VCD Athletic 2-3 Romford - We need to show some character and some fight now and we want winners here not people who are just happy not to go down with a fight, says Keith McMahon

Tuesday 13th December 2016
VCD Athletic 2 – 3 Romford
Location Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, Kent DA1 4DN
Kickoff 13/12/2016 19:45

Ryman League Division One North
Tuesday 13th December 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

VCD ATHLETIC manager Keith McMahon says he demands character and fight from his underperforming players after suffering an embarrassing defeat to a pub team.

Romford climbed out of the Ryman League Division One North relegation zone with a 3-2 victory at Oakwood on a night when the beautiful game lost its soul in Crayford.

VCD Athletic raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 14 minutes, courtesy of wingers Kojo Awotwi and Mekhi Leacock-McLeod – before the game went into meltdown.

Romford’s ugly direct style brought them level through Chinedu McKenzie’s 21st goal of the season, before winger Greg Akpele came back to haunt his former club to equalise.

It was inevitable that Paul Martin’s side would snatch victory and Akpele rubbed salt into the wounds to seal Romford’s sixth league win of the season with 19 minutes left.

A crowd of 48 people paid money to watch two teams low on quality.  Romford  played a long-ball game which is more suited to Hackney Marshes on a Sunday morning in front of one man and his dog - and VCD Athletic fell into their trap.

McMahon locked his players and management team inside the home dressing room and had emerged at 22:16 long after Romford had vacated the building.

“Well, I’m actually gutted to be honest.   Well, I just think the lads’ let the club down tonight,” admitted McMahon during the post-match press conference.

“We’ve just had a long chat as you’ve gathered. On Saturday (during our 3-2 home defeat to Thamesmead Town) the first half we was excellent and then a bit of pressure and that we seem to buckle and lose a bit of character and then  tonight the first 20 minutes we score two great goals and really no disrespect we should go and win four, five, six-nil. There only looks like one team. They can’t even cope!

“I think we took the foot of the gas.  I thought some of the attitudes were poor. We concede a goal, a poor goal and a few of them just jack it in.

“We came in at half-time and I said to the lads we need to stop and show a bit of character and I didn’t think we did!  We seem to lack, in the last couple of games, any leaders.”

VCD Athletic, who knocked Gillingham out of the Kent Reliance Senior Cup Second Round with a 3-2 victory here seven days earlier, got off to a flying start, taking the lead after only two minutes and 38 seconds.

It was football how it should be played, on the deck and at a high tempo.

Central midfielders Edward O’Neill and Kris Newby linked up and released winger Awotwi down the right, who easily cut inside Romford’s left-back Jamie Dicks and from just inside the box his left-footed drive nestled inside the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

“We got the ball wide, that’s the plan, that’s the way we play and we terrorised them,” said McMahon.

“A decent finish, and you’re sat there and thought ‘ok that was easy, why change it?”

Vickers keeper Connor Pearce, who was hired out to Southern Counties East Football League First Division side Glebe and played in their 4-2 win at struggling Sporting Club Thamesmead last night, was called into action when he dived to his right to push away Will Green’s shot.

“The youngster’s come in tonight, unfortunately he had to come off at half-time injured. He’s gone to hospital. He had the collision on the one-on-one (grabbing hold of the ball to deny Akpele). I don’t know if his shoulder’s come out, he’s taken a heavy whack to it and he’s come off at half-time. It’s a bit gutting for all because he had a chance tonight because Niklas Fruend is not fit.”

Newby and Jamie Guy linked up outside the Romford penalty are and Mitch Hahn took a couple of touches inside the box to place his deflected shot just past the foot of the left-hand post.

VCD Athletic doubled their lead in the 14th minute with a goal of high quality by a player certainly going places.

Leacock-McLeod issued Romford a warning when he unleashed a right-footed dipping drive just over the top of the far post from 35-yards, before he powered a similar drive, this time from 30-yards, screaming high over Callum Chafer’s left-shoulder and into the top far corner to score his fifth goal in six games for the club.

“Mekhi and Kojo are quality, you get them the ball, they’ll hurt any team at this level and above when you’re confident,” said McMahon, who revealed that League One Gillingham are taking Leacock-McLeod, 20, on trial next week.  The winger started out in the Fulham youth ranks, before moving to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Glasgow Rangers, Dagenham & Redbridge and Ware.

“We’re not banging it over the top to them, we’re playing patient football. We got it out to him. He done it on Saturday, he done exactly the same thing on Saturday.

“The kids on a completely different level than what we are here. We got him down after he played for Ware against us in The FA Trophy and he was a pro at Glasgow Rangers and Wolves but he’s moved down. 

“We’ve had a hell of a lot of interest in the last week but if he’s fit he’ll be going to Gillingham on Monday and see how he gets on there.  We’ve sorted him out there - but he’s come off with a little bit of a hamstring.

“We’ve sorted him out a deal here and he’s very happy here but he wants to get back full-time in the game and there’s a lot of clubs coming in for him. He’s not going to go to another non-league side.

“The kids on another planet. He’s exciting to watch and so is Kojo Awotwi and that’s what I mean.  You can’t defend pace and quality and he goes past people for fun. He’s a good, exciting, young player but you’ve got to give him the ball.  We stopped doing that after 20 minutes, we wanted extra touches. I think they thought the game was over.”

Hahn launched a long throw into Romford’s box from the left and lone striker Guy’s shot on the turn was hit straight at Chafer from 12-yards.

But Romford pulled a goal back, courtesy of their direct style, in the 25th minute.

Central defender Danny Cossington hit a long ball down the right channel from the halfway line to put McKenzie through and the striker drove hit shot across Pearce into the bottom far corner from 20-yards.

McMahon said: “We’ve got a few players missing in the middle of the park. We’re a team that I would say are very good going forward and fairly vulnerable defensively and in the middle of the park we’re missing Nicky Symons (medial ligament) who sits there. Derek Duncan was out tonight with the hole in his leg from Saturday, so we’re playing basically with two number 10s in the middle of centre midfield but when you’re 2-0 up, you should just carry on and keep going.”

This goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of VCD Athletic’s players and Dicks’ swept in a cross from the left and Akpele rose above his man to plant his header just over.

VCD Athletic squandered an excellent chance to knock the wind out of Romford’s sails when Hahn released Awotwi down the right. He sped past Dicks and Green and cut the ball back for Hahn to bend his shot through Guy’s legs and past the foot of the far post.

Romford’s equaliser arrived in the 32nd minute, courtesy of another long ball from the halfway line.

Central defender James Ishmail powered the ball forward and Vickers’ defence allowed Akpele to nip in and roll his shot across the grounded keeper, nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.

McMahon said: “We’re just speaking about it. We just stopped pressurising them and they must’ve tried to put the ball in behind us 20 times and we should’ve dealt with it!

“I was thinking, half of it I can’t really say, but I was sitting there just in disbelief that it was Saturday all over again! We weren’t getting pegged back. Tonight we was our own downfall.  No disrespect to Romford, we should be sitting here with three points comfortably, even at 2-0, we could’ve just shut up shop, I suppose.”

O’Neill’s pass put Guy in behind the Romford defence but he was to be denied by a smart save from Chafer, diving to his left to push the shot around his post for a corner.

Newby played a short free-kick to Hahn and drilled his right-footed shot, which took a deflection and looped into the hands of the Romford keeper.

McMahon gave his underperforming players a dressing down during the half-time interval.

He said: “We need to show some character and some fight now and we want winners in here and not people who are just happy not to go down with a fight.

“We had a long chat and we thought we could get ourselves back into it and we just said to them just go back to the basics, get it on the floor and play and get it wide and then the game will be over.”

Both clubs should refund the admission fee for the 48 fans that paid their hard earned cash to watch this exhibition of pub football.

The ball must have been in the air for at least 80% of the time during the second half as this game will go down as one of the worst in the Ryman League for many years.

McMahon agreed, saying: “Shocking! All we done from goalkeeper was just kick it as high as we could up to Jamie Guy. It was like Sunday morning football! We couldn’t even get near him, not once we tried to get it down.  I think once we got it out wide to Kojo who skimmed past the fella again.

“We played into their hands and we just seemed to panic and it was the same on Saturday, panic and just lose any quality that we’ve got.

“Sometimes that sort of (long-ball) football can bring you down to their level and you do the same.

“Listen, we’ve got enough quality in my changing room to get the ball down and play and that’s what upset me.  We didn’t! We just got it and smashed it back at them and that’s not on!”

Cossington set the tone, thumping the ball into the hands of substitute keeper Niklas Freund from inside his own half inside the opening two minutes.

Cossington was more accurate with his next attempt, finding Nick Reynolds, who clipped his shot into Freund’s hands, who flung himself to his right to catch the ball for the cameras.

McMahon said: “Niklas has been great for us! Alright, he spilt the goal on Saturday but he’s carrying an injury and we wanted to give him a rest.  He was in hospital yesterday having an x-ray so’s got an ankle problem. He didn’t think he was going to be fit enough to play.  Connor’s came in against Gillingham and done well so it was perfect for us.  Connor didn’t do anything for the goals so Niklas isn’t the number two, he’s the number one here so we had no qualms really, he didn’t have much to do.”

Romford right-back Ryan Boswell whipped in a cross and Reynolds’ downward header was saved low to his left by Freund.

But VCD Athletic were to be denied the winner in the 58th minute thanks to a world-class save from Chafer.

Hahn swung in a free-kick from the right some 35-yards from goal and Chafer came out to punch the ball out of his penalty area.  The ball went back to Hahn, who from 30-yards drilled his right-footed shot screaming towards the top right-hand corner, only for Chafer to claw the ball around his post high to his left with his right-hand.

“That was one of the decent strikes, only the one bit of quality to be fair,” said McMahon.

“He should’ve scored in the first half. He absolutely missed a sitter.  It fell to him about six-yards out and he smashed it wide, somehow!”

VCD Athletic realised halfway through the second half that they could revert to playing the ball on the deck – just the way that they raced into their two-goal lead.

Newby sprayed the ball out to Awotwi on the right, who sped past his man and cut the ball back to right-back Connor Hogan, who delivered a cross and Guy’s shot on the turn looped onto the top of the roof of the net.

“Jamie is good with his back to goal. He’s tried to turn and it just goes over the bar. Yes, it’s half a chance,” added McMahon.

It was always inevitable that Romford would go on to win the game – their winning goal coming 19 minutes from time.

Substitute winger Kwasi Marfo gave Vickers’ right-back Hogan a headache with his pace and at least the winning goal came from a cross rather than a hopeful long ball into the night sky.

Dicks fed Marfo, who sped towards the by-line and he whipped the ball into the  box where Akpele slid his shot into the bottom far corner from six-yards.

“Our marking was dreadful! Was it a great cross? He’s got to the by-line, he’s pulled it along and I don’t know, I think we should cut out the cross and the marking was shocking! People can’t get a free touch inside the six-yard box. It summed us up!”

A quality cross from Marfo flashed into the Vickers’ penalty area and McKenzie’s first time shot grazed the foot of the far post in the final 13 minutes.

Romford’s central midfielder Jonathan Adebayo cracked his right-footed drive towards goal from 35-yards, which only just dipped over the top of the far post as Romford finished the game more like a proper football team.

Romford’s last chance saw a breakaway played on the deck as they hunted in three’s but substitute Jamie Age could only shoot straight at Freund after Marfo’s fine pass.

McMahon said; “We were trying to get it forward and they got it down and played. 

“I’m disappointed.  We didn’t show much character. We didn’t think we’re 2-2, we’re still good enough to get back into the game and win it, even at 3-2 down.  You’re thinking just play normal football and you’ll win this game. We didn’t and it’s something you need to learn.”

McMahon revealed that some players will be shown the door next week if they don’t perform away to seventh-placed Cheshunt on Saturday – a side that went down to a 3-1 home defeat to Thamesmead Town tonight.

“It upsets you more than pull your hair out because I defend my team to the hilt normally and we’ve had a bit of criticism here and there with a bit of inconsistent form, but if you watched us against Gillingham and even here you saw it for 20 minutes, we should be basically be one of the best teams in this league.

“With what’s going on here and the players’ we’ve got and tonight they just under-performed, so it’s frustrating, disappointing, upsetting. We’ve just said a few home truths in there and it needs to change by the weekend or things need to change!

“I want them to show some fight. I want them to show 100% effort. I can’t give a monkey’s how we play now. I’ve just said that to them. The club needs to show that they want to give 100%, put tonight past them and come out with a bit of fight and if we put 100% in and they do everything they can, then we’ll win the game. If they don’t, the same thing can happen.

“We do need to show some bo****ks! There’s some very good players here that in the last few games are under-performing and people will get onto that. I just want to see 100%. I want to see people who want to play for the club and be worth what they’re getting.  They need to, or they won’t be here and they know that.

“We haven’t got no mugs in there. We haven’t scrapped players together. There’s some decent players that have played at a great level of football sitting in there.”

McMahon revealed there is pressure from chairman Gary Rump who finds sitting in 15th place in the table with a playing record of nine wins, five draws and 10 league defeats unacceptable.

McMahon said: “There’s only so long you can give them and I know it’s wearing thin elsewhere – we need to pull our finger out, now! 

“The board are working hard for this football club and they’re paying money and they want to see a return and all they want is to see people giving 100% and that’s what we’ve just been talking about.

“Why should they and my management team put the effort in if a couple of them are just going to turn up and stroll. I’m not saying their strongly but we need to show some bol…..”

VCD Athletic: Connor Pearce (Niklas Freund 46), Connor Hogan, Ricardo Joseph, Edward O’Neill, Joe Bruce, Frantz Tchonang, Mekhi Leacock-McLeod (Ignacio Garcia 73), Kris Newby, Jamie Guy, Mitch Hahn, Kojo Awotwi.
Subs: Jack Clark, Harry Brickwood, Derek Duncan

Goals: Kojo Awotwi 3, Mekhi Leacock-McLeod 14

Booked: Mitch Hahn 30, Mekhi Leacock-McLeod 42

Romford: Callum Chafer, Ryan Boswell, Jamie Dicks, Kai Bichard, James Ishmail, Danny Cossington, Greg Akpele (Jamie Age 82), Jonathan Adebayo, Chinedu McKenzie, Nick Reynolds (Chris Taylor 90), Will Green (Kwasi Marfo 69).
Subs: Ayodeji Olukoga, Ryan Mallet

Goals: Chinedu McKenzie 25, Greg Akpele 32, 71

Booked: Jamie Dicks 42, Kai Bichard 53

Attendance: 48
Referee:  Mr Steven Scott (London SW12)
Assistants: Mr Oliver Roguez (London E14) & Mr Christopher Bodell (Enfield, Middlesex)

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