Erith Town 3-2 Croydon - We've got another cup final so we can take that feeling of losing this today and take it into Wednesday and hopefully get the result there, says Croydon boss Liam Giles

Sunday 14th April 2024
Erith Town 3 – 2 Croydon
Location Gallagher Stadium, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ
Kickoff 14/04/2024 14:00

DFDS Kent Senior Trophy Final
Sunday 14 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from James Whatman Way

CROYDON manager Liam Giles says his players need to take that hurting feeling of losing their first cup final in 15 years and take it into their London Senior Trophy Final against Wimbledon Casuals on Wednesday night.


Erith Town claimed the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup by holding their nerve from the penalty spot to beat Corinthian in Gillingham on Good Friday, 29 March, winning 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 stalemate.

The Dockers claimed the Kent Senior Trophy for a second time since 2011 by twice coming from behind to claim a cup double, watched by a crowd of 650 in Maidstone.

The Dockers went into this showpiece sitting in fifth-place in the Premier Division table, having picked up 71 points (22 wins, five draws and nine defeats) from their 36 of 40 league outings.

Erith Town defeated Sutton Athletic (6-1), Fisher (2-0), Snodland Town (2-0) and First Division side Larkfield & New Hythe (8-2) to reach the Final.

Croydon, meanwhile, arrived in seventh-place in the First Division table, having picked up 44 points (13 wins, five draws and nine defeats) from their 27 of 30 league games.

The Trams have defeated two of their league rivals in the shape of Rochester United (2-1) and Canterbury City (5-3, after extra time) before pulling off a couple of shocks to beat Premier Division pair, Hollands & Blair (2-0) and Whitstable Town (2-1) both away from home.

Croydon grabbed the lead courtesy of a sublime 35-yard finish from holding midfielder Ryan Palmer after only 33 seconds, before Erith Town left-winger Ollie Milton tapped home his 19th goal of the season.

Croydon’s German striker Ulrich Fischer scrambled in his tenth goal of the season to give the Trams a 49th minute lead, before James Dyer rescued the Dockers by scoring twice to take his goalscoring tally up to 31 goals for the season.

“I’m gutted to be honest with you.  I feel like we was good value for it today. I thought we pushed them all the way, being 2-1 up with 16 minutes left on the clock. I generally felt that we was going to get the job done,” said Giles.

“Credit to Erith, they’re a very good side. They know how to win and they find a way to win.  It wasn’t our day today and we move on.

“We’ve got another Cup Final so we take that feeling of losing this today and take it into Wednesday and hopefully get the result there.

“I thought we were the better side today.  They (my players’) left everything out there and I think when you look at our back line, they’re all sort of over the age of 30 and I think at the end, they got in behind us because they put in such a shift.

“I’m gutted but we’ve got to be proud to get to this stage anyway and perform like we did against a side that are destined to get promoted.”

Erith Town boss Adam Woodward added: “We were very bad, very bad but I just think Croydon rose to the occasion, deserved more out of it.

“I think we looked leggy, we looked tired.  Maybe one game too far but these boys don’t know when to give up.  To go 1-0 down after 33 seconds, to then come back and get a win, to go behind twice, is a credit to them.

“I think we’re on our 55th game today and I think nine of my players have played over 40 games. It’s a lot of football and I think we’re playing too much football and we didn’t have a chance to rest this week or recover because we played Tuesday (winning 3-0 at Stansfeld).

“What I will say, I think they got over the tiredness and got through it.”

Underdogs Croydon got off to a dream start.

Right-back Aaron Bogle played the ball down the line to Aaron Reber (who played on the top of a midfield triangle, which had Palmer and Cameron McGovern behind him) and Reber whipped in a deep cross from within the right-channel.

The ball was retrieved by left-back Sammy Morgan (who offered more width down the left than Lauris Chin did on the other side), who cut the ball back to an unpressed Palmer, who took a touch before hitting a sublime right-footed drive sailing into the top far corner of the goal from 35-yards.

“That’s what Ryan does to be fair.  He normally plays out wide for us but we played him central today because when we went to Whitstable he was superb in there and he’s got the quality,” explained Giles.

“He’s played a lot higher levels and if you give him that much space then if he hits the target, it’s in for a good chance of going in.

“It was a great start but sometimes in football you feel like you don’t want to score too early in a game - it was a great strike.”

Woodward added: “To be fair, it’s a hell of a strike from Ryan Palmer but I don’t think we pressed him enough. I think we’ve allowed him to get a strike off and if you allow him to do that, a free-shot, he tends to get it on target.

“I said to them (the players’) before the game, you’ve got to try to kill them early and not allow them to get going.

“I’ve watched a few of their games and once you allow them to get into a rhythm and once you allow them to get on top, they’ve got a good crowd behind the goal shouting, then you’re in trouble.

“They’re a proper team and we had to kill that early and we didn’t. Once they scored you see with their celebrations for both goals, it could’ve been a long day for us.”

Erith Town levelled proceedings in Maidstone by scoring with eight minutes and 49 seconds on the clock, following a set-piece.

Right-back Tom Ash threw the ball short to James Miles before Ash floated in a cross from within the channel towards the unmarked George Goodwin, whose header looped over the keeper and clipped the underside of the crossbar and Milton slammed the ball into the bottom near corner from a couple of yards.

Woodward said: “I think that’s his 19th goal of the season. He’s come in for us and he’s been exceptional to be honest. He’s been in and out of the team. He’s had a run of games and he’s scoring goals, which is good.”

Giles added: “I went to watch Erith on Tuesday night at Stansfeld and they scored a similar goal. It’s come to the back post and come back across and they’ve scored.

“I was very disappointed with us because we’re usually good from set-pieces or crosses into our box.  We’re a very big side so that was very disappointing.

“It’s come off the crossbar and it’s caught us a bit ball watching there. I don’t know who it was.  We spoke about that at half-time. It was very disappointing to concede like that but I can’t be too harsh because we were the underdogs and I felt we gave a good fight today.”

Dockers’ central midfielder Miles played the ball out to Ash on the right and he fed Dyer, who cut inside Palmer before flashing a left-footed angled drive past the far post from 25-yards.

Palmer attempted to drill a diagonal pass at the other end but the ball was intercepted by Ash, who released Lovell, who reached the by-line before the quiet winger cut the ball back for 31-goal striker Harry Taylor, who tried to score with a back-heal, but Croydon goalkeeper George Kamurasi was untroubled as he gathered.

Woodward said: “We had a lot of the ball but we didn’t do a lot with it. It was slow. It was three, four, five touches instead of one or two and I think we allowed them to settle and it’s hard.  They went into a back five and every time they lost the ball, their recoveries started.”

Giles added: “We had to be at our best and make sure that we stayed disciplined and tight.  I felt we contained them. They didn’t have no clear-cut chances, they’re half-chances so that’s credit to our boys’ shape on what we worked on (in training) on Wednesday night.”

Croydon front two of the seven-goal Ryan Hall and Fischer offered very little in attack during the early stages of the first half but they were to make an impact later on.

Erith Town’s holding midfielder George Goodwin lost the ball to Fischer, who fed Palmer, who cut in and played the ball to Morgan, who cut inside Ash to reach the corner of the penalty area before bending his right-footed shot just around the base of the far post in the 43rd minute.

“I thought that was a good move there. We showed a good passage of play from us and from where I was standing I thought if there was a little bit more bend on that, I thought it was going in the bottom corner so he was very unlucky there,” added Giles.

Hall had a couple of bites of the cherry on the stroke of half-time, following a set-piece.

Palmer floated the ball in from the left towards the edge of the Erith Town box, the ball was flicked on by towering centre-half Jordan Anderson and the ball fell kindly for Hall, whose initial shot was parried by Mackenzie Foley and his second bite deflected past the foot of the near-post from a tight angle.

“Do you know what? If you want that ball to fall to anybody, Hally, as you know he’s played from Championship (Leeds United) downwards (Bromley, Beckenham Town among many others).

“He’s a very experienced player and if it falls to anybody in and around the goal, I’ll put my money on it being him.  He didn’t get a good enough contact on it and I feel that we score that goal and take that into half-time, it gives us the momentum.”

Woodward said: “I thought Foley made three worldies today. He’s won us the cup.  James Dyer will get man-of-the-match but at times, you need your goalkeeper to stand up.

“He took a little bit of stick in the previous cup final with Corinthian’s goal but he made the save with the penalties and today, I think he’s been exceptional with a few saves.”

Woodward revealed he was not a happy man during the half-time interval.

He said: “I weren’t happy. I thought it was poor. It was lacklustre. I thought we let ourselves down. A lot of effort has gone into today. Dean Lee, who is part of the committee and the board and was on the management team, he laid on breakfast this morning.  We’ve done everything right to prepare and I think they let the club down in the first half.

“I did mention that at half-time. There were a few choice worlds. A few of them needed to be told and they was told!”

Giles added: “I just said to the boys to keep doing what they were doing. Our shape was good.  They’re probably going to go more direct because when we watched them play, they didn’t play any football at all.  We spoke about stopping them doing that and making them go direct, which they did.  I think that was their gaffer’s message anyway to be honest.

“Listen, we were happy where we was. They’re a great side, so to match them and take them where we did. I was pleased with the lads’.”

Croydon produced a three-man move as they took the lead for a second time, just 197 seconds into the second half.

Palmer delivered a deep cross from the right, Hall did well to hook the ball back in play from close to the by-line and the ball fell to poacher Fischer, who despite being under pressure managed to scramble the ball over the line from two-yards out.

“Look, it doesn’t matter how it goes in and Uli has been superb for us this year,” said Giles.

“He’s had a lot of injuries, he separated his ribs a couple of weeks ago, so he’s literally on pain killers and bandaged up just to get through today, so credit to him. I’m glad he got a goal.”

Woodward added: “I don’t think it was a free-kick in the build-up!  The referee (Joseph Dann-Pye) then allowed them to play quick. He didn’t mention that in the pre-match talk. If he’s going to allow quick balls. Usually they’re going to tell you if they’re going to or not.

“The crossed and we’re off balanced and not set and they’ve capitalised on that and scored.”

Croydon goalkeeper Kamurasi pulled off a string of brilliant saves to thwart a lethargic looking Erith Town side during the second half.

Woodward’s men produced a sweeping move down the left which involved Miles and substitute central midfielder Ladic Melconian, whose right-footed shot from 16-yards was superbly palmed over the crossbar by Kamurasi, high to his left at the half-way point.

“I thought Ladic done brilliantly when he came on.  He got legs in there, gets us working, gets us moving. I didn’t think Jake (Lovell) did anything wrong. I just felt we needed a few more legs in the middle of the park.  We looked a little bit tired.  Once we added Ladic we got on top of the midfield,” explained Woodward.

Milton cut the ball on to his right-foot down the left touchline and whipped in a great cross into the middle but Taylor’s towering header sailed just over the top of the far post from 10-yards.

A long ball out of Erith Town’s defence by centre-half Jerome Jayaguru was hit over the top of Anderson and Dyer brought it down and his left-footed shot was parried by Kamurasi as he got his frame down to his left.

Croydon should have killed the game off on the counter-attack in the 66th minute.

Hall was out on the right and he played a through ball in behind substitute left-back Teddy Green and Jayaguru, but Fischer went to pieces inside the box, lacking composure and power, stroking a weak left-footed shot which was comfortably held by Foley, diving low to his right.

“Shame about this one. I thought he was destined to score when he went through one-v-one,” admitted Giles.

“He just had to hit it there on his right-foot, instead he’s cut in and it’s been a bit of a tame effort.  That’s the difference between the levels.  We put that away, we’re 3-1 up and almost feel we’re on our way to win the cup then.”

Woodward was concerned with the number of chances that his defenders gave lower league opposition.

“He went through, it was our own mistake. Everything they created today was through our own mistakes,” admitted Woodward.

“We just didn’t look like shored up like we have been over the last couple of weeks.  It’s not a performance that I’ve seen coming. We’ve looked really solid (recently).”

Croydon captain and centre-half Anderson made a hash of an attempted clearance from within his D and Dyer pounced and hit a left-footed volley which flew straight down Kamurasi’s throat for a comfortable catch.

Hall tried to score just 20 seconds later at the other end but his speculative 35-yarder wasn’t going to trouble the Erith Town goalkeeper.

Miles drew a free-kick out of Palmer just outside the right-hand corner of the Croydon penalty area in the 75th minute and Kamurasi pulled off a brilliant save.

The vocal goalkeeper lined up a four-man wall and Dyer placed his left-footed free-kick past the wall and heading towards the bottom far corner, only for Kamurasi to get down swiftly to his right and use a strong right hand to push the ball around his post.

Woodward, who played in goal during his career, added: “It was a brilliant low down save. He done really well there to get down low.

“I thought George was superb to be honest. I thought he maybe got man-of-the-match but it’s gone to James Dyer. I thought George was really good today. He’s a presence, he’s organisation is really good and he made some fine saves.”

Giles added: “George was very good today when called upon. He’s a big character. He gets a lot of stick sometimes but I tell you what, he was magnificent today. He made some real crucial saves and kept us in the game.”

However, Erith Town’s pressure paid off as they deservedly equalised with 31 minutes and 25 seconds on the clock.

The 73rd minute introduction of left-winger Bradley Ryan changed the game as he was released down the left-channel and he put it on a plate for Dyer, who picked his spot with a clinical left-footed finish from 12-yards, which he placed into the bottom right-hand corner.

Woodward said: “To be honest, I didn’t see where the goal was going to come from – but it did and good sides do that.

“Do you know what, Ollie Milton was unlucky to come off, both of my wide men (Milton and Lovell) were very unlucky to come off today.

“I took Ollie Milton off, brought on Bradley Ryan because Bradley’s a match-winner. He is a match-winner. He’s an exceptional talent. He should not be anywhere near this level of football. If he gets his head screwed on, I’m telling you, the world’s his oyster.

“Same as James Dyer. He’s had a few clubs. He’s 21 now, three or four years’ now he’s been club-to-club, not really getting a look in. He’s had one season with us and his stats prove why and I thought Brad was really good when he came on.”

Giles added: “I can’t quite remember what happened there, it’s a bit of a blur. 

“Listen, James Dyer has scored a lot of goals this year and that’s something we knew we had to be mindful off.  Erith do score a lot of goals, give a player like that a chance in and around your box, it’s not the best thing to do.”

Foley used his outstretched right-hand to prevent Croydon grabbing the victory with 33:38 on the clock, following a set-piece.

Palmer swept in a quality right-footed free-kick some 35-yards from goal into the Dockers’ penalty area and Fischer’s looping header from eight-yards seemed destined to drop in underneath the crossbar but Foley’s right-hand pushed the ball over his crossbar.

“Listen, he’s a good keeper Mackenzie. He’s pulled off a good save there,” said Giles.

“When you look at it on reflection of chances, I thought it was a very even game but they were more clinical in and around the box today.”

Woodward simply added: “Fantastic save by Mackenzie Foley again. It was a match-winning save!”

Kamurasi pulled off another brilliant save when Ryan and Green linked up well down the left and Green whipped in a left-footed cross towards an unmarked Taylor whose free header was heading towards the bottom corner, only for Kamurasi to get his large frame down swiftly and low to his right again to tip around the post with another strong right hand.

Giles said: “I made a couple of changes. I went with Aaron Reber at right-wing-back because he’s got energy and pace and I tried to contain because Bradley Ryan was getting far too much joy out there.  For me he (Ryan) changed the game when he came on and caused us problems with moments of quality.

“We were thinking about extra-time, that’s why I held the last subs off. When they scored we rolled the dice but I don’t know whether we had extra time in us. We’re quite an aging side. It was definitely on my mind.”

Erith Town went direct as they scored the decisive winning goal, timed at 44 minutes and 53 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Ash launched a long ball out of defence, the ball was flicked on in midfield by Taylor and this sent Dyer on his way. He easily cut inside Croydon’s right-back Aaron Bogle on the edge of the D before cutting onto his left-foot and clinically finishing past the diving keeper to find the back of the net from 15-yards.

Woodward defended his direct approach.

He said: “That’s all we do, boot it supposedly. That’s what I keep hearing from teams. We just boot it.

“I think we’re third top goalscorers (86) in the league. Doesn’t matter how you play football, wins are all that matters.

“When we try to play around the back, there’s a reason why people are at Step Five or Step Six because they’re not good enough to do that so I’m quite open to play like that. If they’re good enough to do that. We’re not going to play like that. We’re going to get the ball into the final third quickly as we can and try and make things happen there and it seems to have worked so far this season.”

When asked about Dyer netting 31, to join Taylor on that figure, Woodward replied: “Not bad! Stuck at one club. He’s taken on board everything that I’ve told him to do, every bit of information I’ve told him.  When he signed, I told him I will make sure you reach your potential and he’s listened. It’s hard for 20 year-olds to listen to 34-year-old geezers but he’s listened and taken everything on board.”

Giles added: “James Dyer’s class. He could’ve rolled Bradley (Ryan) but he took it himself. It just shows the confidence he’s got at the moment because Bradley was the easier option to change the angle there.

“It hurt because I think at that point we sort of got caught out with a long ball and it’s the first time today they really got in behind us. It’s frustrating but I can’t really knock the boys, they were superb.”

Giles takes his side to Colston Avenue, Carshalton to face Surrey Premier County League leaders Wimbledon Casuals to contest the London Senior Trophy Final on Wednesday night (20:00).

“My message to the lads today was feel that hurt now and channel it into Wednesday and don’t let it happen again,” said Giles.

“Hopefully, we can perform like we did today because I felt if we perform like we did today, we would win the game, so we just have to make sure that we prepare the same way and we turn up because there’s no good doing it against Erith Town.  They’re a league below (in Step Seven) but we have to make sure we prepare right and put the wrongs of today right.

“I want to digest today. The boys’ left it all out there today, so we have to make sure everyone’s ok. We haven’t got a chance to train.  I just want to get today out of the way and see where we are tomorrow.

“We want to bring some silverware back to the club. It’s been a long, long time, 15 years (since we won the Kent League Cup and Kent League Shield.

Croydon, meanwhile, are in seventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table and are just one point adrift of the play-off zone.

AFC Whyteleafe (62 points, three games remaining) are on course of sealing promotion into the Premier Division, while Staplehurst Monarchs (59 points, three games remaining), Rochester United (56 points, two games remaining), Larkfield & New Hythe (53 points, four games remaining) and Lewisham Borough (45 points, three games remaining) are in the play-off zone.

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

With league games against Bridon Ropes, Larkfield & New Hythe and Canterbury City on the horizon, Giles is keen to keep the club’s promotion bid on track.

Croydon are too big a club to be spending any more time in the tenth-tier of English football, falling behind their neighbouring clubs like Sutton United (League Two), Bromley (National League) and Dulwich Hamlet (Isthmian Premier).

“I feel that we sort of put ourselves in a good position because we’ve been on a good run of form before (losing 2-0 at bottom side Greenways),” said Giles, who revealed his players had one eye on today’s trip to Maidstone.

“Josh Brown has been superb in the midfield and he would’ve started today if he was fit. He’s done his MCL at Greenways.  I do think we were overlooking Greenways, which isn’t good enough really but these things happen.

“I feel like we have to win our last three and if we do that, maybe seven points could even be enough but if we win our last three, I think we’ll be in the play-offs.

“I feel like we’re a big game side, like you saw today. I think if we get into the play-off positions, I think we’ll win it.”

Giles had this message to the vocal support that Croydon supporters’ gave their side today.

“Just want to thank them. They’ve been brilliant all year. They were a big factor why I came back to the club after I left the other year. They were loud. They pushed us on and really were the 12th man today, so thank you to everybody who came out today and supported.”

Meanwhile, Deal Town celebrated winning the Premier Division title yesterday, by beating Scott Porter’s Lydd Town 3-1 to make it 86 points with four games left.

Glebe (77 points, two left), Corinthian (76 points, two left), Faversham Town (74 points, three left) and Erith Town remain in the play-off zone going into the last two weeks of the season.

Whitstable Town (67 points, two left), Bearsted (65 points, four left) and Lydd Town (64 points, three left) make up the top eight.

Double cup winners, Erith Town lock horns with Tunbridge Wells (away, Wednesday 17 April), Lordswood (home, Saturday 20 April), Deal Town (away, Tuesday 23 April) and Snodland Town (home, Thursday 25 April).

The Dockers have played a first-team League or Cup fixture on a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday and a Sunday this season.

When asked about winning two trophies, Woodward replied: “It’s great. I haven’t won anything since I won the League (First Division) at Glebe (2016-17) but play-offs is what we want.  These cups are great but if we don’t get in the play-offs at the end of the season it’s a failed season.

“If we finish the season being in the play-offs and win two cups, it’s a very successful season for Erith Town, very successful.

“I think we need six points to guarantee it and we need those six points as quickly as possible. It’s not over yet. We’ve got a tough one Wednesday, very tough down at Tunbridge Wells and an even tougher one at Lordswood and finally two games, Tuesday-Thursday against Deal and Snodland.

“Congratulations to Kingy (Steve King) at Deal winning the league. It’s a fantastic achievement by him. He’s a great bloke as well and it’s a great club. I think they deserve that.”

When asked about his preference of being at home or away for the play-off semi-finals, Woodward replied: “Listen, we’ve got to try to get in them first and once we get in them then we’ll worry about who we’re playing.”

Erith Town: Mackenzie Foley, Tom Ash, Jack Holland (Teddy Green 46), George Goodwin, Ryan Mahal, Jerome Jayaguru, Ollie Milton (Bradley Ryan 73), James Miles, Harry Taylor, James Dyer, Jake Lovell (Ladic Melconian 58).
Subs: Jamie Miller, Calum McGeehan

Goals: Ollie Milton 9, James Dyer 76, 90

Booked: George Goodwin 64, Tom Ash 85

Croydon: George Kamurasi, Aaron Bogle (Jahquan Springer 90), Sammy Morgan, Cameron McGovern, Jordan Anderson, Richard White, Ryan Palmer, Aaron Reber, Ulrich Fischer, Ryan Hall (James Ayetine 77), Lauris Chin (Evans Lamboh 61).
Subs: Kieran Rufus, David Green

Goals: Ryan Palmer 1, Ulrich Fischer 49

Booked: Aaron Reber 90

Attendance: 650
Referee: Mr Joseph Dann-Pye
Assistants: Mr Mitchell Jukes & Mr Thomas Amber
Fourth Official: Mr Howard Collins