Thamesmead Town 1-1 AFC Hornchurch - We'll keep beating the drum until we get it right, says Alex O'Brien

Sunday 08th October 2017
Thamesmead Town 1 – 1 AFC Hornchurch
Location Princes Park Stadium, Grassbanks, Darenth Road, Dartford, Kent DA1 1RT
Kickoff 08/10/2017 14:00

The Buildbase FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Sunday 8th October 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium

THAMESMEAD TOWN assistant manager Alex O’Brien says his players stuck to their jobs to earn a second bite of the cherry against in-form AFC Hornchurch.

The Mead opened the scoring inside the opening six minutes courtesy of a piece of magic from striker Paul Vines, who scored his seventh goal of the season.

Thamesmead Town striker Paul Vines (green, number nine) finds the top corner against AFC Hornchurch.
Photo: Allen Hollands

But Jim McFarlane saw his side deservedly equalise inside the final 15 minutes when substitute Ross Wall headed in to ensure this FA Trophy Preliminary Round tie will be settled in Essex on Tuesday night.

“First half, I thought we done very well, I thought we stuck to our jobs,” said O’Brien, who was sent out by boss Tommy Warrilow to undertake press duties.

“We gave, not a debrief, but we knew exactly what was coming to the ground. We knew how Hornchurch were playing, we knew the personnel, we knew how it would go.

“I thought we done well in the first half.  I thought we won a lot of second balls and I thought the onus was on us, unfortunately half-time comes and they’re chasing the game and they’re getting at us.

“It was a little bit more scrappy but do you know what? The last 20-25 minutes was a good game of football with either team (looking like) scoring. They were good going forward and in stages we were going forward so I think 1-1 is probably a fair result.”

AFC Hornchurch arrived in Dartford sitting in second-place in the Bostik North with an unbeaten league record with 22 points on the board from eight games.  They’ve won all five of their away league games and have only tasted one defeat in all competitions in 13 outings.

Thamesmead Town, meanwhile, came into the game on back-to-back defeats to Greenwich Borough (2-4) and Hythe Town (1-2) and slipped down to fifteenth-place in the Bostik South table with 11 points from nine games.

Thamesmead Town opened the scoring with a beautiful curling strike from Vines, the goal timed at five minutes and 56 seconds.

Jake McIntyre swung in a corner from the left, Kenzer Lee headed the ball out of his penalty area and Vines took a touch, cut inside and curled his left-footed shot into the top far corner of the net from 22-yards, with seven men standing in front of goalkeeper Mott.

“You want to see that all the time from Vinsey,” said O’Brien.

“Vinsey is a goalscorer and once he’s fit, he’s still not 100% fit, he’s still not 100% sharp, but we are a better side with him in the team.

“I’m not going to go well done because I think he’s got more to him. He always says ‘I’ll get you 20’, so that’s the yardstick that he sets himself, which is brilliant. He needs to get 20, so he’s on his way.”

AFC Hornchurch had four former Thamesmead players in their side with goalkeeper Sam Mott, left-back Jay Porter, winger Theo Fairweather-Johnson and substitute central midfielder Sean Roberts playing against an old club, albeit in Dartford and not Bayliss Avenue.

Porter played a nice pass down the line to striker Leon McKenzie, who cut in from the left and from 22-yards unleashed a rasping drive which stung the fingers of Lewis Carey.

“Listen, don’t think for one minute that Tom hasn’t gone through where we leak goals and how we can stop it but unfortunately players need to take that on board,” explained O’Brien.

“If they don’t take it on board, it happens again, we’re at a club now where we can’t go and get rid of four and five and get four or five players in, so you’ve got to keep constantly working and hopefully you beat the drum so much all off a sudden they know the sound of the song.

“You have to keep grinding out the formation, keep grinding out what we want the back four to do, it’s ongoing, it’s never perfect.”

But Thamesmead Town were pressing the Hornchurch players in midfield and Bode Anidugbe was impressive in the first half only with his runs and O’Brien thinks the contracted midfielder can make it into the pro game.

“When Bode’s on it, he’s a real good footballer,” he said. 

“He’s one who likes to get the ball under pressure, has people around him and still happy to get on the ball but these are still young footballers and they still need to be hungry for 90 minutes.  They still need to do their jobs for 90 minutes and if you do that and you’ve got ability, do you know what? You’ve got a chance of making a full-time career in football because managers like to tell players maybe once and if the player gets on and does it and he’s fit and healthy and he’s a good footballer, he can make a career out of it.”

A mistake from Porter let in striker Toby Ajala, the Dartford youngster who had Darts boss Tony Burman watching him in the stand, but he drilled his right-footed shot over the top of the near post from 20-yards and fell and concussed himself as he fell to the ground.

O’Brien said: “He’s got concussion. I think he landed, he was helped along the way, nothing cynical but he sort of landed on his head and he’s head went into the turf.

“It’s a shame really because we saw 20 minutes of him away at Hythe up front and he looked really lively and we just didn’t see enough of him today because he's come from Dartford and he’s a very, very lively footballer.”

With Thamesmead winning the second balls, AFC Hornchurch had to wait until half-an-hour to ensure Lewis Carey was called into action.

Pacy winger Matthias Fanimo burst down the left to reach the by-line before wrapping his foot around the ball and whipping in a cross, which was headed out to George Purcell, who cut onto his right-foot and drilled his 20-yard shot into Carey’s hands.

“Again, on Tuesday night you’ll see a different George Purcell,” warned O’Brien.

“He’s a player that myself and Tom (Warrilow) have been in and around and he’s a very good footballer. He’s a very, very lively person in front of goal and he’s definitely one of their dangermen.”

The Urchins were now shading the play and Jed Chouman was given time and space to float in a deep cross from the right which was met by an unmarked McKenzie at the far post, but he was stretching and could only plant his header over the crossbar from eight-yards.

O’Brien said: “They wanted to get the ball quickly from A to B and we thought if we can get in to their eyelids and maybe stop that or put them out of synch a little bit then we can have some joy and I thought we did alright first half and went about their business.”

Thamesmead Town held on and went in at the break with a slender lead.

“The players’ came in at half time and we were very upbeat, very positive,” revealed O’Brien.

“We’ve got to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible so 20 minutes was the first marker, can you get to 20 minutes, can we frustrate them?

“We knew they’d come straight down our necks but can we turn them and get in behind them nice and brightly, nice and quickly. Could we maybe change their formation or change the way of playing with us getting at them but the second half we found it a little bit to get out and they peppered us.”

The first 15 minutes of the second half was a scrappy affair and both teams were guilty of kicking the ball in the air for most of the game which made this game ugly to watch and uninspiring for the 116 people who came out on a Sunday to watch it.

Thamesmead almost snatched a second on the hour mark when Anidugbe attempted to plant his free-kick towards the near post, but drilled his shot past the upright from 25-yards.

“Yes, I like the idea, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for players to take responsibility and if they’re confident to do that then no problem but it was just a little bit off.  I expected more from Bode but technically he’s a very good footballer,” said O’Brien.

Purcell swung in Hornchurch’s only corner of the game in the 63rd minute, which was cleared out to an unmarked McKenzie, who hooked his shot towards the bottom near corner from the other side of the pitch from 15-yards which was gathered by Carey beside his near post.

“I’m not happy with the marking. You know who you’re marking, you stay with him.  They’ve been doing it for 60 minutes and then all off a sudden they don’t do it for the next one,” said a concerned O’Brien, who added, “Players’ need to know their jobs and like I keep saying, we’ll keep beating the drum until we get it right.”

Carey is under contract and you get the impression that the former Eastbourne Borough keeper’s stay at Thamesmead Town is likely to be a short one.

O’Brien said: “Me and Tom know Lewis inside out and we know we’ve got the best goalkeeper easily at this level. Should he be at this level? I don’t know. He’s fantastic.  If we can keep hold of him for as long as possible then we’ve done something right because he’s too good for this level.”

Thamesmead’s last opening arrived shortly afterwards.

Otherwise quiet winger Laurent Mendy swept in a cross from the right to otherwise quiet Tashi-Jay Kwayie – who was playing behind the front two – who curled his right-footed shot just around the post from 18-yards, around the diving keeper.

“It would’ve been a nice goal,” added O’Brien.

“The goals we score are sort of like top of the range Premier League, we never get a real mucky goal that just goes in off somebody’s knee but Tash, I’ve seen him do that in training no problem and once it comes to his feet I was quite confident he’d hit the target. I’m not sure how far it was but it could’ve been only inches wide. He’s had one chance, probably not enough, that’s probably why the game ended one-all.”

Thamesmead right-back Harvey Brand delivered a deep cross towards the far post but Vines steered his free-header harmlessly wide as the game entered the final 20 minutes.

Fairweather-Johnson was kept quiet by McIntyre down the right but he moved inside to smash his shot against Purcell and the ball bounced into Porter’s feet, who cracked a left-footed drive from 30-yards, which screamed across goal and just sailed around the far post.

AFC Hornchurch deserved their leveller when it came with 29 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock.

McIntyre got away with a strong handball appeal and his team-mates switched off as the ball came out to Chouman on the right and he floated in a cross towards the penalty spot and Wall glanced his free header from 10-yards down and the ball crept inside the bottom far corner.

However, Thamesmead central defender Richard Avery took a whack in the face from an elbow inside the six-yard box which floored him, which enabled the ball to nestle inside the back of the net.  Avery was booked after treatment for protesting, as was Leon Smith.

O’Brien said: “I’m not going to turn into Wenger and say ‘I didn’t see it’, but the bottom line is Richard Avery – I’ve known him for a long time, he’s a tough lad and he’s very honest – he hit the deck because he got an elbow in his face.

“I don’t know, I didn’t see it. I don’t know whether it was swung or whether he’s come across him, I don’t know. That’s why the officials’ do the job they do. It leaves a sour taste because they’ve scored from it.  You can’t jump without your arms so it’s one of those. If he got elbowed, he got elbowed. I didn’t see it. The ref didn’t see it and we move on, it happens in the game.  Any goal I think can be prevented but we didn’t prevent it.”

AFC Hornchurch pressed for a winner.  Nathan Cooper was given the captain’s armband by Roberts when he came on for captain Elliot Styles and Cooper had a great chance to score but produced a central defender’s finish in the 80th minute.

Cooper collected the ball in defence and drove forward with the ball before playing the ball up to Wall, who swept the ball out to Fairweather-Johnson on the right.  He floated in a cross and Cooper’s diving header from six-yards flashed across goal and narrowly missed the far post.

Thamesmead were hanging on and AFC Hornchurch created three late chances.

“That happens in football.  The opposition can smell blood a little bit, they get higher and they press higher and all off a sudden they work harder for their manager and I think we did well to only concede the one,” admitted O’Brien.

The Urchins won a free-kick 30-yards from goal, which was played in by Purcell and McKenzie’s flicked shot was gathered by Carey, who then caught Lee’s diving header from eight-yards after Chouman put the ball back into the Thamesmead box.

Porter’s cross from the left was cleared and Wall floated in another cross, which McKenzie directed his free-header over the crossbar from eight-yards.

“Leon McKenzie is a very difficult fella to mark. George Purcell is very nippy, they’ve got real good assets going forward and I don’t think we cleared our lines as well as we did in the first half,” said O’Brien.

AFC Hornchurch are now favourites on home soil on Tuesday night to progress to earn a home tie against Bostik North side Brightlingsea Regent in the next round on 28 October.

O’Brien said: “Going there on Tuesday, we need to be as tough as we can be because going to Hornchurch is a tough place to go. It’s an even tougher place to go to win a game of football and that’s what we’ve got to do, so let’s get on with it.

“We’ve been in this position before, we’ve travelled to Essex and when we went to Billericay I think we conceded within six minutes so the onus is not to concede early. The onus is to learn from the Billericay game, even though if you like that was a totally, totally different game of football.

“We’ve just got to keep ourselves going for as long as possible. I don’t like us when we fold, I don’t like any team that I’m with fold.  It only takes a second to score a goal and we’ve got to keep them frustrated at home, so hopefully we can go there and set up right and get something out of it.”

The £3,000 in prize money is vital for a club in Thamesmead Town’s current plight.

“We always seem to talk about money, unfortunately the club we’re at here but every little penny, every pound coin that comes through is a massive help for the chairman. Without Paul Bowden-Brown there’s no club and that’s the bottom line. There’s no facilities for Thamesmead footballers to come and play football. That’s the bottom line, without him, the club doesn’t exist.”

Thamesmead Town: Lewis Carey, Harvey Brand, Jake McIntyre, Scott Kinch, Leon Smith, Richard Avery (Joe Denny 78), Laurent Mendy, Tashi-Jay Kwayie, Paul Vines, Toby Ajala (Alex Teniola 20), Bode Anidugbe.
Subs: Tom O’Connor, Ellis Green, Max Ovenden

Goal: Paul Vines 6

Booked: Richard Avery 75, Leon Smith 76

AFC Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Jamie Hursit (Alex Bentley 61), Jay Porter, Elliot Styles (Sean Roberts 58), Nathan Cooper, Kenzer Lee, Theo Fairweather-Johnson, Jed Chouman, Leon McKenzie, George Purcell, Matthias Fanimo (Ross Wall 61).
Subs: Mohamed Kamara, Martin Tuohy

Goal: Ross Wall 75

Booked: Matthias Fanimo 25, Leon McKenzie 43, George Purcell 85

Attendance: 116
Referee: Mr Kane Dempster (Hythe)
Assistants: Mr Zoltan Konkoly (Maidstone) & Mr Matthew Charles (Chatham)

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