Erith Town 1 Beckenham Town 2 (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS)

Monday 27th March 2006

Sean Cooney 28

Jamie Cheeseman 70
Junior Kadi 87 (pen)

Stephen McCartney reports from Erith Sports Stadium
Kentish Observer League

Controversy reared its ugly head once again in this fixture, although Beckenham Town reclaimed top spot in the Kentish Observer League table with five games to play.

With the game scheduled to start at 7:30pm the game finally got underway 35 minutes late as both teams colours clashed.

A case of déjà vu, although Beckenham cannot be at fault this time around - wearing a yellow and blue strip.

The Dockers, meanwhile, were forced to wear their normal home strip of red and black striped shirts, although they too wanted to wear the same colour as their visitors.

Whoever is at fault will surely rage on and on and their will be “needle” between both clubs when they clash at Eden Park Avenue on Saturday, 8th April.

Erith, second from bottom in the table, stunned their visitors by grabbing an 28th minute lead, with veteran striker Sean Cooney scoring his third goal of the season for the club.

The former Beckenham striker punished Tony Sinclair’s slapdash defending to lift the ball towards goal before stabbing home from beside the far post despite being under pressure.

Although Beckenham played the better football, against a side that were just happy to clear their lines, pumping long balls out of their half, they only had a Junior Kadi’s right-footed effort, which curled just over the bar, to show for their first half efforts.

However, the half-time introduction of player-manager Gavin Rose, and former Swindon Town youngster Jamie Cheeseman brought Beckenham into life.

Ahran Stewart slid a 20-yard shot wide of the right upright before Kadi stroked the ball into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Chris Connelly - from six yards - following Ahser Hudson’s cross from the right.

The 22-year-old former Marine goalkeeper, was pleased to see many efforts whiz past his goal until he was beaten by Cheeseman’s 25-yard drilled shot which flashed inside the foot of the near post following Peter Adeniyi’s cut back with twenty minutes remaining.

Substitute Ryan Martin somehow scooped the ball over Conneally’s bar from 12 yards, when it seemed easier to score.

But there were flashpoints late on when Dominic Coward was harshly penalised for handball after the ball bounced off the bobbly playing surface.

The decision to award Beckenham the 87th minute penalty was hotly disputed, and resulted in Wayne Barrett getting his marching orders.

But Kadi kept his nerve to send Conneally the wrong way from the penalty spot to send Beckenham back to the top of the table.

The decision left Erith Town scathing, and assistant manager John Adams raged: “I’ve just been in the dressing room to ask what it’s been given for - we were under the impression the linesman’s flagged for offside - he said he didn’t, he’s put his arm across his chest, which we didn’t see, and that’s why the penalty’s been given.”

Adams felt his side had done enough to earn themselves a point.

“A bad decision for us,” he said. “Our lads have worked really hard tonight. I think we deserved a point but at the end of the day the top team gets the three points and we get nothing.

“It’s always going to be hard playing these, but we thought we set up a good work rate an we stopped their middle three from playing.

“Sadly it goes against you with the penalty - I always say no matter how hard you work referee’s and linesmen can change a game.”

The Dockers travel to Sporting Bengal on Saturday, a side one place above them in the table, with one more point.

“I think a fair result would have been a draw” added Adams. “We were under a bit of pressure in the second half, which you are going to be against a team like this, but we were under pressure against Maidstone (which resulted in a 1-1 draw) - everybody’s done their job except the linesman.”

Speaking about their trip to the Mile End Stadium, Adams said: “We’ve got to fancy a scrap out of that one - we’ve got to get the three points.

“This is a great result really for us tonight in the end, although we’ve lost.”

Erith Town’s goalkeeper Chris Conneally, meanwhile, felt his side were “robbed” by the late penalty decision - and bemoans his side’s recent bad luck.

The Charlton based stopper said: “It’s very disappointing to lose the game in that manner to be honest.

“We’ve played all the top sides in the last few weeks, Thamesmead we honestly should have got a draw, the linesman missed a blatant flick for their goal late in the game.

“We fully deserved a draw and could have won against Maidstone last week, had a bad one against Erith & Belvedere on Saturday but again today we fully deserved a draw out of the game and again the officials have robbed us and it’s very hard to lose a game like that.

“You’d almost be comfortably beaten by a top side, three or four nil than lose in that manner.

“It’s upsetting the boys but we’ll bounce back against Sporting Bengal.”

Both Sporting Bengal and Erith Town play at athletics arena’s but Conneally demands his team-mates roll their sleeves up and collect all the points in east London.

He said: “There down there with us and it’s always a hard place to go to. There’s not many teams that enjoy going up to their place but it’s a professional job to be done really, roll our sleeves up and if we nick a one-nil we’ll be delighted with that - it will be a tough game for us all.”

Beckenham’s player-manager Gavin Rose, meanwhile, was delighted his side scraped all three points - but admitted he wasn’t happy with their first half performance.

“Not really too interested in the politics why we couldn’t kick off from the start but once again we made a very slow start to be honest,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say deservedly, but we went a goal behind, and we didn’t do anything to really warrant not being a goal down, so it was an uphill struggle for us. So second half we kept on trying and we ended up getting through in the end.”

The 29-year-old added: “We had to be bold after the first half because I didn’t think we were very bold so we just threw everything at them. Jamie (Cheeseman) did well coming on, made a good impact, kept the ball for us and made a very good impression.”

Rose did, however, feel Dominic Coward did handle the ball, which led to Kadi’s controversial winner.

“It was handball,” Rose insisted. “I’m a honest person, if it wasn’t handball I would have said it weren’t.

“But we still benefited from it, but it was handball whether the guy meant it or not. We were lucky enough in the end that it came our way and we scored.”

Speaking after the 1-1 draw against Maidstone United at Bourne Park, Stones boss Lloyd Hume felt Beckenham will slip up at Herne Bay on Saturday.

But Rose is confident his young squad will win at Winch’s Field.

“Every single game is a big game for us,” he said. “What we can focus on is winning our next five games, which we fully intend on doing.

“I mean coming into today, we knew it was going to be a hard game and everyone was saying you could beat them four or five nil - I don’t believe in things like that.

“I think what happens on the night is really what matters - not what people predict.”

Erith Town: Chris Conneally, Wayne Barrett, Dominic Coward, Danny Little, Darren Pruce, Mike Maunsell, Paul Springett (Capt), Chris Arnold (Rob Bryant45), Sean Cooney (David Batt 69), Robert Browning, Jamie Lover.
Subs: Dave Milton, Chris Scott.

Sent off: Wayne Barrett 86

Beckenham Town: Rob Tolfrey, Jake Daniels, Cedrick Meeko (Gavin Rose 45), Peter Adeniyi, Tony Sinclair, Asher Hudson, Ellis Green, Ahran Stewart Paul Vines (Jamie Cheeseman 45), Junior Kadi, Dean Lodge (Ryan Martin 79).
Subs: Daniel Morris, Ali Kzeyu.

Attendance: 92
Referee: Mr Paul Kelly (Chatham)
Assistants: Mr Malcolm McLean (Marden) Rob Preedy (St Paul’s Cray)