Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1-0 Phoenix Sports - There are no panic buttons being hit at the moment, says Phoenix Sports boss Paul Bryon

Tuesday 05th October 2021
Cray Valley (Paper Mills) 1 – 0 Phoenix Sports
Location Badgers Sports Ground, Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, London SE9 5HT
Kickoff 05/10/2021 19:45

Isthmian League South East Division
Tuesday 5 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Middle Park Avenue

PHOENIX SPORTS manager Paul Bryon says he is not hitting the panic button after extending their losing streak to six games in this local derby at promotion-chasing side Cray Valley (Paper Mills).

Striker Marcel Barrington, 26, settled a cagey battle, by heading in his sixth goal of the season, to make it three wins on the spin for the Millers.

Cray Valley (Paper Mills) remain in second-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 19 points on the board from eight league games, level on points with leaders Haywards Heath Town, who have a game in hand.

“I thought first half we had all of the chances if I’m honest,” said Bryon.

“They had a lot of the ball and they’re a very good side but if you look at it on saves made by the keeper, I think we’ve had three in the first half and Steve (Phillips) didn’t make any.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming here. We set-up defensively and they probably had more of the ball than us but we had a game plan and we knew we were a little bit more direct than we normally are.

“We had a couple of opportunities and we got into good positions and it just didn’t work for us tonight.

“I think (we deserved) a point at least really. If you looked at the way we worked and the game plan we had, I said to them (in the dressing room), if you play like that every week, we’ll be fine. 

“We’re not going to play against many sides with players like that and it’s probably one of our best performances all season but we’ve come away with nothing.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills) manager Kevin Watson said: “Objective met to a certain extent in terms of the win. Lots of aspects of the performance which we can improve on but it’s important to get points on the board really especially as we’ve played at least one extra game than most teams in the league now, so it’s important to get the points.

“Look, there’s improvements to make right. We’re picking up results but there’s clear areas of development for us to work on.

“There’s not many midweek games fixtured at the moment. It’s all dependant on cup success and progress in the cups so it’s a little bit unusual to play on Saturday and Tuesday so maybe the boys are acclimatising to that and it’s been a while since we’ve done that.

“These games are difficult, they conducted themselves well Phoenix. They probably feel slightly aggrieved to not getting something out from the game, which I probably would if I was in their camp.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills) missed a glorious chance to take the lead after only 110 seconds following the first of their six corners.

Jack Sammoutis swung the ball in from the right and striker Rory Hill glanced his free header across the keeper and past the far post from six-yards out but clear cut chances were hard to come by as both sides lacked width and played the same formation with three at the back and packing the midfield.

“It was a good chance. He scored a header on Saturday, so he’ll be disappointed. He could’ve done a bit better with that, relatively unopposed,” said Watson.

Bryon added: “That was a free header and that was probably their best chance of the game apart from their goal.”

Cray Valley’s goalkeeper Chris Lewington was called into action in the 13th minute.

Alfie Evans charged down the heart of the pitch before laying the ball off to left-wing-back Byron Walker, who drilled his left-footed shot towards the bottom near corner, forcing the 33-year-old stopper to dive to his right to palm the ball behind for the away side’s only corner of the night.

Bryon said: “We got it down the middle and we got it out wide. He’s taken it early. We said test the keeper early, get your shots off but we did well there. The keeper’s parried it and we got a corner. Any of our set-pieces didn’t drop for us today. I thought we were a bit unlucky tonight.”

Watson added: “That’s something that we spoke about at half-time. We probably had more possession in the first half and they probably created an equal amount of chances really.”

Hill, who partnered Barrington up front, went close with a right-footed dipping free-kick from 25-yards, which only just cleared the top of the far post but both sides cancelled each other out for large parts of the contest.

Cray Valley played a brand of crab football – passing it backwards and sideways - with their most played out passage of play involving Connor Dymond playing the ball to his central defensive partner Cem Tumkaya, who tried to release right-wing-back Denzel Gayle but Phoenix Sports were a well-organised, well-drilled outfit and protected their goalkeeper Steven Phillips well.

Halfway through the first-half, Sammoutis played a short corner to Hassan Ibrahiym (who plays behind the front two) but Phillips stood tall at his near post to stretch to pluck the ball out of the air as the ball came in from the left by-line.

In fact, Phoenix Sports were more direct with their attacking play during the first half and were the more likely side to score, as Cray Valley’s tactic of passing the ball hundreds of times, while dominating possession didn’t carve out any real clear cut goalscoring chances.

“We’ve always been a team that passes the ball, possibly a slightly different manner in the terms that we set-up but still the philosophy, ethos and the values and the way we try to play remain the same and will do,” added Watson, who guided Cray Valley to The FA Cup First Round for the very first time last season.

Attacker Olalekan Osideko ran down the right and played the ball inside to Phoenix Sports’ four-goal striker Jeff Duah-Kessie, who drilled a right-footed shot straight into Lewington’s midriff from 35-yards, which was comfortably caught by the home keeper.

Bryon said: “Jeff hit one as well and it’s gone straight into the keeper. We got into good positions as well and we just hesitated. We have to be a little bit more dynamic and a little bit more ruthless in front of goal, I think.”

Ibrahiym got on his bike in the 27th minute, going on a pacey 40-yard run with the ball at his feet before drilling his shot just past the foot of the far post, with Phillips rooted to the spot.

“Hassan does that well, he breaks lines and he’s got a good strike on him, so we had a few strikes from range in the first-half,” said Watson.

“We’ve got people that can strike the ball well, Rory Hill, Hassan, Nathan Green, Jack Sammoutis can all hit the ball well from those positions.”

Phoenix Sports’ centre-half Alex Breffo, 20, put in an impressive performance and he played a big role in denying Cray Valley the lead within two minutes.

Cray Valley dominated the middle of the park during the entire game and Sammoutis played the ball inside to an unmarked Matthew Attenborough-Warren, who cut the ball onto his right-footed before drilling his shot towards goal. The ball deflected off Breffo and Phillips dived to his right to push the ball around the post.

Bryon revealed that Cray Valley are interested in snapping up Breffo.

“Alex has had an outstanding game. I don’t want to talk too much about him because there’s a lot of people, they’re (Cray Valley) already trying to talk to him now. There will be a lot of clubs after him. He’s an outstanding player.”

Not asked about his interest in Breffo during his post-match duties because Watson was interviewed before Bryon, the Millers’ manager did mention Breffo, adding:  “I thought the lad at the back for them, number five (Breffo) was a good player.”

Phoenix Sports’ right-back Frazer Walker launched a deep free-kick from the halfway line towards the back post where centre-half Ben Fitchett threw himself at the ball to steer his header straight at Lewington.

Hill was forced into a deep position to collect Tumkaya’s ball out from the back before the ball was sprayed out to Denzel Gayle on the right. He cut inside and his drilled shot was blocked by Breffo, the ball rolling behind for a corner, although Phillips had it covered as he was waiting to collect at his near post.

“It’s common knowledge that Denzel is a threat going forward. It was probably one of his quieter games tonight to be honest in terms of the threat he caused but he can still be affective in other aspects of his game,” added Watson, who substituted Gayle in the 57th minute.

At half-time, Watson said: “We just spoke about points of development really. How can we improve in the second half, what we were happy with and what we wanted to improve on.

“There was a little bit of frustration, I think, from the players because they want to win games and they know that’s the expectations so when you don’t get it after 45 minutes of football it can end up quite a cagey affair.

“It’s important that we stayed patient. It was 0-0. We had 50 minutes in the second half to win the game and if you don’t do that in the given time then you don’t deserve to win the fixture.

“But second half they came out, we didn’t actually start very well at the beginning of the second half and Phoenix made it hard for us really.”

Bryon added: “I said don’t overplay because they’re very sharp in the middle of the pitch. We had to watch them, they go high, they come off the lines and it was about understanding who goes where and marks when and understanding their movement really defensively and once we got it, be very aggressive and play forward quickly all of the time because we know they commit numbers forward and we can get at them and that was our game plan.

“We had half-chances and opportunities and situations and it just didn’t come off for us.”

The second half proved to be even more cagey with limited goalscoring chances for the 102 fans to get excited about.

It took 20 minutes for the first chance to arrive and it came following the home side’s fifth corner of the night.

Ibrahiym’s right-wing corner was cut back to Dymond, who swept a first-time drive towards the bottom near corner from 20-yards, forcing Phillips to stick out his left leg to make a vital block.

Watson said: “Well-worked set-piece and clever movement from Connor to get into position and it was cleared off the line.”

Bryon added: “That was his only other save. We switched off a little bit from that corner but we dealt with it. The keeper is there to makes saves but there wasn’t a lot of chances either end.”

Cray Valley’s next chance arrived 15 minutes later, yet again following a set-piece.

Central midfielder Sammoutis floated in a corner from the right towards the edge of the six-yard box but Tumkaya rose to plant his header over the crossbar.

“The lad defended very well against him. It wasn’t Rory’s one when he should’ve probably done better. It was quite a hard one for Cem that. The lad was marking him quite tightly,” added Watson.

However, Cray Valley grabbed the victory with 30 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock and a lot of credit has to go to Attenborough-Warren, who lit up a dull game.

An example of the home side dominating the middle of the park was evident as Attenborough-Warren easily drove over the half-way line and into the final third before looping a cross-shot towards the top far corner but poacher Barrington rose above his marker to glance his header into the top left-hand corner from close range to seal the deal.

Watson said: “Marcel understands the way we play, there will be aspects in the game when he won’t be heavily involved but he still has to do a job for the team.

“He works very hard and he’s very honest. He understands our play and he’s very patient with it. I’m glad when he scores because I think he deserves it and he’s selfless.”

Reflecting on the winning goal, the Phoenix Sports manager said: “There were two or three mistakes there. First of all once he picked the ball up on the half-way line he’s got pace, I’m not going to name the player but he’s been told to take a booking. If he brings him down on the half-way line it’s a booking and there’s no danger but he’s got round him and then the other defender has come across to try to cover and he shouldn’t. He should’ve stayed with his man and they played it inside and he’s looped a cross in.

“I don’t know whether he was going for goal or just looping it across. It’s one of them. It happened and we’ve got to deal with that.

“We had a bit of possession (after the goal) and we pushed forward a bit and played pretty much in their half without really creating.”

The rest of the game was played out without much happening to excite the sparse crowd. Let’s just say it would have been shown last on Match of The Day on Saturday night if this was a top-flight game.

Meanwhile, both sides are on the road in The FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round with Watson taking his side to AFC Sudbury, while Bryon’s men travel to Essex to play Harlow Town.

AFC Sudbury are in the top five in the Isthmian League North Division with four wins and a draw from their opening six games, while Harlow Town are in fourth-place in the Southern League Central Division table with five wins and a draw from eight games.

“That will be a very tough game for us,” said Watson.

“I’ve watched Sudbury pre-season, they’re a good side and they’re doing well in their league campaign. They’re an experienced side, they’ve got an artificial surface, a nice set-up and they’ll have aspirations of getting promoted.

“It’s going ok. Our league results are fine, the points are fine and we’ll just look to improve performances.”

Bryon said: “It’s going to be another tough game. We’ve got four of our starting 11 out. We’ve probably got three, four or five out every game.

“Every game is tough but if we play with the heart and spirit – we won’t have to defend as much as we did today in a lot of games – we like to take the games to people.

“I think we’ve shown we can compete and we competed tonight. It’s just getting points on the board.”

Bryon takes his side to second-from-bottom Whitstable Town for a relegation scrap on Saturday 16 October. Whitstable Town have one point from six games, while fourth-from-bottom Phoenix Sports have four from eight outings.

The Oystermen appointed former Thamesmead Town and VCD Athletic boss Keith McMahon last night.

“We’ve played a very, very good side (tonight) and I think we’ve matched them. On actual chances I think we’ve matched them, we’ve probably had more than them, probably two or three more than them but they’ve won and we didn’t.

“We’ve got to keep going, it’s a long season, we’ve still got 30 games left, two or three wins on the bounce and we’re back in it. 

“I think the league is a lot tougher this year, there’s a lot more depth in it but we can’t compete with a lot of teams budget wise but we’ve got young players, five of our players have all come through Phoenix youth, that’s the way we are and we’ll keep plugging away and keep doing what we’re doing.

“There are no panic buttons being hit at the moment. The next league game is Whitstable away, we’ll see how we get on with that. Is it a six-pointer already? I think it’s a bit early to say that. One or two wins on the bounce and we’ll be alright.”

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Chris Lewington, Denzel Gayle (Francis Babalola 57), Nathan Green, Connor Dymond, David Omperon (Nathaniel Blanks 46), Cem Tumkaya, Jack Sammoutis, Matthew Attenborough-Warren, Marcel Barrington, Rory Hill (Gavin Tomlin 68), Hassan Ibrahiym.
Subs: Paul Semakula, Jude Salmon

Goal: Marcel Barrington 76

Booked: David Omperon 34, Francis Babalola 90

Phoenix Sports: Steven Phillips, Frazer Walker, Byron Walker (George Whitelock 64), Alex Breffo, Henry Douglas, Ben Fitchett, James Dyer (Kweku Ansah 76), Lee Bird, Jeff Duah-Kessi, Olalekan Osideko (Zak Bryon 87), Alfie Evans.
Subs: Oliver Andrews, Aaron Clark

Booked: Alex Breffo 4, Byron Walker 36

Attendance: 102
Referee: Mr Gerry Heron
Assistants: Mr Dele Sotimirin & Mr Morgan Conn