Croydon 1-2 Lordswood - My players commitment was out of this world, says Jason Lillis

Wednesday 10th December 2014

Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup First Round
Wednesday 10th December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Croydon Sports Arena

LORDSWOOD manager Jason Lillis hailed his players’ attitude after grinding out a deserved win to knock Croydon out of the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup.

Croydon won the Kent League Cup back in 2009 when they beat Erith Town 3-1 on penalties after the game finished all-square at 1-1 after extra time, before the club switched back to the Combined Counties League.

But they fell at the first hurdle in their unofficial defence of the trophy after eighth-placed Lordswood raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 22 minutes through Charlie Smith and Joe Kane.

Fourteenth-placed Croydon were awarded a controversial penalty, which Karl Douglin tucked home on the stroke of half-time, but Lordswood were resilient for the rest of the game to book their place in the quarter-finals.

“First and foremost the attitude of the boys was superb, especially as we didn’t have a great Saturday, where their performances weren’t up to scratch,” said Lillis, who has former Tonbridge Angels assistant Terry Sedge on his coaching staff.

“They definitely put the effort in tonight and as you can see, we deserved to be winners tonight.”

Lordswood became the eighth side to come away from Croydon Sports Arena with a victory in all competitions this season.

“Full credit to the boys, some of my boys got here late because of work commitments. A lot of the boys had to change their shifts so they had to ask for favours. Some got here late so we didn’t go out for a warm-up until a quarter-past-seven tonight because we had to wait for numbers to get here so they all put a shift in so it was great.

“We’ve come away to a hard place to come and win a game of football, especially on a cold, bitter, windy night. I think the boys done credit to get here and they fully deserve to be in the next round of the cup.”

Dickson Gill, who is now joint-manager alongside former Guildford City manager Kevin Rayner, admitted it was too easy for Lordswood to end his club’s interest in the cup competitions for another year.

He said: “Well we didn’t expect to win the game against giants, the land of the giants. We’ve got little players as you noticed, young players, and we really struggled to get a team out today through illness and injuries.

“I only had one sub really. We had others, they were all injured though. I’ve come out of my sick bed for this but that’s football. You can’t look at it doom and gloom or anything like that.

“We’re a good side so we’re looking to build a team and we’ve matched most of the good teams, the top teams and we still lose by the odd goal.

“We still have a couple of replacements to refill and we’ll be ok.”

Lordswood opened the scoring with the first chance of the game inside the opening eleven minutes.

Joe Kane split open Croydon’s three central defenders to put Smith through on goal and the former Whitstable Town striker drilled a right-footed angled drive across the goalkeeper to find the bottom far corner from sixteen-yards.

Lillis said: “Charlie’s scored three in two now. When Charlie plays with confidence he’s a good lad and he’s a striker who needs a bit more confidence - he’s on a roll now.”

Gill added: “We played with wing-backs today and the young lad we had there, Lauris Chin, he didn’t really track him down and he left him wide open for him to score, which I’m not too happy with.”

Croydon’s opening chance came within four minutes of the goal when Charlie Gee’s low right-footed drive forced Lordswood keeper Matt Byott to dive low to his right to push the ball around the post for a corner.

Lordswood midfielder Grant McIlheron exchanged a one-two with Craig Maguire before drilling his right-footed drive just over the crossbar from 25-yards.

But Croydon faced a mountain to climb when Lordswood doubled their lead.

Left-back Imran Englefield whipped in a quality cross with his left-foot towards the far post and stranded keeper Francis Ameyaw watched Kane run in to direct his header into the bottom corner from four-yards.

Lillis was surprised with the quality of Englefield’s delivery.

He said: “We didn’t know where he got that left-foot from! I don’t know where he bought that one from during the week. It was a great ball in and a great finish. That’s why we played Joe further up the pitch because he’s got a bit of strength and it worked.”

Gill added: “Again, the second goal was Chin’s side. Two goals.  We’ve managed to sort it out second half but they didn’t really have too many chances after that because we were chasing the game.

“It was a free header. Again it came from the left-hand side. We played with three centre halves. They supposed to have been very close. One of them was on the left trying to stop the cross and left two-v-three in the middle and that’s where he got his header.”

In a game of very little chances, Lordswood were denied a third goal in the 42nd minute when Sam Hallett’s right-footed volley from 22-yards stung Ameyaw’s fingers, but the Croydon keeper caught the ball at the second attempt.

Gill added: “Francis is very good at them long distance shots, little headers he’s very good at them.  The size of him, I think he should be!”

Gee unleashed his second shot of the game, which dribbled past the foot of the left-hand post from 30-yards, before The Trams were controversially given a lifeline following a poor decision from referee Jair Alzate Guzman.

Croydon’s right wing-back Michael Craveiro tried to flick the ball over Englefield, who stuck out his left arm but the ball did not strike his arm and the referee pointed to the spot, although his assistant appeared to have had a much clearer view of the incident and failed to communicate with his colleague.

Douglin stepped up and sent Byott the wrong way with a fine right-footed penalty, which he clipped into the right-corner at the end of the first half.

Lillis was clearly upset with the decision, saying, “I think the referee was the only one who thought it was a penalty!

“I mean he’s saying it was handball! How he can give a handball when the guy just flicked it around the corner, I don’t know if it hit him.  Everyone was bemused when the whistle went, even their players, so of course we weren’t happy.

“It was a good time for them but I said to the boys at half-time, obviously we’ve got to come out nice and strong because they’ve got the incentive now to push on and get that goal but we went to press them straight from the (start of) the second half.”

When asked about the penalty decision, the Croydon boss replied: “That’s how it is, it was a pen in my opinion. We could’ve had a couple of other things but the referee does what he thinks is right. I don’t try to worry about it.  I can’t change it sy about it.  I can'but the referee does what he thinks is right. I don' the middle and that'posed to have been veryo there’s no point.

“He’s a good penalty taker he’s only missed one against Tooting & Mitcham in the London Senior Cup.”

When asked whether the goal changed his half-time team talk, Gill replied: “I only had one player who I could change. I just changed the personnel round and left the team as it was. I just changed it round position wise and then second half I brought Matteo (Badchkam) on.

“He went in the hole playing in there instead of Charlie Gee and I thought he done quite well. He worked very hard. He’s another one who is a very young lad so if you’re going to play youngsters, you’re going to get these sorts of problems and you’ve got to stay strong for them.  You can’t go in there and have a go at them because they’ve lost a game. It’s just the way they do things, they’re not addressing it properly.”

Lordswood went close after only 67 seconds into the second half when Hallett cut into the penalty area from the left but his left-footed shot from ten-yards sailed over as Ameyaw advanced off his line.

Ameyaw made a comfortable save beside the foot of his near post as Hallett tried to curl his right-footed free-kick into the bottom corner of the net from 30-yards.

Lillis said: “I don’t know why he was on it because he can hardly reach a cross at times! He hit the target, but we need to do better from our set-pieces. We don’t do enough but that’s something we can work on.”

But Croydon squandered an excellent chance to claw themselves back into the game in the 53rd minute.

Douglin reached the by-line on the right-hand side and clipped the ball into the penalty area where striker Carlton Murray-Price directed his header agonisingly wide of the far post from eight-yards, despite the Lordswood keeper being rooted to the spot.

It was a chance that Murray-Price had to take.

“You know what forwards think, they hit it on target, they score. They get it in the middle of the goal, the goalkeeper saves it. Why did they do this? Why didn’t he do that? We don’t know what they’re going to do until they do it. It’s one of those things. If he gets it on target, he’ll probably scored.”

Lillis added: “You’re not going to come away and them not going to get on the ball, or get the ball in the box, but even though they were headers they were under pressure. They were not free headers so I weren’t fussed about that.”

Croydon’s other striker, Tristan Toney, meanwhile, had a quiet night and he cracked a dipping drive narrowly over the bar from the corner of the Lordswood penalty box.

But the last chance of the game fell to Croydon in the 76th minute.

Good attacking play by left wing-back Lauris Chin saw him play the ball through to Leigh Wise, who cut inside and from fourteen-yards his right-footed angled drive was plucked out of the air by Byott.

Gill said: “We were kind of slow reacting on it! When Chinny got it, he should’ve played a one-two and played it behind him and shot.  We always play in front and that was the problem we had today. We caused them enough problems with what we had with a scrap team but it wasn’t enough unfortunately.”

Lillis added: “Again, it was a shot on goal but it was straight at Matt and it was the only shot he had to save all half!

“We just bossed it.  We got the ball in the right areas and we closed them and fully deserved to come away with the win.

“The commitment of the boys, like they showed tonight, was out of this world and I’m proud of every one of them tonight.”

Gill pleads with the Croydon public to get behind their club when unbeaten Phoenix Sports visit Croydon Sports Arena next Wednesday after only 34 fans watched tonight’s League Cup tie.

“It’s poor. You can’t do nothing about that, can you?

“I don’t know how people expect us to run this level of football. It costs a lot of money. We have to play for the pitch first and the referee.

“We’re playing around four thousand a year for our training pitches. We haven’t got a training pitch here.  Five thousand for this (to play Croydon Sports Arena), that’s nine thousand, plus the coaches, plus the equipment, plus the balls, they’ve got to come from somewhere.”

Gill explained why he’s drafted in Rayner, who was in the Croydon dug-out for the second time tonight.

“I’ve known him for many, many years and he’s always been a good friend of mine for years.

“He’s won the league at Guildford and he went to (Ryman League) Chipstead and it never worked there so he went back to Guildford, it didn’t work out.

“He was without a club so I said to him about coming over here and he did. He’s a good manager and I need help as you can see.

“We’ve got a good relationship and I think we’ll do well because he respects me as a coach and I respect him as a manager so I don’t mind.  You’ve got to do the right thing together.”

Croydon: Francis Ameyaw, Robert Curtis, Lauris Chin, Elvis DeFreitas, Michael Craveiro, Jamie Atkins, Carlton Murray-Price, Leigh Wise, Tristan Toney, Karl Douglin, Charlie Gee (Matteo Badchkam 54).
Subs: Tommy Degiorgio, Sam Spencer, James Fray

Goal: Karl Douglin 45 (penalty)

Booked: Tristan Toney 69, Michael Craveiro 82, Robert Curtis 82, Jamie Atkins 85, Karl Douglin 89

Lordswood: Matt Byott, Craig Maguire (Tom Woodbridge 48), Imran Englefield, Daniel Wells, Brady Lillis, Gary Cook, Joe Kane, Peter Huggens, Charlie Smith (Jimmy Funnell 90), Grant McIlheron, Sam Hallett (Stephen Munn 74).
Subs: Mitchell Goee, Ryan Hooker

Goals: Charlie Smith 11, Joe Kane 22

Booked: Joe Kane 90

Attendance: 34
Referee: Mr Jair Alzate Guzman (Southfields, London SW19)
Assistants: Mr Ross Alexander (Maidstone) & Mr Kenan Dogan (Dartford)