Croydon 2-1 Tunbridge Wells - We had two chances and we took them, admits Croydon boss Dickson Gill

Wednesday 02nd September 2015
Croydon 2 – 1 Tunbridge Wells
Location Croydon Sports Arena, Albert Road, South Norwood, London SE25 4QL
Kickoff 02/09/2015 19:45

The FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay (Sponsored by Emirates)
Wednesday 2nd September 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Croydon Sports Arena

CROYDON head coach/chairman Dickson Gill says the prize money from their FA Cup run will go towards their £5,000 per year rent to Croydon Council to play at the Arena.


Victories over Sutton Common Rangers (5-1) and Tunbridge Wells has banked the cash-strapped club £3,425 in prize money and a further £3,000 is the reward if they can beat Ryman League Division One South side Molesey at home in the next round on 12 September.

Croydon came away from Culverden Stadium with a 1-1 draw on Saturday, courtesy of a Premier League esque free-kick from left-back Ashley Henry-Brown, which cancelled out Chris Seenan’s first half opener for the Wells.

Croydon, who went into the game sitting at the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League table with four defeats from four league games, were indebted to their outstanding goalkeeper Francis Ameyaw, who made a string of fine saves to cause this Preliminary Round shock against tenth-placed Tunbridge Wells, who went into the game with one win, two draws and two defeats.

Croydon opened the scoring early in the second half through a quality strike from lone striker Tristan Toney, before Ian Parsons came off the bench to produce an equally brilliant strike to restore parity.

Tunbridge Wells went on to press for the winner but a mistake from right-back Gary Beckett paved a way for right-winger Jamelle Hudson – who was plucked out of local Sunday League football a couple of weeks ago – to send Croydon through.

Gill said: “Thoughts? I just feel great, brilliant! It was a good game. Yes, it wasn’t all pretty football but we’re in non-league, step five, so you’re not going to get Premier League football out of us, not at that level.

“I don’t think (my goalkeeper) had a lot to do.  You’re obviously seeing it differently here. I didn’t see it from here. I thought he had two good saves pushed over the bar but then again on Saturday their keeper kept them in it.

“We had two chances and we took them!”

Tunbridge Wells’ manager Keith Bird returned from his three-week cruise and has taken charge of two games, the other being Monday’s 2-1 home league defeat to leaders Corinthian.

“We’ve got a lot of players out at the moment, that’s the only excuse I’ll give,” said Bird.

“We’ve had six to eight players out every single game. We’ve not been able to play with a regular starting eleven for two games in a row. Tonight we didn’t have two centre halves. We had to improvise at centre back but those are excuses.

“The bottom line is everyone in this squad should be good enough to come here and do a job!

“We didn’t show enough quality. We made too many mistakes and there were times when I felt we weren’t working hard enough to get back into shape.”

When asked about Ameyaw’s heroics, Bird replied: “I don’t think that matters! They’ve scored two and we scored one. It doesn’t matter. We had more chances, their keeper did have a very good game but we’ve still got to put those away!”

Tunbridge Wells created their first chance inside 76 seconds when returning target-man Andy Irvine knocked his glancing header into Ameyaw’s hands.

Tunbridge Wells created a whole host of early chances but they couldn’t find a breakthrough.

Ameyaw pulled off his first fine save when he dived to his right to parry Brett Ince’s drilled 35-yard free-kick, which went through the wall.

Bird said: “I think there were times there at set-pieces we showed glimpses of danger in the box. I don’t think we were clinical enough in the box tonight.”

Gill said: “I think Francis gets a lot of praise all the time but that’s what goalkeepers are supposed to do! Same as our midfielders and forwards do their job. They have to do their jobs, that’s what he’s in there for!”

A run from right-winger Ehis Izokun saw him reach the channel and whipped in a cross towards the far post, which bounced off Khalil McFarlane’s shoulder and looped up to be easily caught by the Croydon keeper.

Ameyaw made his second fine save of the night inside the ninth minute.

Izokun swung in a corner from the right towards the far post where Jason Barton – who partnered Andy Boyle in the heart of a makeshift defence – powered his towering header towards the roof of the net from 16-yards, forcing Ameyaw to tip the ball over the bar with an outstretched right hand.

Bird added: “Good effort, good save, another good save from the keeper.”

Croydon’s left-winger Lauris Chin penetrated the Tunbridge Wells defence on the break and once inside the box he was thwarted by Steve Lawrence, who smothered the ball at his feet.

The game then settled down and Croydon created their only first half chance after 21 minutes.

Right-back Michael Craveiro swung in a free-kick from the right some 35-yards from goal towards the far post and Jamie Lyndon came up from the back and rose to plant his angled header into Steve Lawrence’s gloves from 12-yards.

Gill said: “Good header and a good save. Again, the goalkeeper done well. I thought to myself how are we going to beat this keeper? But we managed to do well today and put two in. Saturday we threw everything at him and didn’t score (more than one) so we’ve got something out of today.”

Bird added: “I think Steve showed good concentration there.  He wasn’t asked to do a lot in the first half and he just had one save to make. He could’ve so easily as a young keeper switched off at that point but he didn’t. He stayed on his game, concentrated, stayed on his toes and made the one save that he was required in the first half.”

A run from Hudson saw the Croydon midfielder take on too many men but the ball ran loose to Karl Douglin, his shot taking a deflection before flashing harmlessly wide.

But Tunbridge Wells were to be denied the breakthrough by another fine save from Ameyaw after 35 minutes.

Henry-Brown was guilty of making a mistake inside his penalty area and Irvine pounced, cut in before cutting the ball back for Ince, who hit a right-footed shot on the turn, forcing Ameyaw to dive to his right to parry the ball towards safety.

Bird was full of praise for Irvine upon his return to the team.

He said: “It’s pleasing to see Andy back. He’s been out injured for the start of the season. We lost Chris Seenan to Whitstable an then he came back and now he’s injured so last week actually was the first time all season that we’ve played with two established or recognised strikers. Up until then we’ve been improvising so it’s pleasing to see Andy back in there and I think he’s been improving all the time now he’s getting minutes.”

Ince played the ball out of the Tunbridge Wells defence into holding midfielder Jamie Lawrence, who released Izokun, who cut in from the left wing and saw the keeper off his line but his speculative shot from 35-yards sailed over the top of the near post.

Both bosses were asked their thoughts at the half-time interval.

Gill said: “It’s all about making them believe that they’re not just making the numbers up. They are as good as them. They are a strong side. We can play but the important bit is play when you can and not like we did on Saturday, open up and let them have the ball.

“I think we kept a long period of the ball. I was getting a bit worried because I didn’t think we were scoring again. The goals came at the right time for us.”

Bird added: “Well there were a few choice words! We changed things up a little bit in terms of the style of play. We knew tonight they would come out quick in the first half and we said we’ve got to live with them in the first half because they’re a fit squad but we felt they would fade in the second half so the first half was about matching them man for man, keeping the tempo high, not letting them rest on the ball.

“Second half we felt we could then show more of our quality, which is what we did.  We started to keep the ball, started to move the ball around a bit. I didn’t think we moved the ball around as well as we should have done but that’s what we were trying to do.”

Croydon grabbed the lead with their first attack of the second half, timed at 191 seconds.

Douglin – who was a Croydon’s best player in Saturday’s game – played a sublime low through ball in behind Lee Radford and Barton to put Toney through on goal and the striker took a touch before drilling his right-footed curler around the keeper to find the top far corner of the net from 15-yards.

Gill said: “What a good goal! You’ve seen two games yourself and two good goals Saturday, one from them and one from us.  Today, their goal was a scrappy goal in my opinion but they got it and they scored and we had, in my opinion, two very good goals.

“A nice goal from Tristan and the second, a half-volley in the corner so it was worth these supporters coming out today.”

Gill added: “It’s very rewarding because he doesn’t get a lot of credit when it breaks down and you’re moaning, aren’t you?

“He’s a very disciplined lad, he’s a good lad. He listens, he gives 100% and I’m so very pleased with it that he’s got that goal.”

Bird added: “Great goal! First of all, disappointed in the build-up to it that we’ve allowed that to happen in the first place.

“But at that point as soon as they scored that goal we very quickly made a change. We wanted to get back into the game early. We didn’t want to have to try to get that goal back in the last 10 minutes so we changed the system in order to get the goal back quickly, which we did.

“We managed to get the goal back in a reasonably short space of time and having got the goal back we went back to our original system and shape.

“I was hoping we would then perhaps nick one at the end but certainly I didn’t want us to concede another one.”

Tunbridge Wells responded and Irvine, who linked up well with his team-mates all night despite being up there on his own, played the ball inside to Izokun, who was given time and space to drill a 35-yarder which stung Ambyaw’s fingers, the keeper plucking the ball out of the air underneath his crossbar.

Radford, who was keen to make amends, burst forward but was never going to beat the keeper with his speculative left-footed drive from 35-yards.

As soon as the game entered the hour mark, Croydon created three chances in the space of 110 seconds.

A sweeping move saw Douglin release Hudson down the right, who burst forward and his low centre was flicked on at the near post by Toney’s feet but Steve Lawrence smothered the ball at Brockman’s feet.

A lay-off from Al-Hassan Oshilaja gave Toney an opportunity to crack his right-footed 35-yard drive sailing over the crossbar.

Tunbridge Wells’ striker Irvine then hit a shot from inside Croydon’s penalty area, which was beaten away by Ameyaw at his near post, before a clearance from the Tunbridge Wells keeper went to Douglin, who had a rush of blood and sliced his first time shot harmlessly wide of the far post from 35-yards.

Tunbridge Wells were to be denied an equaliser by Ameyaw as the game reached the half-way point of the half.

Ince ran down the left with the ball before feeding McFarlane who whipped in a cross and Izokun rose and his looping header from six-yards was tipped over by the keeper’s right-hand.

Bird said: “A combination of tremendous saves by the goalkeeper contributed with us just not being clinical enough there in the box!”

Gill played down his goalkeeper’s performance and insisted the custodian is on contract to prevent seven-day approaches coming in for his services.

He said: “That’s what the goalie’s there for! It’s like the full-back or midfield, they get the ball and they’ve got to do their jobs and that’s part of their job and he didn’t screw up. If he screws up, it highlights it, doesn’t it?

“He’s doing a good job as far as I’m concerned. That’s why we’ve got him on contract and we’re looking to build. We’re not looking to get rid of players.

“I found him playing over the park on Sunday football five years ago and he’s done well for us since he’s been here. He’s learnt every year, he’s a nice disciplined lad.”

Tunbridge Wells went agonisingly close again when Radford whipped in a cross from the right towards the far post but Joe Fuller glanced his header just past the post from four-yards.

Croydon were overly reliant on the long-ball at Culverden Stadium on Saturday, but their pace down the flanks was a threat tonight.

Hudson and Toney linked up and Douglin cut into the penalty area and cut the ball back but Toney’s miss-kick at the near post saw the ball roll to Brockman’s feet but his shot was blocked.

Tunbridge Wells deservedly equalised with fourteen minutes remaining.

Radford advanced from his left-back position into the Croydon final third before playing the ball into Irvine’s feet, who laid the ball inside to substitute Parsons, who curled a beautiful shot past Ameyaw into the near corner from 12-yards.

Bird was full of praise for the striker, who was playing wide on the left.

“Great finish from Ian. Ian was with Tunbridge Wells last year. He gives us options, he can play out wide, he can play centrally. What he showed there were his strengths as a striker.

“The goal came because we changed the system and we went three up top and pushed Ian on because we knew he was very capable of scoring – which he did.

“It’s a great strike and he hit it very well considering he hasn’t had that many minutes. It was a very well taken goal.”

Gill added: “Good luck to the lad who scored! You’ve still got to put the ball into the back of the net, whether you’re through or whether you’ve got to beat somebody.

“It shouldn’t happen because the left-back came up the field, he’s about 30-yards from our goal and there was no pressure by the full-back, no pressure on our midfield and they allowed it to play a one-two with the winger and they’ve managed to get the cross in and for me that’s weak in my opinion.”

That goal lifted the away side and their supporters in the stand and the away side pressed for the winner.

Gill said: “I said to my coach, what we don’t want to do is open up for them to get the winner.

“If it goes to penalties, I’ll be happy with that because as you’ve said, Francis, Francis, Francis, I’m happy with that.

“I just said ‘just wait’, when we get the ball in the late third we’re better than them and we’ll create chances, which we did.”

Radford hit a long ball so that Irvine could charge down the left channel and he cut the ball back to Ince, who curled his right-footed shot around the far corner from 22-yards.

Bird added: “We had to finish it off. In spite the fact after scoring the goal we immediately went back to our original system, but we still didn’t take our foot of the gas. We still wanted to press home the momentum we had.”

Ince hit a speculative 35-yard effort, which lacked power and conviction and the Croydon keeper comfortably picked the ball up.

But Croydon snatched the winner with 40 minutes and 11 seconds on the second half watch after hitting their league rivals on the counter-attack down the right.

Hudson started the move by playing the ball to Toney, who burst down the right and his low centre should have been cleared away by Tunbridge Wells’ right-back Beckett inside the box.

However, the former Cray Wanderers player blundered the ball straight back to Toney, who clipped a ball across the face of the penalty area to the unmarked Hudson, who swept his right-footed half-volley into the bottom left-hand corner from sixteen-yards.

Gill hailed the strike as “a superb finish,” adding, “He’s only been with us two weeks, another one that’s come out from down the road, local football.

“He’s done a superb job for us, he’s done absolutely brilliant for us. He’s a good lad and he’s not fully fit as you can see but when he’s fit we’ll have a good strike force.”

Gill explained why he only played with one striker (Toney) in the two games.

“We’ve only had one striker out there today, that’s all, so I’m just waiting for Ben Mankelow to be fit and I am looking, talking to people to get some more strikers here because we’ve only got two strikers and that’s one of the reasons for four defeats.  We’ve played no differently in those four games but we can’t score!”

Bird refused to point the finger of blame at Beckett despite it was his mistake that sent Tunbridge Wells crashing out of The FA Cup.

The former Cray Wanderers manager said: “They caught us on the break and when they caught us on the break and scored the winner I just think that just knocked the stuffing out of us, having just got back in, there was so little time left in the game.

“He (Beckett) made a mistake at the back and they capitalised on it. It’s unfortunate, Gary’s been very good for us. He’s done ever so well. He’s worked very hard, played well.  There’s been occasions when he’s saved us on Monday. He saved one on the line and tonight he’s given one away. That’s the way it goes in football. One game you can save the game and another time you can make a mistake and be punished.

“I’m not going to blame Gary for us losing that game tonight on that one mistake but that was the only mistake he made all game. I thought he played great throughout the rest of the game.”

That goal killed off shell-shocked Tunbridge Wells and Croydon created a couple more late chances.

Steve Lawrence dived to his right and got a slight touch to deflect Douglin’s right-footed drive from 25-yards into the base of the side netting.

Croydon skipper Craveiro almost scored with an audacious right-footed free-kick from 50-yards, which dipped just over the bar at the death.

Looking ahead to the home tie against Molesey, who have a 50%  record from their six league games back in Ryman League Division One South, Gill said: “I just hope we can get a couple of rounds in the Vase and we’ll play Molesey in the next round, which is £3,000. If we can get that I’ll be well happy because that’s our season’s pitches paid for – first team is £5,000.

“They beat East Grinstead (7-1). I’ve not seen them yet. I went to watch Tunbridge Wells but I’ve got to watch Molesey now. I didn’t want to watch them until I knew we were through.

“Are we at home? That’s good because we play a little bit differently here. It’s not long ball, it’s the right ball!”

The FA Cup brings out the fans and tonight’s crowd of 110 was Croydon’s largest crowd of the campaign so far.

Gill said: “It’s pleasing for us. We only get 50 odd or 60 max. 110, yes it’s still good. The reason why I sound disappointed is they’ve got a good crowd and they didn’t come today, so they probably knew something I didn’t?”

When asked what an early exit means to Tunbridge Wells, Bird replied: “It’s obviously disappointing the money is something that’s helpful but the budget is not based on that fortunately. The planning is not based on a run in The FA Cup. That would just be a bonus for us but obviously it’s disappointing we’re not going to get that financial injection. What it does do on the positive side it now allows us to concentrate on the league and the other cups.”

Croydon: Francis Ameyaw, Michael Craveiro, Ashley Henry-Brown, Jamie Lyndon, Harry Brockman, George Ede, Lauris Chin, Jamelle Hudson, Tristan Toney, Karl Douglin, Al-Hassan Oshilaja.
Subs: Dwayne Campbell, Zach Beedon, Ben Mizen, John Fogerty, Barry Tyson Gooden, Danny Carpanini

Goals: Tristan Toney 49, Jamelle Hudson 86

Booked: Karl Douglin 52, Michael Craveiro 83

Tunbridge Wells: Steve Lawrence, Gary Beckett, Lee Radford, Jason Barton, Jamie Lawrence, Andy Boyle, Khalil McFarlane, Joe Fuller, Andy Irvine, Brett Ince, Ehis Izokun (Ian Parsons 68).
Subs: Nick Graham, Perry Spackman, Jason Bourne, Joshua Fanemo, Joe Cullip

Goal: Ian Parsons 76

Booked: Jason Barton 17, Andy Irvine 60, Gary Beckett 65, Joe Fuller 90

Attendance: 110
Referee: Mr Craig Simpson (Crawley, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Philip Jones (Epsom, Surrey) & Mr Gareth Mays (Epsom, Surrey)