Croydon 1-0 Wimbledon Casuals - Getting promoted is my main focus, says London Senior Trophy winning Croydon boss Liam Giles

Wednesday 17th April 2024
Croydon 1 – 0 Wimbledon Casuals
Location War Memorial Sports Ground, Colston Avenue, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 2PW
Kickoff 17/04/2024 20:00

London Senior Trophy Final
Wednesday 17 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Colston Avenue

CROYDON manager Liam Giles says getting promoted is his main focus after winning the London Senior Trophy for the very first time.

The 35-year old revealed that he gave Fred Obasa a grilling during the half-time interval at Colston Avenue in Carshalton.  The recalled striker scored the winning goal just 103 seconds into the second half as Croydon celebrated winning their first trophy in 15 years.

Croydon defeated Meridian VP (1-0), FC Petrocub (3-0) and Cockfosters Reserves (3-0) to reach the Final.

The Trams put up a brave fight during their 3-2 defeat to Erith Town in the Kent Senior Trophy Final in Maidstone on Sunday, where Giles’ men twice lead through Ryan Palmer and German striker Ulrich Flischer.

Croydon are in eighth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table, having picked up 44 points from their 27 games.

Sam Behr’s side, meanwhile, went into their first London Senior Trophy Final seven points clear of Staines & Lammas (Middlesex) at the summit of the Step Seven Surrey Premier County League table with 50 points from their 21 games and have beaten teams in Croydon’s division en-route to the final.

Sporting Club Thamesmead withdrew from the competition, before Lewisham Borough (3-2), Forest Hill Park (4-3) and FC Elmstead (4-1 on penalties after a 3-3 draw) couldn’t prevent Wimbledon Casuals’ progress.

“Amazing! Fifteen years without a trophy as well.  Playing for the football club since I was six years of age, it means a lot.  I grew up right by Croydon Arena in South Norwood, so to be able to bring a trophy back after all that time on Croydon’s birthday, it’s amazing, it’s surreal really,” said Giles.

“They gave me their all again. We made one change bringing Fred Obasa in for Lauris Chin.  Andy Somo was due to start but he got caught in Orlando, he’s on holiday, missed his flight, so that was the start of this morning.

“After Sunday’s performance, as you saw, we left it all out there and I thought we were extremely unlucky not to get the result Sunday, so to ask them to do it again three days later, credit to every single one of them.”

When asked what questions their opponents gave Croydon tonight, Giles replied: “They’re a very good footballing side, so we knew if we gave them time and space, they could hurt us.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to see too much of them but we managed to watch them on a couple of VEO clips.

“They move the ball around very well in their back third. I felt that we contained them. We let them have it and when we felt there was a time to go and press, we went to press.

“Listen, they’re a good side. They would hold their own in our league, 100%.  I believe they’re a top six side (in the SCEFL First Division).

Several of Croydon’s players interrupted the press conference and sprayed their manager with was Giles confirmed was water.

Wimbledon Casuals were an outfit that played crab football (backwards and sideways) for large chunks of the game but Croydon’s direct approach ensured they created the more goalscoring chances.

The Walton-on-Thames based outfit played the ball around the back before winger Tom Phillipson hit a 60-yard diagonal to release impressive left-winger Daniel Wanyonyi, who cut inside and rolled his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post when he was facing the commanding figure of Croydon keeper George Kamurasi after only 154 seconds on the clock.

“100% he was a threat and I thought their 10 (Harlington), everything sort of went through him.  I thought he was a superb player,” added Giles.

“Listen, they had great individuals and there was a reason they’ve won their league and they were on a real good unbeaten run, I’m told, until recently, so listen, we had to be at our best today and we had to get the result.”

Croydon were caught offside on three occasions during the first six minutes and Wimbledon Casuals were off target in the ninth minute.

Wanyonyi played the ball inside to holding midfielder James Dolman, who played the ball out to right-back George Maxwell, before attacking midfielder Ali Harlington (who often dropped deep) put in a right-footed cross from the left and Dolman got across his marker to send his left-footed volley across the keeper and past the near-post from 10-yards.

Croydon left-back Sammy Morgan impressed, while holding midfielder Cameron McGovern’s resilience ensured often isolated Wimbledon Casuals lone striker Liam Marshall hardly troubled the Croydon back four.

“Sammy’s superb. We lose him in the summer, he’s off to uni.  He came to us via the Kinetic Foundation, who we have got a good relationship with.

“He’s been amazing. He came in last year, 17 years of age, he’s just been class. His performance dipped a little while. I thought it got so comfortable for him – and then when it had to be turned on, he’s really upped his levels and he’s been immense.”

Croydon created their first opening in the 12th minute when Morgan whipped in a cross with his left-foot from within the left-channel and Ryan Hall – who played in behind the front two – saw his looping header from 12-yards comfortably caught by goalkeeper Adam Lee.

Palmer was fouled some 30-yards from goal and Hall drilled his free-kick into the base of the five-man wall and the ball fell to Croydon centre-half Jordan Anderson, who swept his right-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from 20-yards, just to the left of the D.

Wimbledon Casuals’ goalkeeper Lee made a comfortable save to deny Croydon in the 17th minute.

Croydon centre-half Richard White often positioned himself close to the touchline and he played the ball down the line to release Hall, who whipped in a left-footed cross into the middle where Fischer’s diving header from 12-yards was straight at the goalkeeper.

At this stage of proceedings, there appeared to be no gap between Step Six Croydon and Step Seven leaders Wimbledon Casuals, who have only lost one league game this season.

Lee pulled off a brilliant save in the 27th minute with the towering Fischer a real threat in the air.

Once again, Morgan whipped in a great cross from the left and Fischer’s header was screaming towards the top left-hand corner, only for Lee to stick out his right arm and deflect the ball over the crossbar for the second of eight Croydon corners.

“I thought he made a couple of good saves today and his hands were very good from corners and crosses into their box,” highlighted Giles.

“At half-time I told the boys just to keep the ball away from him – i.e. don’t let him come and collected so easily.  We looked very comfortable and he made a couple of great saves from Uli’s two headers, two great saves.”

Hall was guilty of a glaring miss, as Croydon went direct in the 37th minute.

Right-back Aaron Bogle launched a long ball out of defence and straight down the middle. The ball was flicked on by Fischer outside the penalty area and Hall latched onto the ball but lacked composure as Lee rushed off his line, lashing his left-footed shot high over the crossbar from 12-yards.

“We spoke about this on Sunday because he had a glorious chance on Sunday to put us ahead. Again, if that falls to anyone, I want it to be him. We played him a bit deeper today,” added Giles.

“We told him at half-time he’s got to do better there. He’s got to hit the target and I back him to score there.  Any other day, these last two games, it’s just hasn’t happened for him.

“I suppose there’s a reason why.  Now we’re at Step Six, if he was going to score very chance, he defiantly would still be playing in the Championship, so yes, he’s only human.”

Kamurasi made a comfortable save as the threatening Wanyonyi got in again.

Right-back Maxwell’s ball was flicked on by Dolman and this sent Wanyonyi on his way and he cut onto his right-foot and from 22-yards his low shot was comfortably held by Kamurasi, low to his left.

“Again, we spoke about George on Sunday.  Sometimes he gets a bit of negative press for the way, his character and stuff but I tell you what. When I brought him to this football club, again questions at the start of the season because he made a couple of errors.

“I stood by him and backed him because he’s an absolutely class operator and as a person he’s become a very good friend and someone that I’d trust anywhere I’d like to have in between my sticks.

“He showed his class again on Sunday and today, his communication, his hands, yes, he’s a super goalkeeper.”

Croydon came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and referee Alistair Potter penalised Maxwell for handball after the ball bounced up off the plastic pitch and struck his arm.

Palmer whipped in the resulting free-kick from the left and the impressive Lee dropped to his knees and held the ball in his midriff.

However, Croydon scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game, just 103 seconds into the second half.

Lee kicked the ball towards the half-way line but left-back Thacker and centre-half Toby Godfray opened the gate and Fischer’s through ball released Obasa down the right.  The striker cut into the penalty area and drilled a clinical right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards to score his fifth goal for the club.

“I don’t know whether you saw the celebrations, Fred Obasa came straight to the bench," said Giles.

“We absolutely grilled him and ripped him a new one at half-time.  Everything was bouncing off him and a player we’ve brought in to score us goals, he’s scored goals in the Prem, Division One and he is a goalscorer and we just felt we needed more from him.

“We put him in. He was the only change in today’s side.  You saw what he done after that.

“It was a great finish from him.  We brought him in to try to push us into the play-offs this year, obviously for the cup games as well.

“He’s popped up with some vital goals this year, so it was a credit to him.  He took it on the chin at half-time. We told him (the first half performance) was not good enough and he’s gone out and he’s got the winner for us and he’s brought the cup back to SE25 with his goal.”

Croydon’s next two attempts on goal, cleared the crossbar, as Hall floated in a corner from the right and Anderson came up from the back to flick the ball over his head with his back to goal, which looped just over the crossbar.

Obasa played the ball out to Morgan, who put in a cross from the left into the Wimbledon Casuals’ box, which was headed over by Fischer.

Wanyonyi offered no threat during the second half, lacking service from his team-mates, with Bogle closing the door shut.

Wimbledon Casuals almost grabbed an equaliser in the 65th minute, however.

Thacker, Marshall and Wanyonyi linked up in a triangle inside the Croydon half before Marshall cut onto his left-foot before drilling his 30-yard angle drive towards goal, forcing Kamurasi to dive to his left and use both of his hands to push the ball towards safety to prevent the ball sailing into the top far corner.

“I don’t think they were getting much joy closer to our box. The lad picked it up and G was off his line a little and he’s had a go, pretty routine for George. It was a good save but I expected him to make that save to be honest with you,” added Giles.

Behr went for broke for the final 15 minutes or so, playing with three men up front with Cory Mears replacing Marshall in the middle, being joined by Phillipson and Wanyonyi.

It comes as a shock that Wimbledon Casuals goalkeeper Lee hasn’t been snapped up by a local club higher up the food chain, as he pulled off another great save from Croydon’s seventh corner of the night.

Palmer floated the ball in from the right and the unmarked Fischer powered his downward header towards goal, only for Lee to hold the ball low to his left to prevent the ball crossing over his goal-line.

“I thought Uli was really good in the air today. I think he had two or three headers across the game and all the keeper held very well.  On another day he spills that and he drops it and we get a tap-in but I thought their keeper was really good tonight,” admitted Giles.

Wimbledon Casuals should have done better with their last chance (37:28) when Harlington played a short pass into the unmarked Phillipson, who sliced his left-footed shot harmlessly wide of the target from 30-yards.

The final whistle blew at 51:16 – and captain Anderson and goalkeeper Kamurasi shared trophy lift duties in front of the delighted Croydon fans in the crowd of 166.

Giles said: “Listen, we learnt from what we did wrong on Sunday.  They were a different opposition to Erith, they were putting it down our throat and they were robust.  These are more like an Academy style, knock it about.

“Listen, the boys have done superb, you can hear the celebrations now.  When you look at the start of the season I think we had four points on the table after our first eight games, so to win a cup, win the London Cup, champions of London, that’s amazing!”

When asked how this success rates in his career, the Croydon boss replied: “It’s up there, it’s definitely up there and as a player I won the Combined Counties League with Banstead Athletic.  I won the Combined Counties Cup with Warlingham but to come back and lead my boyhood club, it’s unbelievable.  I’m on top of the world!

“It’s a good moment for me, the family and obviously everyone at Croydon. I just hope (the fans) enjoy it. It’s been a long time coming, so hopefully we enjoy it.

Croydon, meanwhile, complete their league campaign against Lee Roots’ Bridon Ropes on Saturday, a home game against Danny Lye’s Larkfield & New Hythe on Wednesday 24 April, before a trip to Margate to take on Dan Lawrence’s Canterbury City on the final day of the season.

AFC Whyteleafe are currently at the summit with 62 points on the board with three games remaining.

The play-off places are held by Staplehurst Monarchs (59 points, three games remaining), Rochester United (56 points, two games remaining), Larkfield & New Hythe (53 points, four games remaining) and FC Elmstead (47 points, two games remaining).

Lewisham Borough (45 points, three games remaining), Canterbury City (45 points, two games remaining) and Croydon (44 points) are all waiting to pounce.

“Unfortunately, we’ve only got three days until our next game, so we’re going to prepare for that.  Obviously, the play-offs, it’s (about) getting promoted, is my main focus so back to business.

“Bridon have come on incredibly under Lee Roots. He knows the league and he knows how to get sides out of the league, so I’m expecting it to be a tough game.

“Any game now is going to be tough. Three cup finals and another two, so hopefully we can deliver and that would just be a dream come true this year.”

Giles is keen for his side to buy a ticket for the play-off lottery and be the team that are celebrating promotion into the Premier Division on Saturday 4 May.

“Sunday was really tough to take and I will say that was one of my lowest moments as a manger in such a big occasion.  I think today it will live within us to go harder and push come Saturday and for the rest of the season and hopefully we can have another day like this.

“I’ve not booked my holidays until after that (date). I’m hoping that we’ll be showcasing that.”

Croydon: George Kamurasi, Aaron Bogle, Sammy Morgan, Cameron McGovern, Jordan Anderson, Richard White, Ryan Hall (Evans Lamboh 81), Aaron Reber, Ulrich Fischer (James Ayetine 90), Fred Obasa (Lauris Chin 65), Ryan Palmer.
Subs: David Green, Ryan Burrell-Grant

Goal: Fred Obasa 47

Booked: Ryan Palmer 90

Wimbledon Casuals: Adam Lee, George Maxwell, Nick Thacker (Charles Gerson 84), James Dolman, Toby Godfray (David Wren 77), Charlie Murgatroyd, Daniel Wanyonyi, George Coy (Alex Zubaidi 71), Liam Marshall (Cory Mears 71), Al Harlington, Tom Phillipson.
Sub: Robert Christieson

Attendance: 166
Referee: Mr Alistair Potter
Assistants: Mr Aziz Koc & Ms Abi Oyeleke
Fourth Official: Mr William Donnelly