VCD Athletic 0-2 Erith Town - We're not getting the results our performances have deserved - it's causing us a massive headache, says frustrated VCD Athletic joint-manager Danny Joy

Tuesday 24th October 2023
VCD Athletic 0 – 2 Erith Town
Location Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, Kent DA1 4DN
Kickoff 24/10/2023 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 24 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

VCD ATHLETIC joint-manager Danny Joy say extending their winless run in all competitions to 11 games is causing him a massive headache after suffering a frustrating defeat to their promotion-chasing neighbours Erith Town.

The Crayford-based outfit remain in the bottom four in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 10 points from 13 games – eight points clear of the one relegation berth.

Erith Town, meanwhile, climbed up a couple of places into third with 26 points from 14 games, two points behind new leaders Glebe (who have a game in hand).

VCD Athletic – who were relegated from the Isthmian League after losing to Phoenix Sports in the play-offs last season – were the better side during the first half but missed three glorious chances inside the opening 16 minutes.

However, The Dockers snatched the lead 10 minutes into the second half through Ukrainian attacker Ladic Melconian before Vickers’ centre-half Michael Fenn scored an own goal to give Erith Town a flattering 2-0 victory at Oakwood.

“I felt we dominated the first half and created a lot of chances. It’s been the story of our season to be honest,” said Joy, who manages the side alongside Ross Baker.

“We’ve been competitive in games and haven’t taken chances and conceded soft goals.

“We should’ve been three or four nil up (before they scored). It’s frustrating.  I thought especially the first half we got it down and we created some good stuff without having the cutting edge but we’ve said that a lot now, just not managed to get it over the line. It’s causing us a massive headache.”

When asked about not winning any games since beating Welling Town 4-0 here in the league on 28 August, Joy replied: “We had three draws on the bounce so we thought we turned the corner. I don’t think the performance tonight reflects the result but it sounds like we’re making excuses but there’s only one scoreline on the table and it’s gone the wrong way for us.

“Eleven without a win but we’ve had a lot of games that we’re very similar to tonight, probably four or five at the top of our head that we should’ve picked maximum points up but we haven’t and the table doesn’t lie.

“We’re far enough into the season now – we haven’t got any excuses – but definitely our performance hasn’t reflected on the points that we have at the moment.”

Erith Town boss Adam Woodward saw his side win four games on the spin before going down to a 3-2 home defeat to Deal Town at the weekend.

“Listen, Tuesday night away game, they had a rest on Saturday, we didn’t. We’ve had two tough fixtures, Deal – which I felt we were unlucky on Saturday – and tonight and yes take the 2-0 and go again on Saturday,” said Woodward.

“I thought we were poor first half. I thought we looked a little bit tired, tired maybe’s the wrong word.  They’ve got a bit of a rollocking after Saturday’s game, even thought they played well, individual mistakes cost us.

“I dug out a few people and maybe we felt we looked a little bit nervous first half (tonight) and we didn’t do a lot with the ball. We kept kicking it but we came in at half-time 0-0.

“We’ve re-grouped, we’ve had a little chat and discussed what we think we need to do better and I thought second half we went up the level.”

The ball was a hot potato for both sides during the early exchanges – played on a lush high-quality playing surface – with Erith Town creating the first opening inside the opening four minutes.

Centre-half Ryan Mayall was beside the centre-circle inside his own half and hung a free-kick into the penalty area for striker Harry Taylor to tower over Vickers’ right-back Harry Lawrence to steer his header past the near-post.

VCD Athletic’s right-winger Afryie Simon Gyimaha was a threat during the entire first-half as Erith Town left-back Ronnie McClean struggled for the 45 minutes that he was on the pitch.

Gyimaha missed a glorious chance to give his side a 13th minute lead.

Fenn played the ball into central midfielder Frederick Aikon, who hit a ball over the top of Dockers’ centre-half Jerome Jayaguru.

Goalkeeper Jordan Olds rushed out of his penalty area to head the ball straight to debutant Vickers striker Reece Deakin, who cushioned his header down to Gyimaha, who lacked composure and sent his left-footed chip onto the roof of the net of an open goal from 25-yards.

“It’s something  that we’ve worked on with the wide boys because they do like to cut inside and Simon has been a threat for us but it’s not going our way at the moment and if we go in front and we’ve got something to fight for,” said Joy.

“But it’s not going our way at the moment. It’s not through lack of effort or through lack of desire but it’s just not breaking our way.  The chances we’re getting, we need one to deflect and go in but at the moment everything we have, it’s just not going in for us.”

Woodward added: “I thought Jordan done well to come and sweep. We didn’t quite pick up his second ball, which didn’t help and he’s missed a chance.”

Attacking midfielder Bethel Gboda hooked the ball to Gyimaha, who cut onto his left-foot and his 20-yard drive was superbly kept out by visiting goalkeeper Jordan Olds.

Joy added: “It was a good save. It was nice to work the keeper but that’s what we’re saying about fine margins.  Three inches either side and it’s probably in the back of the net. It was a well worked move.”

VCD Athletic kept knocking on the door and missed another chance in the 16th minute.

Left-winger Richard Jimoh was in a central position and fed Gyimaha down the left-channel and he took a touch before whipping in a great cross towards the near post but former Rusthall striker Reece Deakin glanced his free header across the keeper and past the far post from six-yards.

“We spoke to him at half-time and he said it was a little bit behind him,” said Joy.

“Reece has come in tonight fresh.  Reece doesn’t know no-one and he’s walked into the changing room tonight.

“We want him here but as I say, everything seems to be against us at the moment.  Reece played 64 minutes and he’s come off with a groin strain and that’s how it is at the moment.

“There was a lot of clubs after him but the package suited him. He’s not too far away and he liked what we sold him and we were all buzzing to bring him into the club but it just seems like everything seems to be going against us.

“For an hour he was a real threat and he gave us something that we haven’t had. he was a big target and a presence and now he’s probably going to be out for the next two weeks with a groin strain.”

Woodward added: “Listen, he’s a good player that Deakin. He’s played at a good level, he’s experienced. He really will be disappointed he hasn’t finished his chance there. Sometimes you have to ride your… I don’t think we was cut open by them, If I’m brutely honest but the chances could’ve been stopped by us, again individual mistakes.”

The home side put in an impressive performance during the first-half and all that was missing was that ruthlessness in front of goal.

Gyimaha played the ball in from the right and Deakin’s reverse pass played in Jimoh, who lacked composure and drilled his left-footed drive past the top of the near-post from 16-yards.

Erith Town created their next opening in the 27th minute.

McClean’s left-footed free-kick from the left of the centre-circle was cleared out to Melconian, whose low drive was blocked and the ball came out to centre-half Ryan Mahal, who drilled his first-time shot past the right-hand post from 20-yards.

Woodward briefly admitted: “You don’t expect Ryan to score them!

“There wasn’t much going on in the first half our end. We had a few half-chances really. We looked a little bit wounded and a little bit sorry for ourselves and a little bit worried about them than we were us, so we had to try to explain at half-time where we think we can improve.”

Joy was delighted with the central defensive partnership of Harry Sargent and Fenn.

“We thought we nullified them in the first half really. We pretty much dominated. The two centre-halves were good, especially Michael. Michael’s been in and out.  Every time he comes in he performs. He was excellent tonight for the whole game.”

VCD Athletic suffered similar fate when good link up play from right-back Harry Lawrence and Gyimaha saw the ball worked to Gboda, who teed up Gyimaha, whose left-footed drive flashed past the right-hand post from 22-yards.

Erith Town goalkeeper Olds made a flying save to prevent VCD Athletic pressing home their dominance in the 33rd minute.

Gboda fed Gyimaha, who once again cut inside McClean at ease, before sweeping his left-footed drive across the keeper, who spread himself well to make another fine save.

Erith Town produced a well-worked move shortly afterwards and called Damian Niemczycki into making a flying save, which brought a ripple of applause from the home fans in the main stand.

Joy added: “He did make a good save. It sort of broke to the fella and he pulled off a good save. It was probably even more impressive because we felt we was well on top at the time, so to stay switched on to make the save was credit to him.”

Erith Town's holding midfielder Lee Bird played the ball to Melconian, who played the ball to McClean, who put over a cross from the left.  Taylor played the ball into Melconian, whose left-footed shot forced the loanee keeper to fly to his left to push the ball towards safety.

“That’s when we started playing. When we played in the final third, we were alright but it wasn’t quick enough. We were getting the ball in the final third and a couple of times it ended up going back to the half-way line, bemoaned the Dockers’ boss.

Gboda cut the ball onto his left-foot and flashed his shot past the diving keeper and past the foot of the right-hand post as another VCD Athletic chance went begging.

Fenn released Jimoh, who cut in from the left towards the edge of the penalty area and despite being pressed by two Dockers’ defenders, managed to get a shot off and Olds made a comfortable save in his midriff.

However, Jimoh’s intended pass to Vickers’ left-back Tom Cousins was intercepted close to the half-way line by Bird, who released James Dyer, who cut into the Vickers’ box and his shot towards the bottom far corner was comfortably held by Niemcycki.

Joy said: “We knew we deserved to be in front but sometimes that makes you a bit flat but we said (to the players’ at half-time), you have to keep showing the desire and it will come.  We came out of the changing room fully expecting them to go on and win the game based on the first half performance and obviously losing Reece threw us a lot and we sort of lost a lot of rhythm after that.”

Woodward made a tactical masterstroke at the interval, hooking McClean and bringing on Sam Smith, who slotted in at right-back, while Tom Ash switched from right-back to left-back and kept Gyimaha in his pocket for the entire second half.

Woodward said: “I’ll be brutely honest, we were looking to do it after 20 minutes. He’s a very good player the seven (Gyimaha).  Ronnie didn’t have a great game tonight at left-back and he knows that. He’s only an 18 or 19-year-old kid but he openly admits when I brought him off that he didn’t have a good game, so he accepted it and we made the change. We held on until half-time, which was good because it was 0-0.

Woodward added: “Do you know what?  On Saturday we gave a bit of a b******ing at half time and at full-time.

“Today at half-time I just spoke about what we feel we could’ve done better and we made the tactical change and the management have got to take credit for that bringing on Smudger at right-back and we just said they have got to calm down a little bit, just relax and that’s what we done.

“We came out and nullified their threats and what they can do.  There weren’t too many words said from myself, just a few tactical arrangements.”

When asked about Woodward’s full-back tactical switch, Joy replied: “He (Gyimaha) was a lot quiet but in all fairness he didn’t have a lot of service. We didn’t get the ball to him as much as we did in the first half.  Maybe that’s down to a tactical change from Erith, so fair play to him (Woodward) for that. 

“Simon’s a threat all of the time but you’re forward players are only as a good as the balls they’re getting into them.”

VCD Athletic created the first chance of the second half after 242 seconds.

Jayaguru lofted a hopeful ball out of the Dockers’ defence and Cousins powered his headed clearance down the line to release Jimoh, who cut inside and played the ball inside to half-time substitute Marcus Marku, whose right-footed drive from 25-yards was comfortably held by Olds in his midriff.

“It was a good chance. It was far enough out, not to say it was a clear-cut chance but Marcus has come in tonight, it was his first game for us,” said Joy.

“He’s another one who has got a good pedigree but will take a little while to integrate but it’s straight down the keeper’s threat. The keeper has made a decent save but the keeper could’ve spilt that and we would’ve put it in the net but it sounds like excuses but those little fine margins.  We’re just not getting the rub of the green at the minute, that’s how it feels anyway.”

It was one of those nights that VCD Athletic would have plenty of chances and Erith Town would snatch the lead.

Smith threw the ball into the box from the right, the home side packed their box and cleared the ball to the edge of the box and Melconian’s initial shot was blocked but he swept his right-footed shot through a crowd of players to find the right-corner from 22-yards to score his third goal of the season, the goal timed at 9 minutes and 52 seconds.

Woodward revealed: “He’s on a bit of a goalscoring form at the moment. His family are over from Ukraine, their watching tonight, which is really good. He’s got a family engagement on Saturday, so I think they’ve come over to watch him tonight and his mum was here and it’s good to see him score.”

Joy added: “It was soft defending. We didn’t manage to clear our lines. The ball sort of ricochet around and pinballed about and it fell to him and to be honest it was a good finish but we didn’t get out quick enough to him.

“I would never blame that on the keeper because it went through a lot of bodies but from a VCD point of view, defensively, I think we should’ve squeezed him quicker and try to stop the shot a little bit sharper.”

Deakin was forced off with a groin strain in the 64th minute and his replacement Charlie Edmundson almost scored just 59 seconds later, hitting a right-footed angled drive across the keeper and past the far post from 30-yards.

Joy said: “We like Charlie, Charlie’s been here for a couple of weeks but he’s been on holiday and it was his first run tonight. Charlie is only a youngster but he’s got a little bit of fight about him and he does look to shoot, so we’ve just got to preserver with him.”

Erith Town created very little in the final third but central midfielder James Miles impressed when he came on for Jamie Miller, who was hooked before he was sent-off.

Miles drove through the heart of the pitch before finding Dyer in space on the left-hand side and he cut inside and put over a cross, which was headed down by Melconian and the Vickers keeper stepped to his right to comfortably gather.

Both managers were feeling bemused with the decision from referee Mark Fitzpatrick to hand Gboda a yellow card, for a nasty looking late challenge on Bird.  The referee waited a while, consulted with his nearest assistant manager and pulled out a yellow card, much to both manager's surprise.

Joy admitted: “I’ll be honest, I thought we’ve got away with one. It looked late. I think the noise made the tackle look worse than what it was but it was late. I think Bethel’s had a bit of luck there. It probably could’ve gone the other way.  He knows he’s been lucky to get away with one there. He’s not malicious, he’s not got it in him but it was late.

“Their number 16 (Miller) done a (tackle, which could have given him a (second yellow card), which he knew was a second yellow because Woody’s brought him straight off literally seconds later so it’s one of them.”

Woodward added:  “We had to make the change with Miller and bring Milo (Miles) on. I felt, I’ll be honest, Miller’s yellow card, I thought was harsh and I felt we had to take him off because the referee was looking to send him off, I think.”

When asked about the major talking point, Woodward said: “Listen, it’s one of them. It’s a tackle. It’s a red card all day long. That’s a stonewall red card. It’s not even close, it’s not even close and he hasn’t given it.”

However, VCD Athletic gifted Erith Town their flattering second goal when it arrived with 29 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Ash released Taylor, who reached the left by-line and put over a cross towards the near post but Fenn volleyed his clearance over his goalkeeper’s head into the roof of his own net from six-yards.

Woodward said: “Russell Bedford, my assistant manager, is hot on balls being put in to the box. We call it the corridor and the ball’s been put in the corridor and we’ve scored and he’s got to take credit for that. He works on that a lot in training and mentions that a lot and we’ve done it and got the just rewards.”

It sums up the luck of a side that are fighting against back-to-back relegations.

“He could do that the next 10 games and that would never happen,” claimed Joy.

“It’s just one of those freak things that happens to defenders. It’s a greasy pitch, it hit him on the shin pad. It’s not bad defending or nothing like that. It just hit him on the shin, it’s just pure unfortunate. It’s a massive shame because it’s put a dampener on the display because I thought he was solid all night.”

Miles was to be denied by Niemczycki’s legs in the final 12 minutes.

Winger Dyer played the ball inside to Miles, who played a one-two with fellow sub Joe Chalker but the Polish goalkeeper made the save.

“James Miles was left out tonight – we’ve got a tough run of games going on - and we had a chat, he was poor Saturday, certain mistakes but I tell you what? He put two fingers up at me when he came on tonight,” admitted Woodward.

“When he came on, I thought he was the best player on the pitch by an absolute country mile. His work-rate was superb and he had chances but he done the horrible side of stuff tonight when he came on which was good.”

Joy added: “The game got stretched at the end. We were pushing, we went three up, trying to get back into the game, so it was always going to leave little holes at the back and he did make a couple of good saves late on but we expected that. We sort of rolled the dice trying to get back into it.”

VCD Athletic will have to work on their composure as they completely lost it whenever they found themselves inside Erith Town’s penalty box tonight – but they showed plenty of heart and desire tonight and the team are playing for their joint-managers.

“Keep fighting for the badge, that’s all we can ask. We can’t ask no more,” said Joy.

“We just need a little bit of luck and a little bit of quality in front of goal but no one can question anyone’s effort, no one’s heart because everyone’s hurting in that changing room.

“Everyone knows it’s not been good enough.  We’re trying, we’re in training twice a week, trying to put things right but the spirt is high because we know we’re playing well. If we weren’t playing well it would be a different story – we’re just not getting the rub of the green and we’re not getting the results our performances have deserved.

“The players are young, they’re learning and if we can keep this side together and keep building and building, hopefully we can turn the corner.”

Gyimaha escaped out of Ash’s pocket and beat two men with his trickery and skill and released Marku, who cut into the box and lashed his right-footed shot over the crossbar.

And at the other end, Ash fed Miles, who cut onto his right-foot and from a central position from 25-yards, hit a shot flashing past the post.

VCD Athletic missed another glorious chance in stoppage time when a sublime first touch from Gboda brought the ball under his spell inside his own half before splitting Ash to put Edmundson through on goal but his right-footed drive flashed across the diving keeper and past the far post from 25-yards.

VCD Athletic travel to Whitstable Town on Saturday.

Marcel Niman’s side won their fourth game on the bounce by beating bottom-of-the-table Kennington 4-2 tonight, after losing 3-0 at Tunbridge Wells on 30 September.

Joy said: “It’s massively a tough game.  They move the ball quick, a real quick side, completely a different side at home on their 3G pitch to when they’re away, so we know we’re in for another real tough afternoon, so we’ve just got to go there with as much belief as we can and try to get a result.”

Woodward, meanwhile, takes his side to Welling Town on Saturday.  Kevin Oakes’ side are second-from-bottom in the table with six points from 12 games, four points clear of Kennington, who have two games in hand.

“It’s pleasing (being third in the table tonight) but it’s early doors. It’s early doors and we’ve got a tough game on Saturday at Welling Town.  They’ve just got beat by Glebe tonight so that will be tough.  We’re not looking too far ahead at the moment, we’ve just got to take each game as they come,” said Woodward.

“It will be tough. Kev’s got a good side over there, they’re working hard. They’ve probably not had the rub of the green at the moment.  We’ve got to go there and prepare right. It won’t be easy, tonight wasn’t easy and Saturday won’t be easy either.”

Glebe (28 points from 13 games) are top of the pile tonight, while the play-off places contain Faversham Town (27 points from 12 – after newly-promoted Lydd Town completed the double over them); Erith Town (26 points from 14 games); Corinthian (24 points from 12 games) and Fisher (23 points from 12 games).

When asked what success is for Erith Town this season, Woodward made his feelings clear.

“Get promoted, isn’t it.  Listen, I can stand here and go we’re doing this and doing that.  You don’t go into the league at the start of the season, no team in this league should go ‘I’ll be happy with midtable’.

“If you’re not looking to go up or not looking for promotion, then you’re not a winner and you shouldn’t be managing and you shouldn’t be at this level.

“Every team in this league should be looking to get promoted and we are the same. 

“Am I saying we’re going to get promoted? I don’t know. Bit we’re going to try everything we can and our hardest to get ourselves promoted.”

Grinding out a 2-0 away win on a chilly Tuesday night in October will certainly help the cause.

VCD Athletic: Damian Niemczycki, Harry Lawrence, Tom Cousins, Zak Byron, Harry Sargent, Michael Fenn, Richard Jimoh (Jimmy Sheperd 60), Frederick Aikon (Marcus Marku 46), Reece Deakin (Charlie Edmundson 64), Bethel Gboda, Afryie Simon Gyimaha (Jordan Sarfo 85).
Sub: Alfie Irvine

Booked: Harry Sargent 63, Bethel Gboda 74

Erith Town: Jordan Olds, Tom Ash, Ronnie McClean (Sam Smith 46), Lee Bird, Ryan Mahal, Jerome Jayaguru, James Dyer, Jamie Miller (James Miles 58), Harry Taylor (Ollie Milton 90), Ladic Melconian (Jake Lovell 80), Henry Arnold (Joe Chalker 67).

Goals: Ladic Melconian 55, Michael Fenn 75 (own goal)

Booked: Jamie Miller 38

Attendance: 124
Referee: Mr Mark Fitzpatrick
Assistants: Mr Thomas Sampson & Mr William Rough
Observer:  John D’Arcy