Croydon 1-2 VCD Athletic - It's always good to get off to a start, it takes a bit of pressure off you," says Keith McMahon

Wednesday 24th August 2016
Croydon 1 – 2 VCD Athletic
Location Croydon Sports Arena, Albert Road, South Norwood, London SE25 4QL
Kickoff 24/08/2016 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay
Wednesday 24th August 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Croydon Sports Arena

VCD ATHLETIC boss Keith McMahon admits the pressure has been eased after winning their first game of the season in The FA Cup.

McMahon suffered a second career relegation from the Ryman Premier League last season after the Crayford-based club finished rock bottom and they have lost 2-0 to both Bowers & Pitsea and Brightlingsea Regent this season and sit one place off the foot of the Ryman League Division One North table at this early stage.

Croydon kicked off their campaign with a 2-1 win at AFC Uckfield Town in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round and opened their Southern Counties East Football League campaign with a 1-1 draw at newly-promoted side Bearsted, before beating local rivals Beckenham Town here 2-1 seven days ago.

Croydon came away from Oakwood with a goal-less draw on Saturday and faced a mountain to climb when VCD Athletic scored their first goals of the season inside the opening 20 minutes, courtesy of strikers Jamie Guy (penalty) and Tyrus Gordon-Young.

Jeff Dual-Kessie, 23, pulled a goal back for Croydon in the second half and impressed McMahon so much that he revealed in the post-match press conference that he is going to put in a seven-day approach for the striker.

But despite huffing and puffing, Croydon could not grab an equaliser and VCD Athletic bank £1,925 in prize money and host Ryman Premier Leaguers Kingstonian in the First Qualifying Round on 3 September.

“I’m pleased with it. Let’s be fair we’ve come here after a difficult game on Saturday and played on a really, really difficult surface (here tonight).  We’re not used to playing on a pitch like that, just the quality of it and the length of it was really long,” said McMahon.

“First half I thought we were excellent. We haven’t been playing bad over the week, we just needed a bit of luck and a goal and we got an early goal and we went on from there.

“I thought we really killed the game, just a little bit of a mistake later on in the second half invited them on a little bit but I don’t think the goalkeeper’s have made many saves, I don’t think he’s made any, but I’m pleased to get through, they’re not a bad side.”

McMahon revealed he is under pressure to turn around the club’s fortunes.

“It’s always good to get off to a start, it takes a bit of pressure of you,” he said.

“Yes, I’m not going to lie, of course I have (pressure), obviously with what happened last year, different circumstances. We’ve got a particular new side in now, pre-season’s been excellent and we played some excellent football and it looked upbeat but when you lose your first two games and there’s a few sceptics start saying things, of course it filters through to the side.

“I said that after Saturday but you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and your team. We’ve got a smashing group of lads in there, they’re brilliant. Hopefully we can push on from there.”

Croydon manager Dickson Gill admitted his side missed their chance to progress on Saturday.

“Sore headache now really because we didn’t turn up first half,” said Gill.

“Second half we made it a lot different but the damage was already done. Two-nil down, we gave away a silly penalty especially when he’s going away from goal and the second one the ball came over our right-back and we didn’t mark quick enough, we were too deep and they scored, so that’s football”

Croydon have banked £1,500 from FA Cup prize money this season and have missed out on a lucrative local derby against Kingstonian next.

Gill said: “It’s a bit of money, obviously, but you can’t bank on that. You can’t just think you’ve got something because you’re in The FA Cup.  You’ve got to earn it and respect the other team and you have to try to win the game.

“I think we had our chance on Saturday and didn’t take it. I fancied our chances on Saturday and when you don’t take them, you can have a Premier League team in the pro game and a lower level one, you don’t get two chances to beat them. You only have one chance and that’s what happened to us. We had one chance and we didn’t take it!”

VCD Athletic went agonisingly close to scoring their first goal of the season with six minutes and 31 seconds on the clock.

Tom Youngs’ in-swinging corner from the left was poor, the ball was headed away by first man Ben Seymour, but Robbie Rees’ drove his left-footed shot from 25-yards through a crowd of players, hitting the base of the right-hand post.

Gill said: “That should be the alarm bells ringing, shouldn’t it? 

“We weren’t defending, we weren’t clearing our lines. We weren’t winning any tackles. We didn’t win any balls so when the goal came in they were wounded weren’t they and they didn’t do enough and the second one was inevitable.”

McMahon said: “We’ve worked on our set-plays. On Saturday we had two corners, both outswinging and they zonal mark so we were waiting for the first in-swinger to see what they were going to do.  We set up for it, he’s unlucky not to put us in front, the keeper was beaten!”

But Vickers ended their 282 minute goal famine by taking a deserved lead.

Guy’s fine pass played Youngs in to the Croydon penalty area and Cedric Abraham came across to trip the winger inside the box and referee Michael Smith pointed to the spot.

Guy thrashed his right-footed penalty high over the left shoulder of diving Croydon keeper Francis Ameyaw.

“It was a good move, we played with wide men today, we switched the play. Jamie’s picked it up and threaded a great ball through for Tom. That’s what he’s about, he’s quick and skilful in the box and he’s gone past and they’ve brought him down,” said McMahon.

“We had exactly the same with five minutes to go Saturday and the ref didn’t give it! It’s a stonewall pen and you don’t want a better player in your side with experience in a pressure situation to put you in front.”

Gill added: “Well, he should score penalties really, but on occasion people save it but I think Tom deserves the credit for being a bit direct with the ball and being in the box from it.

“Cedric should know better than that! The guy’s going away form goal and he should brush him away but he’s stretching his left leg out and trips him up so they deserved their lead.”

Vickers’ central midfielder Rees saw his left-footed volley from 25-yard drift past the post, before Croydon wasted a glorious chance to equalise.

Karl Douglin’s sublime pass cut open Vickers’ left-back Richard Joseph and central defender Frantz Tchonang to put winger Lauris Chin though on goal.  Goalkeeper Niklas Freund advanced off his line swiftly to make a fine block.

Gill knew that was a big moment for his side.

He said: “Well Chinny, in my eyes should’ve scored. I think he didn’t move the ball. He expected the keeper to move out of the way and that doesn’t happen at this level, it doesn’t happen at kids’ level.  You need to get round him and tap it in the empty net. That was a massive chance that would’ve been 1-1 and I think we would’ve got the heads up but 2-0 is a bit hard.”

McMahon added: “He’s put him through, a ball over the top and we’ve let him run through and Niklas come out and done a job.  Niklas has been a good find for us so late on in pre-season. We didn’t have a keeper with three days to go. Yes, he’s made a decent save and that’s his job.

“He’s a lovely fella, he’s a lovely kid. Obviously he’s Steffan’s son. He’s come in and been excellent. He’s got a great attitude, arrives early, wants to know how to improve his game. He’s only 22, got a great kick on him, good shot-stopper, still not learnt his whole complete game but he will. He’s a great addition to the changing room. He’s an absolute top drawer lad. He’s one of the most, probably few, most goalkeepers are absolute nuts, he’s the opposite which is a little worrying sometimes but he’s good to see.”

It proved to be a costly miss for Croydon, as VCD Athletic doubled their lead on 19 minutes and 33 seconds.

Rees released Gordon-Young in behind Seymour and Rob Curtis and the former Thamesmead Town striker lashed his right-footed drive into the top left-hand corner from 15-yards.

“It was a really good move. We put it wide, we switched play. Robbie picked the ball up and we had two over-loads on the left-hand side and he’s put it through to Tyrus. Some people go round him and Tyrus done what Tyrus does, it’s a great finish!”

Gill revealed he gave his players an ear bashing during the interval.

He said: “Inevitable,  once they’re getting their heads up.  Their tails are up and our heads are going down but we’ve got back in to the changing room, had a little shake up and we came out second half and we gave a good account of ourselves and we had enough chances to make it and go on to win it.”

Croydon built down the left and James Fray received a short pass from Douglin to turn and curl a left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the target from 25-yards.

Croydon’s central midfielder Andy Mott pinged some inch-perfect diagonal balls during the game and hit a quality taken free-kick towards goal from 35-yards, which was gathered by visiting keeper Freund above his head.

Gill said: “That’s our plan because they’re a Ryman team, you’re never going to break them down, you have to get around the back of them and that was our plan to get there and when we did that we was quite good but we didn’t do that on the other side, we need to do both sides.”

McMahon added: “We know they’ve got a hell of a lot of pace. I thought we pressed the ball in the midfield excellently for the first 35 minutes and all they were doing was smashing it through to the keeper.

“If he gets beaten from 35-yards from that – I would’ve saved that, I think, with one arm so I wouldn’t even call that an attempt but he’s had to be alert from a quick free-kick.”

Referee Michael Smith blew the half-time whistle 10 seconds early as VCD Athletic went into the dressing room with a comfortable lead, pleasing McMahon.

“I was well pleased.  I thought we switched off a little bit and invited them on in the middle of the park to start hitting a few diags and to get a little bit tighter and don’t switch off because with the pace that they’ve got, they’ve got nothing to lose and they can cause a couple of problems.”

Gill added: “I didn’t think I did a lot of talking, I just screamed and shouted at them and bullied them into running first and tackling and winning balls, don’t worry about keeping it and then getting forward. It’s got to be done in the right order. I thought we done it quite well and it showed.”

Clear cut chances during the early stages of the second half were at a premium as both sides held firm.

Vickers’ captain Derek Duncan’s free-kick was spilt by Ameyaw, who gathered the loose ball without any real danger and an even better chance to wrap the game up arrived when Gordon-Young launched a long throw into the penalty area and an unmarked Guy turned to sweep his shot straight at Ameyaw.

Gill said of his goalkeeper,  “That’s what he’s there for! That’s his bread and butter, that’s bread and butter, what he has to do. If you can’t do bread and butter you shouldn’t be in there. Having said that, it could’ve been 3-0 but then again it could’ve been one-all but that’s football, it changes very, very quickly.”

“Big turning point because they’ve scored two minutes after that,” added McMahon.

“They struggled a little bit aerially. Normally Jamie would score there and if he did we would’ve gone on and maybe have scored four or five – but we didn’t!”

But Croydon gave themselves a lifeline by pulling a goal back with 66 minutes on the clock – courtesy of one big long ball out of defence from Rob Curtis.

His ball over the top must have travelled at least 60 yards to put Dual-Kessie through on goal and after shrugging off Bruce he swept his shot across the keeper into the far corner from 10-yards.

McMahon added: “They just smashed it up the other end. We should’ve defend better, we know that.  We switched off and Brucey, it should’ve gone in Row Z and Jeff, their nine, I’ve watched them play Beckenham last week and for 25 minutes he was unplayable and I was like wow!

“You can just tell with him, it’s his fitness but he’s one I’m definitely having a little look at because I think he was a handful, young, strong. We’ll have a chat and he’ll have to decide what he wants to do, getting himself in shape.”

It's very rare for a manager to make his intentions known of submitting a seven-day approach for a non-contracted player after just playing against him.

“Listen, my job is to make us as strong as we are and if we play against a side that’s strong, then I’m going to have a look. I think he can add something to us.”

Gill said: “Well, you just said it really, how he did it, how simple that was. Football is a complicated game.  We want to keep it simple and that’s the biggest problem we’ve got. We’ve got youngsters and we have to try to teach them. We don’t pay bundles here, we haven’t got that, so we have to be patient and teach those youngsters and hopefully they’ll learn.”

When Gill was told about McMahon’s intentions to submit a seven-day approach for Dual-Kessie, the Croydon chief insisted the striker is staying put.

“He won’t get him because he was in our youth team. He came through with us and we’ve got an agreement with him so he will not get him.  He’s not on contract but we’ve got a gentlemen’s agreement. He will not get him, he’s with us!”

VCD Athletic missed a great chance to kill off Croydon’s hopes when Freund’s big kick down the middle was flicked on by Guy to put Ola Akinwande through on goal but Ameyaw’s right-hand denied the winger from the corner of the six-yard box.

“Ola’s come on and to be fair he should’ve done a lot better than what he’s done today and he should’ve scored,” came McMahon’s reply.

A well-timed penalty box tackle from Bruce denied Fray the chance to score after the winger cut into the Vickers box with time running out.

Croydon almost snatched a dramatic late equaliser from their third and last corner of the game.

Fray swung in the ball from the right towards the far post and substitute Tristan Toney threw himself at the ball, steering his diving header screaming past the left-hand post.

Gill said: “Well, I thought he was pushed but as you could see he was leaning away from the goal and that’s why he went wide, he was pushed and that’s why I was asking for the penalty but I’m not going to blame the referee. They give what they see.”

“They huffed and puffed really. We kept our shape, they didn’t have a shot on goal so I thought we defended well,” added McMahon.

“I’ve got to give Croydon credit. I thought they were a decent side but you’ve just got to keep your shape, don’t let them in, they’re off the cuff with a little bit of pace. So many balls went through to the keeper and we cleared, we was quite comfortable.”

McMahon revealed why he took Akinwande off after a 20 minute substitute cameo.

“Ola gets the ball and passes it back to their geezer to run through and Bruce has had to make a tackle right at the end.  I don’t know what the hell he was doing when he came on to be fair so we’re going to have a few words about that as well. That’s why I brought him back off but I weren’t happy! We’re trying to game manage and close the game off and we invite pressure and that’s not what I wanted!”

Reflecting on the late header, McMahon replied: “We left him at the back post but if he’s stretching, if he had scored that, I would’ve been shocked but we shouldn’t be giving them a half chance!”

Reflecting on scooping the £1,925 prize money, McMahon said: “Listen, the money means nothing to me! We don’t see it! It’s great for the club, the club wants to go on a run.  I think if you ask the chairman would he taken the win or the money, he would have taken the win. It is important for a club like us.”

Croydon travel to Lordswood on Saturday, before returning to Croydon Sports Arena to play Erith Town on Bank Holiday Monday.

“Two games thinking is a bit too much for us. We have to take one game at a time,” said Gill.

“We’ll worry about that until it happens. We’ll just gather up, surround ourselves and lick our wounds and get over it.

“I’d like to get into the top six, I’ll be happy with that and anything below that is a failure.”

Croydon: Francis Ameyaw, Ben Seymour, Wesley Bartlett, Rob Curtis, Rohann Howell (Tristan Toney 53), Cedric Abraham, James Fray, Andy Mott, Jeff Dual-Kessie, Karl Doughlin, Lauris Chin (Ola Olusunmade 84).
Subs: Harry Brockman, Ben Ramdas, James Pinnock, Danny Carpanini, Nana Atta-Mensah

Goal: Jeff Dual-Kessie 66

VCD Athletic: Niklas Freund, Connor Hogan, Richard Joseph, Edward O’Neil, Joe Bruce, Frantz Tchonang, Tom Youngs (Taylor Nathaniel 77), Derek Duncan, Jamie Guy, Tyrus Gordon-Young (Ola Akinwande 70, Harry Brickwood 90)).
Subs: Grant Brown, Connor Pearce

Goals: Jamie Guy 12 (penalty), Tyrus Gordon-Young 20

Attendance: 81
Referee: Mr Richard Smith (West Drayton, Middlesex)
Assistants: Mr Mike Cohen (Worcester Park, Surrey) & Mr James Field

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