’s unstoppable.

“When it’s bounced to him my head was saying goal, but my heart stopped and I knew Walks was going to save it! No I’m joking!

“It’s a great save! You watch him train and stuff like that during the week, the way he looks after himself and I say to the other players, the same as Vinsey, they’ve had the career’s they’ve had in non-league because they look after themselves, they look after themselves away from football and it shows in games like that.”

Spillane has called his troops into training on Tuesday night and Thursday night this week ahead of the visit of fourth-from-bottom side Waltham Abbey on Saturday.

The manager admits his side must carry on winning if they are to be one of the four sides in the play-offs at the end of April.

“I don’t care how it sounds, there’s no pressure on us now and that’s a fact,” said Spillane.

“No-one expected us to get play-offs, we shouldn’t get to the play-offs now so there’s no pressure on us.

“All we’re saying to the players is let’s make sure we’re there or there abouts if teams slip up.  It may well be team don’t slip up.

“We’re in a false position.  We’ve dropped points this year where we shouldn’t have done but it is what it is.

“The play-offs has always been a target of ours since the start of the season and until it’s mathematically impossible, in my heart we can still do it. In my head, I don’t know, it’s a big ask.

“If we win those nine games that’s 27 points and who knows where that takes us. If we get that amount of points and we fail to make it, we’ll have to look at ourselves over the rest of the season.”

When asked his situation if he doesn’t guide the club towards a top-five finish, Spillane replied: “At the start of the season the chairman wanted us to go play-offs so you have to ask him that.

“I don’t feel as if I’m under pressure. I feel in the last year we’ve brought the team on leaps and bounds, in my opinion. That’s not having a go at the past managers or players.

“We’re in a much better position in the league, that’s for sure when me and Tony (Faulkner) came in so I don’t feel there is any pressure on us at all, only the pressure we put on ourselves and that’s what football’s all about.

“If you’re going into games not wanting to win or not feel any pressure then you’re in the wrong game.

“The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves. We feel we’re experienced enough and have enough know how to get these boys into the play-offs and until it’s mathematically impossible we’re going to think that.”

Thamesmead Town: Andy Walker, Ben Glasgow (Jack Hopkins 76), Tommy Spillane, Richard Butler, Paul Vines, Gaz Dauti, Lee Prescott, Jay Porter, Tyrus Gordon-Young, Theo Fairweather-Johnson, Harrison Carnegie.
Subs: Steve Collis, Harry Prince, Kye Jude, Ainsley Everett

Goals: Richard Butler 29 (penalty), Theo Fairweather-Johnson 51

Booked: Tommy Spillane 44, Theo Fairweather-Johnson 62, Paul Vines 64, Gaz Dauti 70, Lee Prescott 77

Tilbury: Clarke Bogard, Bradley Webb, Danny Glozier, Danny Smith, Jake Pooley, Matt Game, Emiel Aiken, Jack Carlile, Dwade James, Luke Stanley (Andy Edmunds 83), Jimmy Cook (Tony Martin 64).
Subs: Lewis Jaggs, Charlie Spalding

Goal: Jack Carlile 61

Booked: Danny Smith 47, Bradley Webb 53, Emiel Aiken 59, Jack Carlile 90

Attendance: 121
Referee: Mr Damith Bandara (Southwater, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Shaun Farrer (Reigate, Surrey) & Mr Gary Worrell (Thornton Heath, Surrey),