Erith & Belvedere 0-0 AFC Croydon Athletic - We've been awful but I was confident we could come here today and cause them problems, says AFC Croydon Athletic boss Kevin Rayner

Sunday 22nd August 2021
Erith & Belvedere 0 – 0 AFC Croydon Athletic
Location Park View Road, Welling, Kent DA16 1SY
Kickoff 22/08/2021 16:00

The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Sunday 22 August 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

ERITH & BELVEDERE joint-manager Danny Murphy says his side didn’t have any end product after being held to a hard-fought stalemate by AFC Croydon Athletic in this poor FA Cup Preliminary Round tie.

The Deres extended their unbeaten run to seven games at the start of the 2021-22 season but they failed to recapture their exploits in the Extra Preliminary Round by beating Isthmian League South Central side Tooting & Mitcham United here 3-1 after extra time after coming away from Imperial Fields with a 1-1 draw.

Jointly-managed by Murphy and Marlon Patterson, Erith & Belvedere are sitting at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division by winning their first four games.

AFC Croydon Athletic, meanwhile, came away from Crowborough Athletic with a 3-1 win at the first hurdle of this competition but are presently in the bottom four of the Combined Counties League Premier Division South having collected one point from four games.  They suffered a 5-0 home defeat to Redhill last time out.

Both sides failed to produce the quality required in front of goal to smash the deadlock and on this showing Tuesday night’s replay at Mayfield Stadium in Thornton Heath is expected to go all the way to extra-time and penalties unless they can rediscover their goalscoring touch.

“A little bit frustrated at times. I think we played well overall in terms of as a team,” said Murphy, who shares his name with the former Fulham and Liverpool midfielder and BBC Match of the Day pundit.

“We kept another clean-sheet, probably dominated most of the game. We just didn’t have the end product today. We didn’t have that final bit of nous, a good cross or just getting on the end of something in the box and that was what I would kind of held us back today. That final end product.”

AFC Croydon Athletic manager Kevin Rayner added: “I thought we played well. A lot of people looked at our results and theirs and thought they would just roll us over but we’ve had lots of problems with injuries and everything else and there’s so much you can do.

“We know we’re not a bad side and we’ve seen what we had to do and I felt as the game went on, we looked more likely to win the game.

“I thought we were unfortunate to have a goal ruled out. One of them said it was offside, the other one said it was a foul in front of the keeper so make your mind up on that. I think they were guessing.

“I thought we had a couple of good chances at the end to nick the game. Jermaine Green should’ve scored, blasted it over as the game went on. I was pleased with the way we played.”

AFC Croydon Athletic started the game well and created their first opening after only 129 seconds on the clock.

Striker Nahum Green threw the ball to central midfielder Tijani Eshilokun and his cross wasn’t cut out at the near post by Erith & Belvedere centre-half Rob Curtis and Ibrahim Kallon hooked his volley over the crossbar from 12-yards.

“A good early chance. It would’ve been nice to get our noses in front but there you go,” Rayner said of the miss from his centre-half.

The Rams linked up well down the right with winger Luwayne Greenwood and Jay Bradley before Greenwood cut the ball back to right-back Jordan Boateng who put over a deep cross but Nahum Green steered his free header past the near post from a tight angle.

Erith & Belvedere were a threat down both flanks, however, Tyler Anderson-Parr and Henry Dasofunjo were tricky outside of the penalty area but went to pieces inside the box and 39-yard-old striker Calum Willock was often an isolated figure for the 71 frustrating minutes that he toiled on the pitch.

“I think they’re brilliant footballers, they’re really good players, just today they got into some really good positions, it was just that end product,” Murphy said of Anderson-Parr and Dasofunjo.

“We lacked that final ball into the box and have someone in there to get the final (touch). It was frustrating for them and it’s frustrating for all of us but it’s one game and we go to Tuesday now and we have to go out and play and try to get a result.”

Rayner added: “I think we knew what to expect. We’ve got two quick players ourselves trying to deal with it and two quick players in front of them trying to help out and it worked quite well. They are going to have a moment they’re going to get away because we got a little bit tired and they got in once or twice.

“Ibrahim Kallon and Hermes Mengi are both quality players (centre-halves) and it’s the first time they’ve been together this year so I think they dealt with everything in the middle really comfortably.”

Erith & Belvedere centre-half Reece Barrett often launched balls over the top during the game as he attempted to release the two wingers and this created a good chance in the 19th minute but visiting keeper Oshane Brown rushed off his line and smothered a shot from Dasofunjo, who easily got in behind Rams’ left-back Alfie Young.

Erith & Belvedere won the corner count by six-to-two and left-back Patterson swung the ball in from the left and Barrett came up from the back and planted his header over the top of the far post from six-yards out.

Patterson whipped a left-footed free-kick from the left from 35-yards from goal which dipped over the centre of Brown’s goal as he aimed to float the ball into the roof of the net.

But Brown was called into making two diving saves as Erith & Belvedere went for goal with two shots outside the box.

Right-back Kazeem Richards threw the ball to Tom McNamee, who played the ball inside to Anderson-Parr, who unleashed a right-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 20-yards, forcing Brown into making a fine save low to his left, swiftly getting his large frame down to push the ball around the post in the 35th minute.

“He made a really good save in the first half, low down on his left-hand side and another decent one when we went one-on-on,” added Murphy.

“All in all, our keeper didn’t have to do a whole lot in the game and I think we really worked them, in the final third that we just didn’t have that end product today.”

Rayner added: “I mean that’s the other thing, we’ve had both keepers missing. Oshane has been back for the last two games and he needed the games and he’s done well today.  The other keeper is still out injured so we’ve had problems. We played a keeper in one of the games and I’ve never seen him before.”

Erith & Belvedere went route one when Anibaba launched a big kick and a slip from Boateng opened the door for Anderson-Parr, who hit a first-time angled drive towards the bottom near corner from 30-yards, which bounced in front of Brown who got down low to his right to push the ball behind for a corner.

AFC Croydon Athletic were a physical outfit with many strong challenges going in, earning them four yellow cards, but both sides went in on level terms at the break.

"We stood up and were counted today and I've got no issue and that's what you expect.  I think in the last few games we've been too weak and we haven't really been at it, so I knew today with the players we had back in, we'd be ok," said Rayner.

“It was the same message as it was at the start of the game, keep doing the same things over the over again and you will get your reward and I think they did that. It wasn’t our day in the final third today,” said Murphy.

Rayner added: “I think we would get chances as the game went on and we had to take them as they came but unfortunately, we didn’t quite tuck it away.”

Direct Erith & Belvedere grazed the crossbar with the first chance of the second half, just 92 seconds in.

Barrett hit another diagonal out of defence from inside his own half and Dasofunjo nipped in and caressed a half-volley sailing over the keeper’s right shoulder and bouncing against the top of the crossbar as he aimed for the top far corner of the net from the right-hand side of the penalty area.

“It was a decent bit of pattern of play and we got into a good area and it’s just the final third, just didn’t hit the target, we didn’t make the keeper work, which is something that we didn’t do the whole game,” said Murphy.

Rayner said: “We just switched off. I think Jermaine Green didn’t meet the ball and the guy got there before. The one time they got in was two little lapses in concentration but the rest of the time I thought we had more chances than they did but we deserved to win the game but there you go.”

Erith & Belvedere should have scored on the hour-mark, following another set-piece.

Patterson drilled in a left-footed free-kick from close to the by-line and four-goal attacking midfielder Ollie Bate prodded the ball straight at keeper Brown from four-yards.

“I just think that just summed up our day, how it was going to go for us today.  There were parts where it was really, really good but we couldn’t do it in the final third.”

Willock’s one and only chance came to him in the 63rd minute following the home side’s sixth corner of the game.

Patterson’s delivery was superb but the former Cray Valley striker jumped up inside the box and glanced his header across goal and past the far post.

With the crowd of 230 getting frustrated with the lack of quality out on the pitch, Rayner decided to go for it and brought on former Bromley Academy striker Alfie Bloomfield with 14 minutes left and his towering presence was to be a new threat for Curtis and Barrett.

Rayner said: “We put on another forward (Bloomfield) and we had a go. I thought we’d keep in the game with 20 to go and we’d try to push on and see what we can do.

“I said to my coach (Barry Boxall) ‘let’s try to win it here’, but it didn’t quite work out.”

AFC Croydon Athletic squandered a glorious chance to grab the victory in the 75th minute, the most clear-cut chance of the entire game.

Patterson went missing in his left-back duties and Nahum Green charged in behind the space down the right and whipped in a great low cross towards the far post where his brother Jermaine Green was left in oceans of space inside the box but he lacked composure and lashed his left-footed shot high and wide from 16-yards, threatening to smash into a red double decker bus passing the stadium.

“A little side-foot and it’s a goal, isn’t it? But he just slashed at it and that’s what happens. A little bit of composure and we probably win the game but there you go. We were creating a few chances,” said Rayner.

“Look, if we can restrict people to shots from the edge of the box, that’s not a problem for me, I’m not worried about that,” said Murphy.

“I thought some parts of the game were really, really good, really, really good and if they’re having shots from the edge of our box then that’s not going to cause us any problems.”

That miss, however, lifted spirits in the Rams’ camp and another long throw into the box from Nahum Green was met by Eshilokun’s near-post header, which he steered across goal and past the far post.

AFC Croydon Athletic were the more likely side to smash the stalemate and another chance went begging when Bradley floated a free-kick into the box from the centre-circle, goalkeeper Anibaba failed to come and catch the ball and the ball came out to Nahum Green who snatched at his shot, drilling it harmlessly wide of the right-hand post from 18-yards.

“The chances were coming weren’t they, but unfortunately we just couldn’t take them,” admitted Rayner.

There was a controversial moment as soon as the clock ticked 45:00 when linesman Simeon Joseph raised his flag to deny AFC Croydon Athletic what appeared to be a perfect goal.

Central midfielder Bradley floated the ball into the penalty area, no one dealt with it and Eshilokun nipped in and headed down past Anibaba before tapping the ball into an empty net. The flag went up and referee Sam Laidler went over to his assistant and ruled out the goal.

Rayner said: “The keeper flaps at it and we put it in. Rilwan Anibaba is a good keeper but he’s also a bit erratic at times and we know that but I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

“But the linesman, I’ve got two stories. One said it was offside and one said our five (Kallon) stood in front of the keeper so make your mind up. I thought we were a bit unlucky.”

Murphy admitted: “I think the last 10-20 minutes you kind of knew it was going to stay (goal-less), but for me there’s loads of positives to take out of it. A clean-sheet and we’ve dominated the game in my opinion but we’ve drawn the game and now we have to move on to Tuesday and we’ve got to try to get a win.

Praising his defensive unit of Patterson, Barrett, Curtis and Richards who have now kept back-to-back clean-sheets after their 2-0 win at Erith Town in midweek, Murphy said: “Another clean-sheet, obviously we’re pleased about that and we’ve just got to keep going as a team and keep moving forward because some things are really positive and it was really good. We’re defensively strong now and we’re very well-organised and it’s just a matter now of taking opportunities at the other end.”

Both managers fancy their chances of progressing through to the First Qualifying Round on Saturday 4 September.

“I’m expecting exactly the same. They set-up and played a little bit deeper but hopefully, they’ve got to actually come at us on Tuesday,” said Murphy.

“I’m expecting a tough game, a same type of game, tough, robust, well-organised, aggressive, exactly what we’re going to expect when we go there.”

Reflecting on their winning start to the league, Murphy said: “It is going well, it’s down to the boys really. All we’ve put in are the small little things in place but all we ask them to do is give it 100% in every game and they do that and you reap your rewards for the amount you work because they worked so hard and everything falls into place.”

Rayner says he is “looking forward to it,” and finishing off the job on home soil.

“I think they might realise we’re not a bad side but they might have to work a little harder to try and get a result.  We’re confident, we’ve got people back and we’ll have another go on Tuesday,” said the AFC Croydon Athletic boss.

“We can’t score a penalty to save our lives so we have to try to win it without it going to penalties.  Hopefully it will be the same, a bit feisty and hopefully we’re going to be up for it and see what we can do.

“We’ve played some tough games but we’ve been awful. I’ve got no issue with that. We’ve been bad. If they came to watch us (against Redhill) on Tuesday night I would be rubbing my hands because we were abysmal. We know what’s going on, other people don’t, so I was confident we could come here today and cause them problems.”

Erith & Belvedere: Rilwan Anibaba, Kazeem Richards, Marlon Patterson, Tom McNamee, Rob Curtis, Reece Barrett, Tyler Anderson-Parr, Drew Allassani, Calum Willock (Benga Ogunseye 71), Ollie Bate, Henry Dasofunjo (Keanan Allassani 77).
Subs: Ashley Carew, Max Pell, Vinnie Medhurst, Matthew Neary

Booked: Drew Allassani 50, Danny Murphy 57 (manager), Tom McNamee 80

AFC Croydon Athletic: Oshane Brown, Jordan Boateng, Alfie Young, Jay Bradley, Ibrahim Kallon, Hermes Mengi, Jermaine Green, Tijani Eshilokun, Nahum Green, Joe Nwoko (Alfie Bloomfield 76), Luwayne Greenwood.
Subs: Abbas Odungu, Leighton Francis, Emiliano Lika, Kevin O’Connor, Marcus Travers, Christian Klass

Booked: Jay Bradley 18, Luwayne Greenwood 27, Tijani Eshilokun 29, Nahum Green 52

Attendance: 230
Referee: Mr Sam Laidler
Assistants: Ms Alison Wade & Mr Simeon Joseph