Thamesmead Town 2-3 Ramsgate - I've resigned as the manager of Thamesmead Town, says Keith McMahon

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Kent Reliance Senior Cup Quarter-Final
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

THAMESMEAD TOWN manager Keith McMahon dropped a bombshell by quitting the club after eleven years’ at Bayliss Avenue.

 SHOCK: Keith McMahon explained why he quit as the manager of Thamesmead Town after losing to Ramsgate in the Kent Senior Cup.

The 41-year-old broke the news to his players out on the pitch after the final whistle of the club’s Kent Reliance Senior Cup Quarter-Final exit to struggling Ramsgate.

Thamesmead Town, who went into the game sitting in fourteenth-place in the Ryman League Division One North table on 36 points from 29 games, opened the scoring through Rob Carter’s bullet header.

But Ramsgate, sitting second-from-bottom in the Ryman League Division One South table on 26 points from 30 games – and five points adrift of safety - levelled just 104 seconds later through Chris Elliott’s curling free-kick.

Tom Chapman swept Ramsgate into the lead on the hour, before Thamesmead equalised through Tyrus Gordon-Young, before former Woodstock Sports striker Colin Justin came off the bench to send the Rams through to the semi-finals, along with Gillingham and Margate.

But Simon Halsey’s first win after six games in charge of the Rams was overshadowed by the news of McMahon’s shock resignation.

“First win as Ramsgate manager so well pleased to get one under our belts with the team, with the club really,” said Halsey.

“I think we’ve warranted it in other games but it hasn’t come our way and tonight we’ve dug in.  I thought we were the better side and take away the victory.”

A disappointed McMahon - who takes charge of the club one emotional last time when Wroxham visit Bayliss Avenue on Saturday – said: “I wanted to get the club in the semi-final.

“We’ve been a bit up and down in the league. We’ve had players in and out again – we’ve had a few missing tonight – but I thought we deserved something.

“I thought we started ok. We had a lot of chances but we have a tendency of just conceding goals.

“I’m disappointed for the lads. It’s been a tough day for them today as well as much as myself but I’d rather be sitting here going ‘yes, we’re in a semi-final and looking forward to it’, but it’s not to be.”

Both sides were taking this Cup tie seriously by fielding first team squads but chances were at a premium early on.

Halsey said: “We need to take everything seriously. We can’t have a lapse and just think it’s a Cup game and we’ll rest players and we’ll muck around.

“I didn’t want to rest too many. Initially I was going to but once I got Saturday out of the way and sat there at work Monday and Tuesday, I thought ‘no, let’s go for it, let’s have a real go at it.

“We needed that winning mentality and that was the point tonight. I was about getting a win just to breed more confidence into the players that they’ve got already.

“We played 4-3-3. Initially it was a 4-5-1 to make sure we stayed in the game and once we got comfy on the ball we could start playing the three out-an-out at the top and hopefully in those areas our full-backs could go on.

“Billy (Chris Elliott) has been out for a while and he’s had a great game and (Stephen) Butcher has been out for three games suspended so it was just to get us into the game and once they got into the game we said we needed to transfer he ball from one side to the other.  Once our full-backs started to get confidence to be able to do that they started going forward and starting causing a few problems.  I just think we dominated the game really.”

Thamesmead Town went close to breaking the stalemate when Jay Porter clipped the ball into Rob Carter and Freddie Cray released Carter through on goal, but a poor touch allowed Nick Shaw to collect the ball.

Ramsgate went close in the fourteenth minute when Macauley Murray swung in a corner from the left and Luke Wheatley came up from the back to plant his header towards the far corner, which was headed off the line by Ashley Probets.

Moments later, Wheatley clipped the ball into the Mead box where Chapman’s back-header looped into Rob Budd’s gloves.

Thamesmead Town’s best chance to break the stalemate arrived in the 21st minute.

Cray floated over a lovely cross in from the right, the ball was knocked down by Carter and Gordon-Young slid in to poke his shot towards the bottom corner, which Shaw dived low to his left to make a comfortable save.

“It’s the first time they’ve played up front together as a two for a long time.  Tyrus has been suspended and people injured,” said McMahon.

“First half especially I thought they were a big handful.”

Probets clipped the ball up from left-back, the ball was headed by Gordon-Young out to Carter, who cut the ball along the edge of the box for midfielder Richard Butler to sky his shot over the bar.

But Thamesmead Town opened the scoring with 32:51 on the clock.

Carter rolled the ball out wide to Porter down the left, who whipped in a quality cross into the box for Carter to plant his bullet header across Shaw into the top far corner from 12-yards.

McMahon said: “He got a great header, a great goal, our first goal.  When you’ve got people with pace, honesty, hardworking, they’re always going to be a threat.

“It’s all about the delivery as well, but we’ve been saying to Carts for ages, once you pop it off get in the box and he done it.  The delivery was spectacular and it’s a bullet header. It’s un-defendable. It was a great goal!”

Halsey added: “Their first goal was a great delivery, a great run.  Poor from my two centre halves to let him in between us like he did.  In their eyes, great goal. For me, poor defending!”

However, Ramsgate recovered from that set-back by equalising through their left-back, just 104 seconds later.

Elliott whipped in a curling free-kick with his left-foot from 30-yards, which failed to get a touch from any other player and the ball bounced into the far corner of the net.

Halsey said: “Freeman (Rogers) is sure he got a head on it but Chris wants it.  The good thing about it, Chris put the ball in a great area. It’s one of them that it only needs a touch and it can go on and the goalie can’t commit himself to go and he doesn’t get a touch and rolls into the bottom corner.

“He put the ball in the right areas and that’s what happens so well pleased to get back into it.

“We had a good response from the boys in every game to be fair. We were 3-0 down away at Tooting & Mitcham at half-time and we got in there and sorted things out and the response in that half was brilliant. That’s what they’ve been doing for me in every game, so I can’t fault them.”

McMahon added: “He’s whipped it in. He hasn’t shot. It’s one of those deliveries. They’ve got across the front of the ball and they’ve had to defend so disappointed to concede after only two minutes.”

Thamesmead Town created some decent chances to complete the first half in the lead.

Probets swung in an excellent corner from the left towards the near post but Gordon-Young planted his free header just wide of the near post from six-yards.

Probets then swung in another corner, which saw Butler’s near post chip cleared off the line by Wheatley.

Another in-swinging corner from the Thamesmead left-back saw Butler’s near-post header cleared off the line, before looping his second header narrowly over the crossbar when he had a second bite of the cherry.

McMahon said: “The chance with Buts, he got on to the initial corner, it looked a simple nod-in and he managed to put it over the bar – again it weren’t to be!”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at half-time.

McMahon said: “I said to the lads keep doing what we’re doing. We played young Freddie (Cray) as a starter, as a right-midfielder. We don’t normally play 4-4-2. We just tried to get a balance to the side. I said get the ball out wide.

“Jay Porter was our outlet.  The last few games he’s come back into the side and he’s been exceptional.

“I just thought Tyrus and Carts would be solid. I said deal with their aerial throw-ons (from Elliott) and pick the second balls up.  I said I will be happy for them to have the ball around their back four and we’ll get chances and again second half I thought we did but we’ve just got to take them.”

“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” came Halsey’s response.

“We were developing our play well but we wasn’t using our full-backs enough and we were sucking them over in to condensed areas and we weren’t going out, we were coming back into them.

“I wanted Butch and Elliott to get on. I wanted the midfield getting it out to the wide players and once we got it out to our wide players and got them isolated.  Once Tom Chapman gets on his toes and gets going, we’re a different force.”

Thamesmead Town created the first second half opening after 55 minutes when Probets’ swung his left-footed free-kick just over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Ramsgate’s performance improved the longer the game went on and they missed a decent chance on a three-versus-three breakaway.

Aaron Quain broke, swept the ball out wide to Junior James, who cut in and dragged his shot just past the far post, despite Chapman sliding in to attempt to poke the ball over the line.

But substitute Justin was only on the pitch for three minutes and he played his part in Ramsgate taking the lead on the hour.

Justin swept the ball out to Chapman, who had cut across the penalty area, before drilling a left-footed angled drive across keeper Budd in off the foot of the far post from fifteen-yards.

Halsey hailed: “Great finish!” Colin Justin’s been waiting for his chance. He’s been with me since I came here.  It hasn’t been a situation where I can just throw players in that haven’t played at this level for a long period.

“I had to be honest with him and say his chance will come. I’m not sure when or how often it will be – same as Ira (Jackson).

“They’ll both be around my team.  It’s just a cause of introducing them when we need to.  The easy thing to do was give them both a run-out but we wanted to take the game seriously and I introduced Colin at the right time.

“Tom Chapman, he’s absolutely outstanding!  I would have signed him when I was at Herne Bay or wherever I’ve been. He’s an outstanding winger and I love wingers as you know. My ideal thing is Rhys Lawson one side and Tom Chapman the other.  Aaron Quaine gives me much as him and he’s done superb for me.”

McMahon added: “He got in front of us, maybe George Benner. Maybe they could have done a bit better. They were a bit split. It’s a decent finish to be fair.”

Ramsgate right-back Stephen Butcher fed Quain, who cut in from the right wing to crack a left-footed drive, which was pushed around the post by Budd, diving to his right.

Murray’s resulting corner from the left was flicked on by Quain at the near post and the ball flashed across numerous bodies and narrowly past the opposite post.

Thamesmead Town kept their hopes of progressing alive by equalising in the 69th minute through Gordon-Young’s fourteenth goal for the club this term.

Probets’ delivered his left-footed free-kick into the Ramsgate box, the ball was flicked on by Porter and Shaw failed to gather and was shrugged off the ball by Gordon-Young, who steered his left-footed shot into the back of the net from a tight-angle from eight-yards.

McMahon said: “It was an easy finish from Tyrus, but he had to be there. It was just a bit of pressure. Both teams seemed to struggle a little bit defensively and that’s what you had to do once you get back to 2-2 you think you’re on the ascendancy and on the front foot.”

Halsey said: “Well I thought the centre half perhaps could have dealt with it a bit better and once it’s come over the centre half, I fully expect my goalie to come out there and clean up and we didn’t and that’s been the story of our four games really, not dealing with those balls in that area.

“We’ve got to deal from it.  We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to train harder and make sure it doesn’t happen but when you’re up against it for 90 minutes, balls coming at you from an aerial onslaught, things are going to happen, chances are going to happen so I can’t be too harsh on them but we must stop it somewhere along the line.”

But Ramsgate won it with fifteen minutes left when the impressive Justin played a lovely one-two with Jamie Taylor before stroking his left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 12-yards.

Halsey said: “We were far better tonight. I thought we passed the ball well. When we could play, we played and we didn’t we got it in the right areas just to try to relieve a bit of pressure and that’s what we’ve got to learn.

“We’ve got to learn to play when we can and when it’s not happening we have to turn and re-group and let them have it in their defending third and go again.”

Reflecting on Justin’s first goal for Ramsgate, Halsey said: “Great finish! That’s what we’ve been trying to encourage him to do on the edge of the box. We’re trying to play in a certain way to be able to do that, the little wall passes on the edge of the box and then create something.

“I said to them at half-time, we’ve done very well in our defending third, passing it and the middle third but we haven’t created enough in their defensive third and I thought second half they took it on board and we definitely done that and bounced it around on the edge of the box to create those chances.”

McMahon added: “For them, it’s a good goal. For us, you’ve got to go with runners and I thought we could have done a little bit better with that.

“It was quite a good pass and move by them. You’ve got to give them a bit of credit for that. You just can’t always look at your team and go ‘what have you done?’ but maybe thought we could have got with them and maybe stopped the short but it’s a decent goal.”

Ramsgate could have increased their lead when Murray clipped his right-footed free-kick over the wall from 25-yards, which forced Budd to move to his left to catch the ball at the second attempt.

Thamesmead almost forced a penalty shoot-out but central defender George Benner found himself inside the Ramsgate box but lashed his first time drive agonisingly past the right-hand post.

“It looked like it was in but it wasn’t to be,” added McMahon.  “A bit of a shame. I said to the lads, I thought they tried their hardest. They gave us 110% and just came up a bit short on the night.”

Halsey knows maintaining the club’s Ryman League status is vital.

“The season’s not been going quite too well.  At the moment (following this cup win) it looks a little brighter.

“We’ve got sixteen games now to sort the other part of it out. We’ve still got quite a lot of games and the boys are hopefully going to take a bit of belief in that now that they’ve got a winning feeling and hopefully they won’t want that losing feeling again. We must take heart from it and go again.

“We’ve got to win ten games at least (to stay up) and we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to somehow put points on the board.”

McMahon explained why Saturday’s game will be the last in charge after 11 years at Bayliss Avenue.

He said: “I’ve resigned as off tonight. My last game here will be on Saturday. Massively sad, very emotional.

“It’s all off the pitch. Absolutely nothing to do with Thamesmead Town Football Club. The players, the managers, the staff, the committee who are like a family to me, it’s all down to Trust Thamesmead and Sporting Club Thamesmead, the management.

“I just can’t handle the lies and just going behind people’s backs, not behind people’s backs, that’s not really the word but it’s loads of things.  I don’t really want to go into it until after Saturday’s game.

“I’ve been here eleven years. It’s my football club and it’s making me ill and I’ve always been big about the football club.

“This was meant to be a community club for the community of Thamesmead and I’m having under 18s and under 21s cancelled out here because they’re saying the pitch is being overused. They’re putting friendlies in for Charlton Ladies (against Oxford United last Sunday).  It’s nothing to do with Charlton or Seven Acre & Sidcup because I’ve got a great relationship with the girls from Charlton and Lee (Hill) at Seven Acre is a decent lad.

“But (the landlords) are using this place like Hackney Marshes and charging a fortune for it.  It’s just the goal-posts have changed. It’s not what I want for the football club. That I’ve got so much affection for without me doing something silly.

“I had to walk away.”

When asked about the future of the football club, McMahon replied: “The main thing for me is as long Thamesmead carries on. I’ve carried the baton for eleven years. They’ve had eleven great years here, some of the best times of my life. I’m here for most days, more than anyone.

“I was here from day one, even in the plans of building this place and all that seems forgotten.

“I love the football. It’s part of my life. I work really hard and I’ll just wait and see what happens.

“If the phone rings, it rings. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s not much I can do about it. I want to stay in football. I want to continue. I still feel that I’ve got a lot to offer.

“I’m 41. In manager’s terms, even though I’ve been here for so long, my passion will always be in football but my love for Thamesmead will always be here and it’s going to be really tough.

“Paul (Bowden-Brown) came in a couple of years’ ago and I took on quite a lot myself. I’ve got a hell of what I call family here and it’s going to be tough.

“I told the lads after the game tonight and they’re a little bit shocked and it’s quite emotional. Hopefully they’re all sad to see me go but it’s something that had to be done.

“Sometimes you can’t have everything in football, but for my own sanity I’ve had to do something before something silly happened.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s a massive part of my life. Some people will say it was my life. It’s true.

“It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with the football club. If we go back to where we were or people stuck to what we all agreed from day one, I’d be the manager here still. I’m one of those people that make decisions and I’ve made them for the right reasons and there will be no turning back.

“I just wish the club all the best. I’m still going to be here. I’ll still come and watch games for the next few weeks or months or whatever it is.  I’ll still watch games and help out the club in any way I possibly can, advice or whatever they want.

“For myself, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really, really hard. It’s going to be emotional Saturday, it was tonight. I’m struggling now.

“When I’m driving the car out (of the car park) on Saturday, it’s going to be an end of an era, but the football club has got to survive and that’s the most important thing. I really, really hope that it does.

“It’s been strangled at the moment, not for the right reasons. I just wish things were different and we’ll wait and see.

“I think it’s going to shock a few people around football because they thought I’d be here until they carried me out in a coffin.”

Thamesmead Town: Rob Budd, Michael Spencer, Ashley Probets, Jack Hopkins, Lee Coburn, George Benner, Freddie Cray, Richard Butler (Rashid Kamara 79), Tyrus Gordon-Young, Rob Carter, Jay Porter.
Subs: Ben Traore, Billy McGargal, Vincente Mansanet

Goals: Rob Carter 33, Tyrus Gordon-Young 69

Booked: Rob Carter 37, Ashley Probets 85

Ramsgate: Nick Shaw, Stephen Butcher, Chris Elliott, Curtis Robinson, Freeman Rogers, Luke Wheatley, Tom Chapman, Macauley Murray, Junior James (Colin Justin 57), Jamie Taylor (James Sherman 80), Aaron Quain (Ira Jackson 90).
Subs: Josh Woolley, Jamie Kelly

Goals: Chris Elliott 35, Tom Chapman 60, Colin Justin 75

Booked: Luke Wheatley 54

Attendance: 53
Referee: Mr Peter Conn (Gillingham)
Assistants: Mr Peter Cruise (Rochester) & Mr Harry Phillips (Dartford)