VCD Athletic 1-3 Maidstone United - That's probably the best non-league side that we've had down here, admits VCD Athletic boss Keith McMahon

Tuesday 11th July 2017
VCD Athletic 1 – 3 Maidstone United
Location Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, Kent DA1 4DN
Kickoff 11/07/2017 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Tuesday 11 July 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

MAIDSTONE UNITED manager Jay Saunders says there were plenty of positives from their perfect exercise at VCD Athletic tonight.

The Stones bounced back from Saturday’s 5-0 home defeat by Sky Bet League Two side Barnet to come from behind to beat Bostik South side VCD Athletic on a wet night in Crayford.

Vickers took 15 minutes to open their goalscoring account for the season through a towering header from Kamarl Duncan, the former Thurrock man being one of three central defenders.

Maidstone United levelled through Tyler Campbell’s fine hooked finish before the former Enfield Town winger gave his side the lead in the second half with a brilliant finish into the top right-hand corner.

Substitute Jack Richards capped off an impressive performance when he came on and added a third by smashing in another free-kick, as the Vanarama National League side dominated the second half.

“Good run-out.  We’ve lined up in every single game slightly different, different levels to test the lads and after Saturday we sort of settled it down a little bit. We got rid of some of the trialists on Saturday and it was a chance for us to give some of the boys minutes,” said Saunders afterwards.

“I think we had good possession for periods of it but all in all it was a perfect game for us.”

VCD Athletic didn’t disgrace themselves after losing to a club that are three levels higher.

“I’m really pleased with that to be honest with you,” said Vickers boss Keith McMahon, after losing their opening outing.

“I thought for 60-65 minutes I thought we done well, we kept our shape against a strong Maidstone side, for the same sort of period of time.

“You make changes and I thought we lost any sort of shape and conceded a couple of poor goals but overall I was pleased for our first game with a brand new side.  We had three out of the starting 11 that stayed, we’re with us from last year.”

Maidstone United goalkeeper Callum Thomas was the only player to play the entire 90 minutes, ensuring substitute goalkeeper Tommy Taylor was to be the only player not to feature in this pre-season friendly.

Thomas made a comfortable catch after only 113 seconds after Joe Tennant came up from the back to meet Derek Duncan’s hanging corner towards the far post.

Campbell linked up with left-back Joe Anderson, who whipped in a cross towards the near post which was met by a diving header from highly-rated former East Thurrock United winger Tom Wraight, which flew just past the foot of the near post.

VCD Athletic were a major threat on the counter-attack with left-wing-back Kojo Awotwi impressive and he pulled the strings in a decent move, which also involved striker Emmanuel Osei and Derek Duncan down the left. 

The ball was played out to right wing-back George Lutaaya and Thomas dived low to his left to prevent Steve Carvell scoring with a low right-footed drive from 25-yards.

“We tried to play, the pitch out there is absolutely fantastic as you can see.  I said as long as we worked hard against a very good, strong Maidstone side and we tried to play, we’ll be happy,” said McMahon.

“Kojo had a very good year for us last year and he’s come in and struggled for a little bit of fitness, I think we all were against them, the amount of sessions they’ve had compared to us.

“We started fairly brightly, I thought we done well.”

Saunders said: “Do you know what, I think they defended really well as well.

“I thought what they were very good at was, when we had possession of the ball, they were good on the break, they were very sharp. Keith looks like he’s building a good side there so they always looked dangerous on the break.

“Callum’s come in on trial, ex Charlton and I think he was at VCD and South Park on loan last year. He’s come in, he had a good game to be fair.  There wasn’t a lot he could do with the goal. All in all, I thought everything he had to deal with, he done well.”

Maidstone United enjoyed plenty of possession but VCD Athletic took a deserved lead with 14 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock.

Derek Duncan played their second corner short to Lutaaya and the former Cheshunt man floated over a cross towards the near post for Kamarl Duncan to rise above his marker to glance his header across the keeper into the far corner from eight-yards.

McMahon said: “It was a nice goal. We haven’t worked on any set-plays, we haven’t worked on anything! We’ve had four sessions. We just said to them just go in there and the bigger lads have got to try and attack the ball and he’s got in front of his man and it’s a decent header.”

Saunders added: “That was the one disappointment. There were two disappointments, one was the goal we conceded.  They played a short one, Paxman has got to get out to it and didn’t and it’s not a bad ball to be fair to the lad. It’s a good header. It’s a bit sloppy. Once we’ve done some work on set-pieces we’ll be ok. They took the goal well but disappointing form our point of view and good from theirs.”

Maidstone United went close through striker Joe Pigott, who stroked his right-footed free-kick over the five man wall and onto the roof of the net from 20-yards.

Awotwi threaded the ball into Carvell’s feet and the former Phoenix Sports midfielder slipped the ball to Osie, who cut the ball onto his right-foot but lacked composure from 25-yards to slice his poor shot harmlessly wide after 21 minutes.

McMahon said: “Great bit of football. Steve’s put a great little ball through to Emmanuel and he’s cut inside really well. He maybe could’ve gone on and he’s just said that it’s a bit of ring-rust and he’s just scuffed his shot but it was nice to create chances against a side of that quality.”

Maidstone United stepped up a gear from that let-off and dominated for the rest of the game.

Reece Prestedge was pinging balls as he owned the middle of the park and found his former Bromley team-mate Anderson, who played the ball back to Pigott, who turned his man inside the box before bending his shot around the keeper only to see the ball ping against the far post and keeper Ronan Forde blocked the rebound from disappointing winger Delano Sam-Yorke.

Saunders said: “A good (turn) from Pigs. He does that well when he cuts inside and he’s bent it to the far corner but it’s come off the post and I thought Delano should’ve been a bit sharper really.  I think maybe a little bit further towards the start of the season he probably would’ve taken that. The keeper’s done well to smother it, it was a good opportunity.”

McMahon added: “Listen, they probed a lot all through the game and they had quite a lot of half chances and Jay may say they were ring rusty in front of goal.

“When they played Piggy up front, he’s a great player. We knew him from his Charlton days. For a big lad, I don’t think you’re going to get many better centre forwards even at that level and I know that League is decent.  I thought his movement was excellent, for a big lad his touch was tremendous and he was unlucky when he hit the post with that. He caused us problems for the 57 minutes he was on.”

Midfielders Wraight and Jack Paxman linked up and the ball was played into Pigott, who slipped the ball through for Sam-Yorke, whose shot was blocked by the former Greenwich Borough and Hollands & Blair goalkeeper.

“I thought first half we had some good chances tonight and didn’t take them but that was a good bit of individual play from Pigs to be fair,” added Saunders.

Maidstone United’s equaliser was deserved when it finally arrived with 31 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Seth Mana Twymasi released Paxman, who reached the by-line before floating over a precise cross towards the far post towards an unmarked Campbell, who hooked his looping shot over Forde into the far corner from a tight angle.

“I thought Pax done really well. He’s beaten his man on the touchline and he’s stood it up on the far post,” said Saunders.

“To be fair to Tyler, he’s taken it well. A lot of people would’ve lashed it, but he’s guided it in to the far corner, good finish.

“I’m pleased for him, as a trialist coming into the club, he’s done well on Saturday and it’s a good finish from him.

“He was at Enfield Town last season. I used to play football with his agent, he rang me and said ‘Tyler’s looking to go into full-time football and could we have a look at him?’
“He’s come in and done really well in training, done well on Saturday and he’s scored two goals and made a good account of himself tonight.”

McMahon added: “The lad down the right-hand side (Seth Mana Twumasi), I thought it was a really good battle with Kojo.  I said to Kojo, I don’t think he’s going to play against a better full-back than what they had there today.  They matched each other pace for pace. It wasn’t Kojo who he took on, it was actually Derek Duncan down the by-line and hung up at the back stick. If we really want to be critical, he really shouldn’t have been unmarked at the back. It’s something that we’ve got to work on over the next three or four weeks.

“We knew we had to defend well tonight. We’ve got a completely new backline, as well as everyone else.”

Twumasi, who was by now winning his eye-catching dual with Awotwi, lashed his right-footed drive towards goal, which Forde flicked onto the top of the crossbar and behind for a corner, which resulted in referee Neil Davies awarding Vickers a 40th minute goal-kick instead.

Saunders said: “Again, the chances we had, on another day we take them and maybe the scoreline a little bit more comfortable but we’ve done no finishing with our forwards as you know this time of the season a lot of it is fitness stuff and things.  We haven’t done a lot of finishing.  I’m sure at the start of the season, Pigs, Delano and people will be a lot sharper in front of goal.”

McMahon added: “It was Ronan’s first game and they did create a few chances but it was a comfortable save. It wasn’t a bad one, I thought he done well.  His kicking was good, he tried to play out from the back when he could and he made a couple of excellent saves.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

McMahon said: “I was really pleased. I said to the lads we’ve worked hard, we’ve kept our shape. We’ve tried to deal with what they’ve got, which is very difficult. We’re not going to play a side like that this year. Just keep going. If we can try and do what we’re doing for the next 15 minutes before we made the subs then I’ll be pleased.

“There were periods when we didn’t have the ball and we had to get back behind it, which you need to do in these sort of games.  I said to them when we do get it, try and be a bit more comfortable, don’t force it, try and play.”

Saunders said: “I was quite pleased.  We had a lot of play and VCD defended very well. One thing I did say to the boys is be aware because they are lively on the break and make sure we stayed switched on defensively because sometimes when you do have possession you can get caught. All in all, move the ball quicker and be a bit more clinical.”

Forde pulled off a brilliant save to deny Wraight opening his account for his new club, only 140 seconds into the second half.

Wraight stroked his free-kick towards the top near corner from 25-yards, only for Forde to palm the ball away whilst diving high to his left.

McMahon said: “They had a free-kick on the edge of the box, one they scored from right at the end. I think Ronan would be disappointed if they’d have scored from it but when you give players of that quality free-kicks on the edge of the box, you expect your goalkeeper to be tested and they did.”

Saunders added: “Tom’s got that in his locker.  He’s going to be very good. He’s still finding his feet, he’s new to the club and I thought it was a good effort and the keeper’s done well.”

Maidstone United took the lead with 10 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock before Saunders made the first four of his 10 changes.

Pigott held the ball up down the left channel before waiting for support from Anderson, who cut inside and threaded the ball low across the box to Campbell, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 22-yards.

Saunders said: “Great finish! Yes, great finish! It looked a little bit harder than it looked to be honest. He’s done that well.  Pleased for him. He’s done well and he’s an option now that we’ll look at.”

McMahon added: “Disappointed with the goal to be fair because we had the ball in their half and we just spoke to George (Lutaaya) and he gave it away very cheaply. He got in the wrong habit when he could’ve played an easier pass and they put it in behind and Tyler’s got in behind, cut inside and scored. Disappointed with the goal but that’s what quality can do to you.”

Campbell reached the left by-line on the hour-mark to wrap his foot around the ball to whip in a cross for substitute striker Christian Campanella to plant his header straight into Forde’s hands.

VCD Athletic’s threat was non-existent during the second half as McMahon made one change at the break by bringing on Rashid Kamara, before using all seven of his replacements during the half.

McMahon explained: “When we made the changes that was going to happen. We tried to give people minutes and that’s what they’re there for and I was pleased with the 65 (minutes) that we’ve done.

We’ve looked at trialists and some didn’t do themselves many favours tonight and that’s what it’s there for. Some done ok and we look to build on Saturday at home against Kingstonian.  We’ve got a couple more to look at and a couple more to come back in but overall I’m over the moon with what we’ve done there.”

Substitute midfielder Omar Lawson, who re-used the number five shirt after Kevin Lokko was substituted, pulled his first time shot wide after a move involving Paxman and Richards.

Richards certainly impressed when he came on down the left and he cut into the box before drilling a low shot which was parried by Forde, diving low to his left in the final 16 minutes.

“I thought Jack Richards took his free-kick well but he stood out. There was a few I thought did ok,” said Saunders.

“Harley Willard, he was at Southampton and he came in and trained with us yesterday and I thought he looked good and done well at centre half and a few of the Academy boys as well, so all in all, it was pleasing. 

“I didn’t want to give the lads too long and made sure we gave them the right minutes so all in all Jack has probably the stood out one.

“I thought he caused the full-back a few problems. Jack’s got a lot of quality, he’s come through our Academy and someone I’ve got high hopes for. He made his debut at 16 and he’s gone on now and I think he’s ready to play a part this season.”

Harry Phipps played in Johnville Pringle, who cut the ball back from the by-line but Lawson stabbed his shot just past the foot of the right-hand post from close range.

Maidstone United wrapped up the victory with their third goal coming with 33 minutes and 22 seconds on the second half clock.

All Sai Blackwood could do to halt Richards’ driving run was to foul him on the edge of the box and Richards stepped up to drill his right-footed free-kick into the top left-hand corner from 25-yards, although Forde was desperately unlucky as he got hands to the ball before helping it into the net.

Saunders said: “Jack took it well. The keeper was unlucky. I thought he got his hand to it and he helped it on its way but it was a good strike.”

McMahon was also impressed with Richards.

“Good free-kick from the edge of the box. We gave the ball away. We had the ball at the back, Sai Blackwood gave it away. The lad has cut inside and they got a free-kick and he’s put it in the top corner.  You get punished at this level.

“Jack Richards looked lively when he came on.  I thought we didn’t defend very well against him than what we did in the first half but we brought George off but that’s what these friendlies are all about. People look great in training and you stick them across the white line and you need to see what they’re all about and you’d rather see that and you ain’t going to have a better side than a side like Maidstone so it was really good for me, even in the last 15 minutes when we looked a bit ragged.

“There’s loads more positives than minuses out there.  The first half we done ok, we created chances and linked up well.  Steve Carvell had a very good game.  Joe Tennant, he’s only a young kid, he played last year at Soham Town Rangers, but I thought he was very good with Owen Roberts (Whyteleafe) so there was a lot of plusses out there.”

Maidstone United host Premier League side Crystal Palace on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of their stadium opening, while VCD Athletic host Bostik Premier side Kingstonian.

Saunders said: “We really mixed it up (against Barnet) and I think it was to blow the cobwebs off and I think tonight we had a lot more of the ball.  Fitness wise we looked ok. We had a really hard session with them yesterday and we were worried how they would be today but they reacted well and there’s plenty of positives.

“It’s good for Keith to have us down here, the pitch was good and it was a perfect exercise for us really.”

The Vickers manager was clearly impressed by Maidstone United, a side that finished in fourteenth-place in the top-flight of non-league football last term.

“It’s a learning process for us. We’re not going to play against a side like that this year, unless we have some miracle in The FA Cup,” said McMahon, who guided his club to fifteenth in the Ryman League Division One North table last season.

“I thank Jay for bringing a strong side over, that’s probably the best non-league side that we’ve had done here and that’s saying something because we’ve had some decent sides and for a brand new side I was pleased but their movement was very good.”

VCD Athletic: Ronan Forde, George Lutaaya (Cassey Tucker 71), Kojo Awotwi (Alistair Gordon 59), Kamarl Duncan (Rebel Grant 76), Owen Roberts, Joe Tennant (Sam Olanipekun 63), Sai Blackwood, Derek Duncan (Louis Howell 71), Emmanuel Osie (Rashid Kamara 46), Steve Carvell, Kemal Darboe (Ayman Elmogharbel 63)

Goal: Kamarl Duncan 15

Maidstone United: Callum Thomas, Seth Mana Twumasi (Johnville Pringle 62), Joe Anderson (Josh Dorling 69), Reece Prestedge (Omar Lawson 59), Kevin Lokko (Mitch Dickinson 57), Josh Hare (Elliot Capel 79), Delano Sam-Yorke (Harley Willard 57), Jack Paxman (Lewis Chambers 77), Joe Pigott (Christian Campanella 57), Tom Wraight (Harry Phipps 57), Tyler Campbell (Jack Richards 62).
Sub: Tommy Taylor

Goals: Tyler Campbell 32, 56, Jack Richards 79

Attendance: 121
Referee: Mr Neil Davies (West Hampstead, London NW2)
Assistants: Mr Jack Owen (Sevenoaks) & Mr Jamie Paternoster (Sidcup)
Fourth Official: Mr Piotr Zachwieja (Chatham)

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