Colliers Wood United 1-2 AFC Croydon Athletic - The club would like to see us progress but with the squad we've got I think I'll be disappointed with anything below sixth, says AFC Croydon Athletic joint-boss Lee Roots

Wednesday 30th August 2023
Colliers Wood United 1 – 2 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Wibbandune Stadium, Robin Hood Way, West Wimbledon, London SW20 0AA
Kickoff 30/08/2023 19:30

Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Wednesday 30 August 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Wibbandune Stadium

AFC CROYDON ATHLETIC joint-manager Lee Roots says he is driven by the pressure involved in guiding the club to its highest finish in the Combined Counties League Premier Division South.


The former Forest Hill Park and Holmesdale boss has jumped into the pressure cooker alongside Kevin Rayner and the pair have been tasked of qualifying for the inaugural play-offs.

The Rams chalked up their first league win of the campaign against an impressive Colliers Wood United side, who finished in fifth-place last season, while Rayner guided the Rams to a fifteenth-place finish.

AFC Croydon Athletic climbed up four places into eleventh with five points from their opening four league games, while Ben Ewing’s side await their first league win of the season and lie in the bottom three with one point from four outings.

Colliers Wood United took the lead through Harlem-Lee Bouchez’s deflected drive from outside the box following a corner, but AFC Croydon Athletic had the points in the bag before half-time with Bromley loanee Rashid Kamara, 18, drilling in an equaliser before Michael Redfearn headed in the winner in front of a sparse derby night crowd adjacent to the A3.

“Happy to win the game. I thought we played well in parts.  We’re making games tougher than they need to be,” admitted Roots.

“We didn’t play since (losing 4-2 at relegated Tooting & Mitcham United) last Tuesday and we gave the lads the whole five or six days off. We only came in on Monday.

“This club did well last year (finishing in fifth-place).  I think they’re in a transition and for us we targeted this as a game we wanted to win, so listen, any three points on the road, you’ve got to be happy with it.

“We were fatigued at Tooting, it was a big crowd there. It feels more like a SCEFL game this one with the low crowd, so it felt like a game we were going to win.

“We’ve had to play three of the four league games midweek in the month and The FA Cup run sometimes does affect your league games and all but one of them have been away, so we’re really happy.”

Both sides kept the ball on the deck for large parts of this encounter and Colliers Wood United missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the 17th minute.

A long ball out of defence was headed on by striker Marlon Pinder on the edge of the centre-circle and this released his pacey strike partner Nathan Dilanda, who dragged his right-footed shot across the advancing keeper and past the far post of an open goal from just a couple of yards inside the AFC Croydon Athletic box.

“It was a good chance for the fella.  I think the 10 (Dilanda) and the nine (Pinder) were good players and they were a handful all game,” added Roots.

Colliers Wood United deserved their lead when it arrived with 19 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock, following their second of five corners.

Set-piece specialist Blake Loyza – top scorer with four goals – floated the ball in from the left and visiting goalkeeper Oshane Brown palmed the ball away towards the edge of his penalty area.

Faced with plenty of legs in front of him, Bouchez – who plays on the left of a three man midfield – stroked a right-footed drive from 25-yards, which took a deflection and nestled into the bottom left-hand corner.

“I was quite disappointed with the goal,” said Roots.

“Oshane is a big lad, he’s come and he’s done as much as he can and he can’t catch it and he’s palmed it to the edge of the box.  I think our winger could’ve been more diligent and been that side of the player.

“He’s had a shot, I think anytime you shoot on target with a melee of players coming out any deflection helps. It’s taken a deflection and gone in.

“It seems to be in the last two games that we’ve needed to go behind to really fire us up, which is something that we addressed at half-time.”

Colliers Wood United goalkeeper Jack Minchin initially spilt Jack Marney’s left-footed 30-yard drive, before gathering at the second attempt, as the away side created their first opening halfway through the half.

“He scored an unbelievable goal at Tooting, when he scored it from about 45 yards so we told him to shoot,” added Roots.

“Jack’s a fantastic player, he’s got incredible feet, a great IQ in the game as well. It was a little bit easy for the keeper, he spills it but we want that from Jack and we want him to shoot from range and to be creators as well.”

Colliers Wood United then went direct with Minchin launching the ball upfield, which was sublimely controlled outside the box by the impressive Dilanda, before he charged into the box before drilling his right-footed drive across the diving Brown and just past the foot of the far post.

The home side – who were lively in attack – went close following their third corner of the game.

Loyza floated the ball in from the left and Matthew York – who plays at the heart of a three-man defence – guided his downward header just past the far post.

AFC Croydon Athletic were a threat down the right flank during the first half with right-back David Boateng and Rashid Kamara often linking up – with Colliers Wood’s left-wing-back Patrick McKay and Daniel Webster (the left of three central defenders) often opening the gate.

“David Boateng is one of the most impressive player I’ve seen at this level and managed, especially at full-back. He was superb in The FA Cup game at Horley. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play him at Tooting. He pulled up in the warm-up and he started to feel it a little bit after about 60 minutes as well but the link up between those two is superb.

“I thought we were really, really dominant down that side. They were playing a shape that maybe allowed us to maybe get behind the full-back or the wing-back.  David can probably play in any position on the pitch – he’s a great talent.”

AFC Croydon Athletic grabbed an equaliser with 34 minutes and 43 seconds on the clock.

The Rams enjoyed a spell of keep ball inside their opponents half for around a couple of minutes before the impressive Shawniki Clement-Peters played a fine through ball for Rashid Kamara to drill a clinical low right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

“A nice moment of quality, I think, from the kid.  He’s such a talent Rash. He’s just signed pro at (National League) Bromley and he’s here with us and they trust him with us,” revealed Roots.

“We’ve got a great connection there. I know (Bromley CEO) Mark Hammond and we’ve got a good connection with the owners, with Woody (Andy Woodman) the manager and they trust him with us and I think he’s got a fantastic career ahead of him.

“I thought he was a real bright spark.  The last game he played right-back and that was the first time we used him in that area and I thought he drove us up the pitch really well.”

Roots added: “Shawn is an unbelievable talent. I think he’s still getting himself where he wants to get to, both midfielders are.  He was involved in both goals. 

“I thought the pass was weighted so well that he’s not had to break his stride and the finish is just picture perfect.  I thought at that moment he was our best player Rashie and I’m really pleased that he got the goal, a great shot across the keeper, perfect.

“He’s got the world at his feet. What Bromley need from him is consistency in games and he’s started to show that.”

Rashid Kamara was subbed in the 87th minute “to protect his hamstring,” and Michael Kamara slotted in at centre-half alongside Vaughan with Darryl Shaw switching from centre-half to right-back, with James Teodorescu staying at left-back.

Bouchez drove towards the Rams’ penalty area before he drew a foul from centre-half Daniel Vaughan but Loyza drilled the resulting right-footed free-kick whistling past the right-hand post from the edge of the D.

“Loyza is a good player.  We watched these at the weekend. We didn’t play at all on the Bank Holiday so we knew he was good from set-pieces.  We knew we had to be big and defend the box most of the game rather than be opened up in play, but I thought we did quite well in those moments,” said Roots.

The capture of former Crystal Palace, Maidstone United, Wealdstone, Barnet and Hastings United man Michael Phillips can be seen as a coup for Roots and Rayner.

The holding midfielder had a chance to score when presented with the ball by Colliers Wood’s central midfielder Kailan North but Minchin struck out his left leg to make the save and divert the ball behind for a corner.

“We’re very lucky to have him.  It comes from the contacts that we have got at the club and the resources that we can afford. He’s not here on big money, he’s on the same money as everyone and we’re not paying the biggest budget,” insisted Roots.

“Michael is moving into an age where he wants to maybe do different stuff with working and the National League doesn’t really allow you to do that because you’re full-time, whereas here he can enjoy it, he’s such an asset.  He’s got unreal quality, he can only get better.”

AFC Croydon Athletic grabbed the winning goal with 44 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock, following their second of three corners.

Clement-Peters’ left-wing corner seemed a while ago by the time the ball came back out to him and the central midfielder recycled the ball back into the penalty area for Redfearn to leap and flick his header into the far corner.

“He’s five foot five, got up like a salmon,” said Roots on Redfearn’s header.

“Unfortunately, we lost our main striker Emiliano Lika to a knee rupture in his ligament, so Tyrone Pink, who is the other striker, is still recovering from a small injury that he picked up in pre-season, so we were alternating a little bit.

“Michael is a very intelligent player. He had a small break on the top of his foot about a month ago, so he’ll only get better. He’s a really good player.  He’s only young but I thought he did well. He got in front of the striker and he headed it down and into the goal, so we were delighted with that and delighted for him and it was the right time to score.”

AFC Croydon Athletic skipper Vaughan almost gifted the home side an equaliser just before half-time when he met Loyza’s quality delivered corner from the left with a header at the near-post which only just cleared his own crossbar, as the ball appeared to be heading into the top far corner.

“I told them ‘well done for getting back into the game.’  We scored at the right time but we need to get out of situations where we go behind to really fire us up,” said Roots.

“We felt we weren’t really doing enough in the midfield off the ball in the transitions. We wanted to get around the feet and win second balls and that was the main port of call really.

“They had 10 minutes to continue their work before we looked to change it and protect players but to come in 2-1 at half-time, when you’re not necessarily dominated for that period of time, I certainly felt the football we played was better and the chances we created.”

Colliers Wood United came out with all guns blazing and created a couple of goalscoring chances inside the opening five minutes.

Bouchez drove forward before rolling the ball over to right-wing-back Stephen Newman, who reached the by-line and floated in a cross towards the near post but Bouchez guided his header straight at Brown, who made a comfortable save at his near post.

Roots said: “We knew that they like to not necessarily build it up but get it forward as quick as they can and there was always going to be a reaction at half-time, especially when you go 2-1 up and you take the momentum away from them.

“I think if he puts it any other side, it’s a save that Oshane has to make. He’s a big, big presence in that goal, which is what we like, straight at his throat.”

McKay and Bouchez then linked up down the left before Dilanda cracked a right-footed flicked shot straight at Brown from 20-yards.

“They’ve got some good players. I would say they were just lacking that ruthlessness in the final third.  You really have to catch those shots from distance sweet to beat Oshane. He’s quite good with that and if we’re nullifying them to 20-yard shots that aren’t troubling us, we’re quite happy with that,” added Roots.

AFC Croydon Athletic didn’t look like adding to their lead other than in the ninth minute following their third corner.

Marney swung the ball in from the left and Vaughan found a pocket of space at the near post to hook his left-footed volley across the face of goal and past the far post from eight-yards.

Roots heaped plenty of praise on his captain.

He said: “Jack’s deliveries are absolutely tremendous and Dan Vaughan needs a massive pat on the back.  Every single game he’s die-hard. He dies for the badge, he dies for his players, he’s a great leader.  Any time the ball gets put into the area, we always back Dan to win it. It was a good ball by Jack. If he gets that on target, it’s the winning goal.”

The rest of the second half proved to be a cagey hard-fought affair but the home side had a go in the final 10 minutes, as Roots and Rayner made changes and with Boateng now resting on the subs bench, Colliers Wood United were now a threat down the left-wing with Colliers Wood sub, left-wing-back Ato Akai proving more of a threat than the man he replaced, McKay.

Bouchez fed Ato and his deflected low drive forced Brown to dive to his left and use a strong hand to push towards safety, before the ball was hacked clear.

“I think they started to have more chances when they threw more hell to leather towards the end.  Something that we can take on our head when we have taken some players out of the game and maybe lost a little bit of balance in the squad at that point,” said Roots.

“We wanted to make sure we had everyone ok to go to the weekend, so we felt we had enough to manage it.  We knew there was going to be two or three chances to ride but the way we defended, I thought we dealt with them quite well.”

The home side kept knocking on the door and Loyza floated in his final corner from the left but Webster’s header at the back stick bounced off the shoulder of his team-mate before dropping wide.

And substitute attacker Del Davies played in substitute striker Sekou Fofana but his deflected shot was comfortably saved by the visiting goalkeeper as AFC Croydon Athletic’s resilient victory ensured Colliers Wood United have now extended their winless run to five games, six without a win in all competitions.

When asked about his side’s performance tonight, Roots replied: “Patchy. We tell the lads you need to be consistent in the league, consistently winning. You don’t need to be the best side to win.  I think we can make that a lot easier in parts.  I would say we were good in possession and we were probably a little bit more wasteful tonight.

“For me, a win’s a win and the first win is always important. If it comes on the road, great. We’ve got a good record so far at home, so I would summarise it, a win masks everything in football. We needed momentum to take into Saturday.”

Roots and Rayner take AFC Croydon Athletic to Marlow to contest a FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie.

Marlow are in fourth-place in the Isthmian League South Central Division table with six points from three games and have won their last four games, scoring 15 goals in three competitions.

“We know we face some really, really tough and determined opposition.  They play the league above, maybe not the most affluent of clubs, maybe not the biggest spender in the league but they seem to do well,” said Roots.

“Where we had no game over the weekend we were able to watch them twice, which was quite luxurious for us, so we’ve got a really good idea of them.

“We’ve got the lads coming in tomorrow night for a scouting night so we’re going to break down what we feel that they co do.  The lads have learnt the right to be in this position.

“This will be the furthest the club has ever gone if we win. The players’ will be legends, so we want to go and attack it.  It’s a great day for the club and we want to give a special day back to the owners and to the fans, so we know we’ve got a real tough test.

“We’ve rested a couple and there are a couple of additions that we are working on.  There will be a new player coming in at the weekend to boost that, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Rams are seven points adrift of leaders Farnham Town and Guildford City going into September.

“We targeted nine points from 12, we thought that would be a really good return considering the midweek games and the opposition we were facing,” revealed Roots.

“I would say we were four points off.  I say there’s a few margins that we’re not fully there but we’re a new squad. There’s a lot of pressure on us. Everybody wants to beat us.”

Roots is relishing the pressure that comes with a job at a club that has celebrity owners.

“I wanted to get out of that small mentality club, I suppose, not so much the mentality of the club, but in regards to fans and backing really and resources, so the pressure for me is as good as gold.

“I deal with pressure every day of my life and I wanted to be in situations to move up the levels. It’s a results business, so you’re more driven by that.

“Me and Kevin were on the phone to the owners last night and they’re so supportive.  Stormzy was at the Horley game and he’s there talking and giving us their support, even Wilf (Wilfried Zaha), so I’m loving it.

“It’s an unique situation. I’m very grateful to Kevin and the management team for me to be here so bring it on, the more pressure the merrier – the pressure only makes diamonds so you’ve only got to go through it.”

Roots added: “There’s not been a massive remit put on.  They obviously want to target the play-offs.  We want to target that.  You’ve got to remember where the club has come from. We haven’t been knocking around that margin and we’re not throwing a massive budget at it so a lot of it comes down to the coaching work that we’re doing and the momentum and the environment we’re building.

“The club would like to see us progress and be in the top eight, top six.  I think with the squad we’ve got, I think anything below sixth, I’ll be disappointed with. 

“I came here to target the play-offs, whether the owners were here or not, with the resources we’ve been given, the backing and the trust me and Kev have been given.  I would say we would be targeting to be challenge in and around the play-offs.

I’ve told the lads for about six or eight weeks that we wouldn’t get the respect we deserve and heavy is the head that wears the crown here. Everyone wants to beat you and we have seen teams really raise their games.

“If we were sitting top of the league like Farnham, I think we’d be a bigger fish to be cut down, so we’ve got to deal with that and we have the players and management to deal with that.

“If we go behind, the chat starts. If we go ahead, the chat starts but you’ve got to stay focused on the goal. We knew that coming into it and that problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon.”

Colliers Wood United: Jack Minchin, Stephen Newman, Patrick McKay (Ato Akai 60), Matthew York, Javaughny Waugh, Daniel Webster, Harlem-Lee Bouchez (Del Davies 88), Kailan North, Marlon Pinder, Nathan Dilanda (Sekou Fofana 77), Blake Loyza.
Subs: Nick Vallejo Usma, Kieran Nagle-Kelly

Goal: Harlem-Lee Bouchez 20

AFC Croydon Athletic: Oshane Brown, David Boateng (Khari Oriogun 77), James Teodorescu, Michael Phillips (Kevant Serbonij 68), Daniel Vaughan, Darryl Shaw, Michael Redfearn (Tyrone Pink 60), Shawniki Clement-Peters, Brandon Pierrick, Jack Marney, Rashid Kamara (Michael Kamara 87).
Sub: David Boorer

Goals: Rashid Kamara 35, Michael Redfearn 45

Booked: Darryl Shaw 72

Attendance: 112
Referee: Mr Thomas Healy
Assistants: Mr Philipp Chaykin & Mr Jakub Kobrzynski