Erith Town 1-1 Corinthian - It's the best moment in my footballing career, says Isthmian League bound treble trophy winning Erith Town boss Adam Woodward

Monday 06th May 2024
Erith Town 1 – 1 Corinthian
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 06/05/2024 15:00

(Erith Town win 4-2 on penalties)
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division Play-Off Final
Bank Holiday Monday 6 May 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

ERITH TOWN manager Adam Woodward says leading the club into the Isthmian League for the very first time in the clubs history is the best moment in his footballing career.

The Dockers will join champions Deal Town in the eighth-tier of English football next season, after equalising with four minutes of normal time remaining before holding their nerve from the penalty spot in an eight penalty shoot-out.

This Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division Play-Off Final attracted a record crowd of 671 to Bayliss Avenue, as Erith Town claimed their third piece of silverware in the club’s most glorious campaign in its 64 year history.

The Dockers claimed the Challenge Cup Final with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out success over Corinthian – after a poor stalemate finished all square at 1-1 after 90 minutes in Gillingham on Good Friday, 29 March.

Erith Town then beat First Division side Croydon 3-2 to land the Kent Senior Trophy in Maidstone on Sunday 14 April.  Liam Giles' side twice lead in that game too.

Deal Town claimed the league title by picking up 92 points from 40 games and only four points separated the play-off quartet with Faversham Town (83), Glebe (83), Erith Town (80) and Corinthian (79).

Erith Town came from behind to beat Glebe 2-1 in last Tuesday’s Play-Off Semi-Final, while Corinthian beat Faversham Town 4-1 on penalties after fighting back from being 2-0 down to force a 2-2 draw at Salters Lane to set up today’s winner-takes-all showdown.

Corinthian striker Michael Hagan slotted in his 14th goal of the season to give Corinthian – who collected six points from Woodward’s men in the League this season – the lead.

Woodward’s favourite number must now be 86 as that was the time when James Dyer scored from the penalty spot in Gillingham in the Challenge Cup Final – and was also the time when former Red Velvet striker Harry Taylor headed in today’s leveller to force a penalty shoot-out.

Erith Town goalkeeper Mackenzie Foley kept out Oscar Housego and Sam Bewick’s penalties to seal a dramatic promotion, as Corinthian have now failed to win their last eight Cup Finals/Play-Off Finals.

“Yes, superb, that is five or six years’ of hard work, not just from me but from everyone,” said Woodward.

“It’s been a tough year, really tough.  I promised this group at Christmas, if they got in the play-offs they’d win.  I don’t lie. It’s a nice present for them.

“Everything, they’ve given me everything this season.  They’ve been brilliant.  They’ve been absolutely superb, I’m so proud of them.

“Do you know what, credit where credit is due today, my boys stood up and they were counted.”

Corinthian manager Michael Golding said: “Obviously gutted. It’s the worst way to lose but first and foremost fair play to Woody and to Erith, two cup wins and a penalty shoot-out in the play-offs. It’s an unbelievable season for them and I think that’s got to be recognised what they’ve done this season.

“It’s tough.  No-one really gave us a chance when we came down (from the Isthmian League South East Division alongside bottom-side Faversham Town last season), we had a complete rebuilt of the side and what the management team have done and what the players’ have executed throughout the season….

“It hurts now, it’s raw and it’s horrible but I think when they reflect back on what they’ve done and what they’ve competed with, unbelievable effort.  I’m incredibly proud of this management team, I’m incredibly proud of this group of players.

“It’s almost unprecedented with what’s happened with Cameron Beckles back in November and that’s why it’s tough for me today. I was desperate to get it over the line for that kid, but we’ve fallen short.

“I think overall, fair play to Erith. They put the pressure on in the second half. They kept knocking on the door, they put balls in areas that make you defend.
They’ve got one, it’s almost a carbon copy of the Cup final.” 

It proved to be a nervous start for both sides, watched by the largest crowd to ever watch a football match in Thamesmead.

Erith Town centre-half Jerome Jayaguru fouled Corinthian striker Charlie Clover down the right channel but with all 11 Erith Town players inside the penalty area and seven for Corinthian, Jamie Billings drilled his left-footed free-kick into the two-man wall.

Erith Town created their first opening in the seventh minute when a clearance from Brandon Davey – one of three Corinthian midfielders – was controlled by George Goodwin and the holding midfielder’s right-footed drive from 30-yards was comfortably gathered by visiting goalkeeper Nathan Boamah at the second attempt.

Woodward was forced to replace left-back Jack Holland in the 16th minute after the former Corinthian man was forced off with a hamstring injury, so on came Ryan Mahal at right-back and Tom Ash swapped from right-back to left-back.

Woodward admitted: “Sh**, cra*, terrible but I think both teams were poor in the first half.  I think both looked cagey. 

“Losing Jack Holland, his hamstring went, but full credit to Ryan Mahal. He’s my captain. He’s come on and gone on at right-back like his old days and I think he was superb.”

Golding said: “I don’t think there was going to be loads and loads of goals in it. I know we came down here and won 4-3 (12 September), but that was a bit of a weird game.  I thought it would be a goal or two.

“I said to the boys, it will be a little bit of magic or a mistake. There was never going to be loads in it, on a bad pitch. It was always going to be cagey. It was whether we could get our noses ahead like we did in the Cup Final and if we were ever going to be good enough to make sure that we held onto it. It obviously didn’t work out like that.”

Erith Town were shading the early exchanges as Corinthian were often hitting too many over-hit long balls.

Corinthian grabbed the lead with 21 minutes and 56 seconds on the clock, following a three-man counter-attacking raid.

Housego played the ball down the line to release Clover down the right and he split the two Erith Town centre-halves (Jayaguru and Calum McGeehan) to play in Hagan, who controlled the ball before placing a clinical right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

Golding said: “It’s what he does. It means nothing now, it means nothing now, but he’s scored in Cup finals, he’s scored today.  He scored against Faversham, he got the first equaliser and that’s what he does. He pops up in those big moments and that’s why we started him today.

“I thought it was a really good move. I thought it was probably one of our better moves of the whole game to be honest and once he’s running through, you’re pretty confident that he’s going to put it away and it gave us a footing in the game, which was pleasing.”

Hagan also gave Corinthian the lead in the Challenge Cup Final – in the 32nd minute.

Woodward added: “It was a really nervous day for the team and the club.  I thought it was offside but look fair play, he’s tucked it away like he did in the final, one-on-one.

“We’re used to coming from behind, I think you’ve said that earlier.”

Goodwin clipped the ball into the Corinthian box, where Taylor spun Corinthian centre-half Tom Fitzgerald inside the box but goalkeeper Boamah comfortably gathered, before an attempted clearance from the excellent Sam Fitzgerald ricochet off Dyer and flashed past the far post just before the half-hour mark.

Erith Town produced a well-worked move on the stroke of half-time but the 33-goal Dyer took too many touches inside the six-yard box.

Ash played the ball into the middle for Taylor, who hooked the ball out to the right for Dyer, who cut inside and instead of shooting with his left-foot, he went with his right and Corinthian were able to get bodies back to make the block.

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts at the break.

Woodward said: “Don’t, DON’T, just DON’T throw this opportunity away! I don’t mind if you’re not talented, if they’re better than you today, then fair enough but I just think today we needed to make sure at half-time we didn’t let ourselves down and I don’t think we did.”

Golding added: “It’s difficult not to drop too deep because you’ve got the goalkeeper booting the ball 100 yards, dropping on the edge of the area and you’ve got both centre-halves dropping to the edge of your area.

“How much can we deal with Taylor and stop the flick-ons. Brad Ryan came on, on Tuesday and changed the game for them and he got a bit of joy. We isolated Dean Nayler one-on-one with him and we needed just to get that second person out just to double up, just to stop those chances, the trickery and the crosses.

“Half time was more about can we hit them on the break? Can we use the pace of Hagan or Fez (Festos Kamara) when he came on without over-committing and can we just stay out of the box as much as possible to give Nathan and the boys at the back a chance.”

Erith Town put in a much better performance after the interval and Boamah was called into action after only 101 seconds.

A back-header from Jamie Billings let in Erith Town’s right-winger Harrison Carnegie but Boamah rushed off his line and bravely smothered the ball at the wingers feet, as a couple of defenders also slammed the door shut.

“Harrison, he’s done ok today. He got snuffed out a little bit but I think he should be scoring that – but it’s a good save by the keeper,” added Woodward.

Corinthian should have doubled their lead in the 50th minute, following a quickly-taken throw-in from left-back Alexander Jack Billings.

Housego was inside the Erith Town penalty area and he laid the ball off to 19-goal striker Charlie Clover, who lacked composure and lashed his left-footed drive high over the crossbar from 16-yards.

Golding said: “It was a half-chance.  Charlie had to feed of scraps today, but it was always going to be cagey, there was never going to be loads in it, so there was always going to be those kind of chances.

“Charlie’s finished as our top scorer this season, just short of 20 goals. You’d like to think he’d hit the target from there.”

Erith Town dominated the corner-count by 8-0 and they went close following their third flag-kick in the 54th minute.

Dyer floated the ball in from the right and Goodwin’s glancing near-post header dropped just past the far post.

Corinthian brought on Festos Kamara (51 minutes) and his pace was a threat on the counter-attack, while operating as a wide striker out on the left.

Kamara put the ball into the Dockers’ penalty area and the ball bounced off Clover’s knee inside the six-yard box and Foley pounced on the ball.

However, the defining moment came when Corinthian struck the left-hand post with 23:29 on the clock.

Davey swept a diagonal pass out to Kamara on the left and he crossed the ball towards the near-post where Housego’s decent first touch easily took him past McGeehan before clipping the left-hand post from eight-yards.

Golding said: “He’s caught it well on his left-foot. It’s a great little first touch and I did think Fez did cause them problems.

“You have to go away to Faversham, you had to go away to Erith, two away play-off games and you’re going into the lions den and can you come away with the fruit and unfortunately another chance that hits the post and it goes in and you’re walking away with the fruit, so listen, it’s fine margins.”

Woodward added: “Well, I think we had a few chances before that.  But I knew we’d get a chance, I knew we’d get a chance and I told the boys at half-time, if you get a chance, just be calm and we was calm in that situation.”

That warning was the kick up the backside that Erith Town needed and Woodward made a double change in the 63rd minute by bringing on right-winger Ollie Milton (who was quiet) and left-winger Bradley Ryan, who impressed.

Erith Town threw the kitchen sink at Corinthian for the last 15 minutes, with Corinthian often putting their bodies on the line to protect their slender lead.

“Sam (Fitzgerald) was brilliant. I thought he was brilliant in the cup final and it’s been tough for Sam. He’s played a lot of games for us,” said Golding.

“We signed Ryan Cheek when he became available and Sam was in and out and it was a bit tough for him but he’s in the team on merit.  I thought he had a right good battle with Taylor, who’s a very, very good player.  That’s why they've got Harry Taylor on contract for next year.”

James Miles floated in the home side’s fifth corner in the 77th minute which was met by Taylor’s towering header at the back stick from three-yards, which only just cleared the crossbar.

“I think second half we had them, apart from that one that hit the post. We had them a little bit camped (in their own half) really. We just needed that cool head to put one in. Harry’s missed there but you don’t give Harry Taylor too many chances,” admitted Woodward.

Corinthian got away with one (39:47) when Boamah dropped Dyer’s right-wing corner, which lead to a goalmouth scramble, but Erith Town couldn’t force the ball over the line.

“You’re just hoping for that little bit of luck from the footballing gods to shine down on you,” said Golding.

“I thought Jamie Billings was exceptional again. He’s thrown his body on the line. He’s broken his nose. He’s stayed on the pitch. You’re just hoping it goes the other way, you’re just hoping that can be enough, but it wasn’t to be.”

Erith Town kept knocking on the door and they deserved their equaliser when it came with 40 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock – it was just 16 seconds before the time that Dyer got Erith Town out of jail with a penalty in the Challenge Cup Final.

Corinthian failed to press Jayaguru, who floated the ball back into a crowded penalty area and Taylor glanced his header across Boamah to find the far corner from eight-yards.

Woodward said: “Do you know what, full credit to them. JJ’s put the ball in the box, Harry Taylor’s, header, fantastic. Not bad is he for someone who played Kent County Prem.   We’re so lucky to have him. He loves the football club. He cares about the football club. He cares about the team and full credit to him.”

Golding added: “Listen, it’s a good ball into a good area.  They’ve asked the question. We’ll watch the video back eventually. I’m in no hurry to watch it back.

“We didn’t maybe get out of the box, the clearance didn’t make them turn. We then didn’t get out of the box. Could Nathan come and claim it? I don’t know.  People are then saying it could’ve been offside? We’re a million miles away, so it’s hard for us to see.

“It’s tough when you get that close. It was shades of the cup final wasn’t it? It was so close but yet so far away.”

Neither side could score the winning goal, so penalties decided who would celebrate winning the inaugural promotion play-off in this division.

Erith Town goalkeeper Foley went first, hitting his left-footed penalty straight down the middle, as his opposite number dived to his right.

Mr Corinthian, Jamie Billings, rifled his left-footed penalty into the roof of the net, into the top right-hand corner, as Foley went bottom left.

Dyer held his nerve by drilling his left-footed penalty into the right-corner in the air, sending Boamah the wrong way.

Housego missed for Corinthian when his right-footed penalty was heading towards the left-corner but Foley dived to his right to push the ball towards safety.

Referee Kieran Cox showed a yellow card to Jamie Billings, who left the halfway line to boot the ball towards the corner flag following Housego’s miss.

Erith Town went 3-1 in front when Goodwin placed his right-footed penalty straight down the middle, as Boamah dived to his right.

Corinthian central midfielder Ahmed Salim Futa scored Corinthian’s second, with a huge slice of luck, scuffing his left-footed penalty underneath the goalkeeper, as he dived to his left but couldn’t prevent the ball creeping under his body and nestling into the bottom right-hand corner, just.

Erith Town central midfielder James Miles drilled his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, as Boamah guessed the same way.

Golding brought on Sam Bewick (46:22) and replaced Kamara and Bewick’s right-footed penalty was drilled towards the top left-hand corner, only for Foley to dive to his right and use a strong left-hand to make a big save.

Taylor and club captain Mahal lifted up the silverware, as Erith Town celebrated promotion into the Isthmian League for the very first time.

“We practiced them on Saturday and fair play to the boys, they held their nerve,” said Woodward, who was asked what got his side over the line in dramatic circumstances.

“Determination and grit.  Michael Golding said it in the week ‘no one will out run his team’.  I think we did today. I really think we did.  Full credit to them, they was out on their feet. Corinthian gave it everything. Two people had to dance in this game and they danced with us.  Look, the lottery of penalties and we just got over the line.

“Foley’s the best goalkeeper in the league. I signed him, hasn’t really been a number one anywhere. People think I took a chance with him. I haven’t taken a chance with him.  Tremendous!”

“We’re going up with Deal but don’t take anything away from these players, they’ve not only just got promotion through the play-offs, they’ve won two cups.  They have exceeded expectations this season.

“The aim was to win a cup, maybe be in and around the play-offs. We’ve won two and got in the play-offs.  I’m just gutted that we can’t defend the SCEFL Challenge Cup next year.

“We’ve played in two big games. I told these players, I’ve said it already, they get into the play-offs and we won’t lose and I wasn’t wrong.

“It’s the best moment in my footballing career, best moment and I’m just the person who drives the ship. The players’ are the ones who work and do all of the graft and full credit to them.

“I’m over the moon that we’ve been promoted because it means the Isthmian League starts later. I’m getting married in the end of July so I would’ve missed the first league game if we was in the SCEFL, so I can relax a little bit. I’m going to have 10 days off, maybe, just put some time into my family.

“It (football management) gets you and it’s got me. The last six months my family has suffered massively.  My wife has been massive. She’s been my rock to be honest and sometimes you have got look away from football and I’ve let it get me massively, the stress of the job. There’s no pressure on anyone other than myself.

“Look, there’s been times this year, I’ve had chances of maybe look at going to Step Four but there’s no way I’m leaving this football club. I wanted to get this football club in the top four and that’s what we’ve done.

“I’ve got to sit down with the chairman and discuss where the future goes with this, but no, it’s exciting times.

“Our fans have supported us through thick and thin.  I remember those cold horrible nights down at VCD where we’re having a crowd of about 15, we’re averaging 142 now.  This is a proper football club. It’s come together and the credit has to be the people behind the scenes.”

Reflecting on his club’s penalty heartbreak, Golding said: “We knew what it was today, we planned for that eventuality. We thought it would be a tight game. We were prepped. Like I keep saying, it’s just fallen the other way and fair play to Erith.

“The penalties on Tuesday night away at Faversham, they were exceptional. They were four world-class penalties that we scored and then today they weren’t as good.

“Even Jamie Billings’ (penalty) was world-class again. Salim’s has crept in and Oscar and Sam, listen there’s no witch hunt here. If we had a penalty shoot-out tomorrow they would both be in my five.

“Oscar’s taken big penalties for us. It’s one of those things. It’s frustrating. Sam’s got a great goalscoring record so you back both of those players.  Mackenzie has taken another penalty, two penalty saves, when that happens, there’s not much you can do other than hold your hands up and say fair play.

“I could not ask for a better management team. I’m gutted for them, gutted for the boys and gutted for the owners, the people behind the scenes at the club.  They deserve more than what they got today.

“We said in the two play-off games, if we can give a good account of ourselves, if we can leave everything out on the pitch then we’ll give ourselves a chance.

“Coming so close, no one gave us a chance in hell and we’ve come incredibly close to causing one of the biggest upsets in SCEFL history.”

Golding, who has been in charge since January 2015, revealed the club are staging their presentation night at Gay Dawn Farm tonight, as he comes to terms with such a heartbreaking way to lose a football match.

“We’ll let today sink in. We’ve got the presentation back at the club, which will be bitter-sweet but we made the decision to do it today. We weren’t quite sure when the season was going to finish for us and the boys start going on their holidays and bits and pieces.

“We’ll let the dust settle. We’ll try to enjoy tonight in some way, shape and form. It’s going to be horrible but the boys deserve to be recognised for their efforts and I just want to publicly thank them and the management team and the club.

“We haven’t been the best team in the division. Deal have been the best team, they’ve won the league but what we’ve got is an incredibly honest group of players and an honest group of management.

“They work incredibly hard. They come in twice a week.  They’re an absolute pleasure they never moan about anything, there’s no bad eggs.

“We’ll have to re-asses and work out what we’ve got.  Some of these boys will now move on and go and ply their trades at higher levels and go and earn some money out of football and fair play to them. That’s what Corinthian is all about.

“Brandon Davey in midfield has had an incredible season. He’s now got over 100 appearances for us and I’m sure club’s will be trying to take him.

“We’ll re-asses and see what we’ve got. We’ll see what the management team, what the mindset is and then we’ll work out a plan and go forwards from there.”

1983-84 Kent Senior Trophy - Erith & Belvedere - W3-2 at Sittingbourne FC
1986-87 Kent Senior Trophy - Cray Wanderers - D1-1 at Dartford FC
1986-87 Kent Senior Trophy Replay - Cray Wanderers - W3-2 after extra time at Sittingbourne FC
1984-85 Kent Senior Trophy - Greenwich Borough - L1-3 at Dartford FC
2011-12 League Cup  - VCD Athletic - L0-2 at Cray Valley FC
2012-13 League Cup - Erith & Belvedere - L1-4 at Welling United FC
2013-14 League Cup - Beckenham Town - L0-2 at Bromley FC
2018-19 League Cup - Chatham Town - L2-3 at Tonbridge Angels FC
2019-20 Kent Senior Trophy - Sheppey United  - L1-3 at Chatham Town FC
2023-24 League Cup - Erith Town - D1-1 (lost 5-3 on penalties) at Hollands & Blair FC
2023-24 Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division Play-Off Final:  Erith Town – D1-1 (lost 4-2 on penalties) at Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead

Erith Town: Mackenzie Foley, Tom Ash, Jack Holland (Ryan Mahal 16), George Goodwin, Calum McGeehan (Louie Clarke 84), Jerome Jayaguru, James Dyer, James Miles, Harry Taylor, Ladic Melconian (Ollie Milton 63), Harrison Carnegie (Bradley Ryan 63).
Sub: Aaron Jeffery

Goal: Harry Taylor 86

Corinthian: Nathan Boamah, Alexander Jack Billings, Dean Nayler, Sam Fitzgerald, Jamie Billings, Tom Fitzgerald, Ahmed Salim Futa, Brandon Davey, Charlie Clover (Luke Adams 75), Michael Hagan (Festos Kamara 51, Sam Bewick 90)), Oscar Housego.
Subs: Jack Unwin, Michael Ihiedi

Goal: Michael Hagan 22

Booked: Jamie Billings 90

Attendance: 671
Referee: Mr Kieran Cox
Assistants: Mr Mitchell Bush & Mr Steven Tunnicliffe
Fourth Official: Mr Stuart Beadle