Ashford United 3-1 VCD Athletic - It's absolute madness to win promotion and not go up! How does that help anyone in football? - says promotion chasing Ashford United boss Tommy Warrilow

Friday 19th April 2019
Ashford United 3 – 1 VCD Athletic
Location Homelands Stadium, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent TN26 1NJ
Kickoff 19/04/2019 15:00

Bostik South East Division
Good Friday 19 April 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Homelands Stadium

ASHFORD UNITED manager Tommy Warrilow says it’s absolute madness that the winners of the Bostik South East Division play-offs may be declined promotion due to their points-per-game ratios.


The Nuts & Bolts secured their place in the end-of-season play-off lottery after denting VCD Athletic’s play-off hopes with a 3-1 win at Homelands Stadium.

Sixth-placed Vickers went into this sunny and warm Good Friday clash in sixth-place and a win would have put them level on points with Haywards Heath Town.

The Crayford based side grabbed the lead after only 69 seconds through versatile left-back Junior Baker’s free-header.

Ashford United, who went into the game having lost back-to-back games 3-1 at Hythe Town and at Cray Wanderers, equalised through Lee Prescott’s eighth minute near-post finish.

Target man Jay May rifled home to give Ashford United a 2-1 lead going into half-time before striker Danny Parish had a penalty saved before he produced a moment of sheer quality to notch his 21st goal for the club this season.

“The most important thing is to get in the play-offs and get the win so I’m pleased with the win,” said Warrilow, who has won 14 of his 21 games in charge of the club.

“In the second half they had a patch when they got on top of us a little bit, which was a bit concerning but I thought we deserved the result.

“We could’ve been a bit more in front. I know they got the early goal with a free header, which was disappointing, but I felt we could’ve got a couple more goals before we got the third one, which would have made life a bit easier.”

VCD Athletic manager Keith McMahon admitted: “I thought we got what we deserved if I’m honest!  I thought they were better than us so I’ve got no grumbles.

“The thing I said to some of the lads, the youngsters maybe didn’t perform but sometimes we got in good positions where we didn’t make the final pass but I said to Tom after the game they thoroughly deserved it.

“Whilst it’s 2-1 and they’re missing chances and missing a penalty, you sit there and think maybe it’s your chance.

“I just thought they were the better side. We struggled at the beginning to cope with their shape. We changed it, we sort of dealt with it.

“I’m disappointed with all three goals. I think they were mistakes from us but we rode our luck a little bit.  You think you might get a chance but second half I thought we got ourselves into four or five great opportunities and picked the wrong option.

“We can’t play on that pitch anyway so it weren’t a surprise but they thoroughly deserved it.”

VCD Athletic arrived on the back of four wins on the bounce, having beaten Herne Bay (2-0); Haywards Heath (3-0); Ramsgate (2-1) and East Grinstead Town (5-4) and they had to win this game to keep the pressure on Haywards Heath, who travel to Ramsgate tomorrow.

The Vickers got off to a dream start when Ali Fuseini swung in a great corner from the right and the unmarked Baker planted his header across the keeper and into the far corner to score only his second goal of the season.

“They left him unmarked, bang! One-nil and you’re sitting there and I think great! Calm your nerves, fine, so yes that was all really,” said McMahon.

“You put a ball in, they didn’t mark, it’s a decent header and you sit there and think settle yourselves down, try and play but I just thought we struggled a little bit.”

Warrilow added: “We shouldn’t have given them the corner, the corner was a mistake by us anyway and the marking was poor for the goal, so it’s not the ideal start but things weren’t going to get any worse after that, that’s what I thought.”

Warrilow was handed his manger-of-the-month award by Isthmian League member Neil Pilcher before the game – but the curse had already struck.

“I’m not into all of that. I got that and we lost the last two but I’m looking for performances. Against Hythe for the last half-hour we were poor but apart from that we’ve been playing really well and creating chances, so I’m happy,” added Warrilow.

Ashford United’s centre-half Mohammed Kamara ran with the ball at his feet over the halfway line before hitting a ball into the Vickers penalty area and Bode Anidugbe had a couple of bites of the cherry to place his shot past the right-hand post.

Ashford United drew level with only seven minutes and 14 seconds on the clock.

It was a swift move down the right as Parish released right-back Jerald Aboagye down the channel and he whipped in a low first time cross towards the near post for Prescott to find a pocket of space at the near post to sweep his shot into the bottom right-hand corner from eight-yards out.

Warrilow said: “Great goal! I’m pleased for Lee because he was sent off last week ridiculously and the appeal didn’t get overturned.  We’ve seen it on slow motion, we’ve sent it all in and I don’t really want to go into it (the sending-off) but it baffles me, it baffles me.”

McMahon added: “Listen, Aymun (El-Moyhalbel) has not gone with the runner and if you don’t do that you get punished and we’ve left Lee unmarked in the box so a decent goal from them, poor defending and work-rate from us.”

Aboagye got in behind Baker a couple of times during the opening exchanges and he played a low pass inside to Josh Wisson, who cut inside and whipped a high curling shot around the top of the far post from 30-yards.

VCD Athletic wasted a glorious chance to regain the lead with exactly 15 and a half minutes on the clock – and their management team thought it was in when their star man only had the keeper to beat.

Centre-half Temitope Eweka fed right-back Bradley Simms, who played the ball into right-winger Alex Gaggin, who cut inside and Alastair Gordon put their talisman 32-goal striker Charlie MacDonald through on goal but he swept his shot across Sam Mott and the ball flashed past the far post.

McMahon said: “We all celebrated but I think he could’ve been offside, I’m not sure.  When Charlie goes through like that you think he’s going to score but I do think he was offside. When we were going forward, when we got it wide, we hurt them, we really did but it was the other side of it.”

Warrilow added: “I wasn’t happy with my back four in the first half anyway. I thought there were too many gaps in between and someone like Charlie will expose that.”

The opening 20 minutes was a whirlwind affair before the game settled down and turned cagey.

Gaggin exploded into life down the right and flashed in a low cross, which Aymun El-Moyhalbel failed to get a proper connection to at the near post and the ball was cleared away by Aboagye.

The ball was collected by Baker inside the Ashford half and he played the ball back to El-Moyhalbel, who drilled his first time right-footed drive over the Ashford crossbar from 30-yards.

Ashford United took the lead with 35 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Jake McIntyre fed the ball into Anidugbe, who cut towards the edge of the VCD Athletic penalty area and the door was slammed shut in his face. 

Anidugbe showed tremendous vision by dinking the ball through the penalty area to find Toby Ajala in acres of space within the right-hand side of the penalty area and he put it on a plate for May to rifle his shot into the net from a couple of yards out at the near post.

Warrilow said: “Brilliant! I thought we could’ve pulled the trigger a little bit earlier. We were messing about on the ball on the edge of the box. I thought Bode could’ve had a shot but he had a touch. He dinked the ball through to Toby and Toby’s drilled it across.  I’m pleased for Jay because he’s come in (from Dulwich Hamlet), not fit but he has caused havoc and I think he has grown on the crowd. He’s going tire out of games but he’s going to give us a different dimension.

“He doesn’t get any protection (from referees) whatsoever at all.  Again, last week he’s got pulled all over the place and today I thought there were a few things but he’s been around the block and he will be a great signing for us with a pre-season inside him.”

McMahon added: “Similar to the first goal. Again, we didn’t go with the runner. We had three against one and I think they stooped it through to the winger. He’s put a decent ball in the box and you’ve got to go goal side of the centre-forward. If you don’t, they score, especially with Jay’s quality and they did.  Again, for them they may think good goal. It’s a carbon copy of the first one, we were just a little bit switched off!”

VCD Athletic missed another decent chance in the 40th minute when El-Moyhalbel cut in from the left and played a low centre across the face of the penalty area for Fuseini, who swept his right-footed shot over the crossbar from 20-yards out, from inside the D.

“Should score. Someone of Ali’s quality,” admitted McMahon.

“Again it came down our right as normal and Ali’s taken a touch and I think he’s just fallen backwards and he should score that.”

VCD Athletic goalkeeper Matthew Funnell, 19, formerly of Crystal Palace and Maidstone United, pulled off a diving save in the 42nd minute.

Eweka was the last defender when he illegally stopped Parish in his tracks just a couple of yards outside the Vickers penalty area.

Funnell lined up a four man wall but McIntyre bent his low left-footed curling free-kick around this wall and Funnell dived low to his right to push the ball into Wisson’s path but the holding midfielder skied his shot but Thomas Fennelly’s raised offside flag saved his embarrassment.

Warrilow said: “We just get massive decisions going against us. It’s not the be all and end all but they do cost us.  You saw that in the first half when Danny gets pulled back and he’s through and he’s the last man and he gets a yellow card.

“It was a good save but we were offside. I don’t know why we’re offside all the time and we missed the follow-up as well.”

McMahon said: “I expect him to save that to be fair.  We know Jake well, he’s a lovely fella. It’s a good strike but it’s the goalkeeper’s side, it’s low and he’s pushed it away.

“He’s a great young keeper. He made some great saves today to be fair to him but you’d expect him to save that.

“He’s done his job, there’s two great keepers there. He’s a great lad. He’s come in and done well for us in the last five games.

“He was with Crystal Palace and got released and he’s been number two at Maidstone for a bit and this year he was cover at Sittingbourne.”

Funnell was called into diving action again on the stroke of half-time.

Ashford centre-half Afolabi (John) Coker released Parish, who easily cut inside Eweka before curling a left-footed shot from 20-yards, forcing Funnell to dive to his right to push towards safety.

“Again, I think we should’ve had more goals.  You came here against Guernsey and saw a similar sort of thing. We didn’t create as much, we created quite a lot today and all the time it’s 2-1, especially when they’re going for it as well, but we got the third goal which calmed us down,” said Warrilow.

McMahon said: “We just said why we changed the shape and told them what we need to go man for man and people go with runners and then if we get the ball we get it wide and we’ll hurt them.

“We rode our luck a bit, they’ve dominated most of the possession until we hit them on the break. It was a typical away performance, I would say but just do our jobs and don’t get caught on the ball and move it quick and we’ve got enough fire power to score against anyone in this league.”

VCD Athletic twice received a slice of luck during the early parts of the second half.

Ajala played Ashford’s only corner short to Anidugbe, who hoisted a cross into the penalty area and keeper Funnell punched the ball into his own net, only for referee Alexander Bradley to disallow the goal for an alleged foul on the keeper by May, who was standing in front of him.

Kamara found himself down the right channel and he whipped in a great cross towards the near post and Eweka crashed his attempted clearance against the top of the right-hand post from inside his own six-yard box.

McMahon said: “To be fair to him, he’s actually done quite well not putting it in because when somebody’s whipped a ball in and you’re two yards out running at goal and you’ve got a geezer behind you, you’ve got nothing to do rather than put it in your net and he’s tried to get it as high as he can and he’s hit the bar.  You could say good defending, lucky as well I suppose. What do you do? It’s either an OG or you get away with it and he got away with it!”

Warrilow added: “I thought we started well. We got in good areas and the ricochet that hit the bar and you’re thinking is it going to be one of those days and then the penalty save.

“You’re just trying to get the boys going but deep down you’re hoping it’s not going to be one of those days.  Luckily, it wasn’t one of those days!”

VCD Athletic made a tactical switch playing substitute Ricardo Joseph, Baker and Eweke as three centre-halves in a bid to cancel out their opponents.

Gordon fed the ball into Fuseini, who linked up well with MacDonald outside the penalty area but curled his left-footed attempt around the far post from 25-yards.

Ashford United squandered a glorious chance to increase their lead with 20:04 on the clock.

Prescott released Parish down the left channel – Rachel Marlow’s offside flag stayed down – and he cut inside and played the ball to Trey Williams, whose deep cross was aimed at Kamara at the far post but he was fouled by Vickers’ substitute left-winger Malachi Hudson.

Parish’s right-footed penalty went straight down the middle and Funnell must have done his homework because he stayed put and comfortably gathered by the ball by stopping down to pick the ball up by his feet.

“All my teams have always been attacking, all my defenders are in the box so we’ve got to make sure we’re not going completely gung-ho but I encourage us to get at teams and when we do it we do create a lot,” said Warrilow.

“If Dan put the penalty away, it would have made life a little bit easier but then he’s got a goal of sheer quality, which is what he can do.”

McMahon said: “It was an easy save for him at the end wasn’t it but penalty or not, difficult. There were a couple. Obviously he’s climbed all over him and he’s got his body there but maybe he nods it in if it weren’t a foul.

“I’m half a pitch away so they all say it is. We’ve not argued too much about it. He saved it so it didn’t matter at the end of the day.

“You’re sitting there thinking it could be your day.  You could get a point out of it because we did create a few chances going the other way.”

Fuseini cracked a shot on the turn sailing high and wide from the edge of the Ashford box.

Ashford United sealed their play-off place by securing their win by scoring their third goal with 30 minutes and 53 seconds on the clock.

Prescott’s flicked pass from within the Vickers half released Parish, he hooked the ball under his spell and his pace left Joseph and Baker in his shadow and Parish’s finish was sublime, sweeping his left-footed shot across the keeper, who stuck out his left leg but all he could do was deflect the ball into the bottom far corner.

“From the chances he’s had, he’s taken the most difficult one of the lot of them! A fantastic finish but Dan will be disappointed he’s not got a couple more today,” admitted Warrilow.

“Do you want the truth? Yes, he was alright, he was good. His goal was outstanding but I thought the whole team dug in today because it was one of them when they’re on a great run of form, they’re the form side at the moment because we’ve lost our last two games and everyone’s having a bit of a panic.”

McMahon added: “Again, we gave the ball away in the middle of the park. We had possession, should have cleared it, didn’t and got caught dwelling and they punished us.

“It was a good finish from Danny. He looked very sharp today, I thought very, very sharp. He’s a good player, not much we can do about it.”

McIntyre swung in left-footed free-kick from the right and Parish steered his near post free-header sailing just over the crossbar.

Ajala cut the ball back to McIntyre, who took a touch before drilling a low shot, which was spilt by Funnell, before the teenager had time to collect the ball as it rolled forwards inside his six-yard box.

Gordon played the ball inside to Hudson, who drove a speculative right-footed shot from 30-yards flashing past the near post inside the final five minutes.

VCD Athletic wasted another glorious chance inside injury time when Baker floated in a cross from the left and an unmarked Fuseini planted his header over the crossbar from the centre of the penalty area.

The impressive Parish had the final say though, when substitutes Trey Williams and Laurent Mendy linked up well down the left and Parish swept his first time curling shot just past the near post.

Parish is just like Jack Barham, who impressed for Phoenix Sports and Greenwich Borough at this level and moved on to play in the National League and National League South.

“I had Dan at Thamesmead, I’m not harsh on Dan, I’m being honest with him. I love him to bits and he scores goals. I’m just trying to help him with constructive criticism and you see him put a goal like that away, it’s ridiculous and what a fantastic finish and all the ones you look at are a lot easier but the thing is he’s getting in positions, where it’s the old cliché you have to be in there to miss or score.”

Cray Wanderers were crowned Bostik South East Division champions following their win over Ashford United at Hayes Lane last Saturday and have 76 points on the board.

Horsham have two games remaining and have banked 68 points, Ashford United are now third on 63 points and Hastings United are fourth on 61 points and Haywards Heath Town have 59 points.

Ashford United travel to Hastings United on Easter Monday and host Haywards Heath Town on Saturday 27 April, both games kicking off at 15:00.

The play-off semi-finals will take place on Monday 29 April at the teams that finish second and third in the table, while the Play-Off Final will be played on Friday 3 May at the club who finishes the highest.

However, there will be two clubs across the country who will win their play-off final and will not be promoted as it will all go down to points per game across all of the League’s at this level.

Warrilow revealed he cannot make any sense over the current play-off structure.

“I’m more gutted it’s Monday night and Friday night. Ridiculous! These boys have got to go to work so it sums up how the League has been run this year because whoever arrange that, how can you have a final on a Friday night?  It should be a Saturday, for the fans as well. It’s not just the players.

“You’ve never heard of a final being played on a Friday night but it sort of sums up what’s been doing with the leagues regarding who goes up points per game ratio.  If you win the play-offs or you don’t, win the play-offs, you can go up, you can’t go up?”

So, Ashford United could potentially win a play-off final and NOT win promotion along with the league champions Cray Wanderers.

“You said it! The sentence actually explains it! It’s absolutely madness! Who in their right mind will have a fantastic season win promotion and not go up? How does that help anyone in football? It’s just absolute madness but nothing surprises me now in football anymore and you play on a Friday night, thanks very much!”

VCD Athletic host neighbours Phoenix Sports on Easter Monday at Oakwood before travelling to Sevenoaks Town on the final day of the season.

Haywards Heath Town, meanwhile, play Ramsgate (away); East Grinstead Town (home) and Ashford United (away).

“We’ve taken massive steps going forward and it’s been a really successful season for us even if we don’t finish in the play-offs,” said McMahon.

“If we win our next two games, you never know, but we just see how many games we can win.

“We’ve come up against a good side today and come up short. It’s been out of our hands for months and we just keep winning.  We’ve got a massive derby on Monday with some of the players struggling. We want to finish the season strongly and as high as possible.”

Ashford United: Sam Mott, Jerald Aboagye, Jake McIntyre, Josh Wisson (Laurent Mendy 85), Afolabi (John) Coker, Mohammed Kamara, Bode Anidugbe, Lee Prescott, Danny Parish, Jay May (Trey Williams 85), Toby Ajala.
Sub: Kundai Munyama

Goals: Lee Prescott 8, Jay May 36, Danny Parish 76

Booked: Toby Ajala 62, Josh Wisson 82

VCD Athletic: Matthew Funnell, Bradley Simms (Ricardo Joseph 54), Junior Baker, Dominic Odusanya, Temitope Eweka, Jack Steventon, Alex Gaggin (Usman Adeniji 76), Alastair Gordon, Charlie MacDonald, Ali Fuseini, Aymun El-Moyhalbel (Malachi Hudson 57).
Subs: Joe Denny, Liam Rosenfield

Goal: Junior Baker 2

Booked: Jack Steventon 19, Temitope Eweka 41

Attendance: 338
Referee: Mr Alexander Bradley (Brighton, East Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Thomas Fennelly (Chislehurst) & Ms Rachel Marlow (Woking, Surrey)