Erith Town 4-2 Kennington - I thought we was good in patches, poor in others but three points is all that matters, says play-off chasing Erith Town boss Adam Woodward

Tuesday 13th February 2024
Erith Town 4 – 2 Kennington
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 13/02/2024 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 13 February 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

ERITH TOWN manager Adam Woodward says he wants to invite referees to his training sessions to help improve standards after this Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division clash finished with 18 players on the pitch.

The Dockers remain in seventh-place in the table with 47 points (14 wins, five draws and 7 defeats) from their 26 league games and are now three points adrift Kevin Stevens’ Bearsted, who occupy the final play-off berth in this ninth-tier division.

Erith Town put in a poor first half performance where you struggled to see how they would buy a ticket to the play-off lottery before Ollie Milton’s run finished with Kennington centre-half Liam Whiting poking the ball into his own goal to grab the lead.

Their Ashford-based opponents deserved their equaliser which was finished off by Craig Calvert, who plays on the right of a four man diamond midfield.

Woodward hooked the ineffective winger Harrison Carnegie and striker Jake Lovell and brought on James Dyer and Harry Taylor in their place and the move had the desired effect as they gave Erith Town a much-needed shot in the arm.

Taylor scored twice to take his goalscoring tally up to 20 goals for the season, before Milton flicked in the fourth goal, just before Kennington pulled a goal back through full-back Jordan Griffin, who launched seven long throws into the Dockers’ box during the game.

“It’s a positive.  We start chalking them off now,” said Woodward.

“We drew nil-nl down there (27 January) and we struggled to get the ball in the goal. We had plenty of chances and tonight I thought we were good in patches, poor in others but three points is all that matters.

“I thought the game was very scrappy. I thought the pitch doesn’t help, it was very bobbly. It didn’t help both sides but it did take us a while to get going.

“I thought the goal shook us into life really and obviously we gave away a sloppy goal as well. It’s positive, three points and that’s all we turned up for tonight.”

Erith Town goalkeeper MacKenzie Foley launched a big left-footed kick straight down the middle to send left-winger Milton through on goal but visiting goalkeeper Daniel Smith raced off his line to prod the ball towards safety after only 26 seconds.

“I’m not sure, from my angle it looked like a foul on Milton. He was adamant it was a pen but it was a good start, 26 seconds in,” said Woodward, who was the only manager who respected this website and took part in a post-match interview.

“We scored a goal like that on Saturday (a 3-1 win at Holmesdale in the Challenge Cup Quarter-Final).  Foley’s kicks are dangerous – when they stay in play! No, listen, it was good from Ollie to make the run.”

The home side started the game on the front foot but found Kennington in resilient mood and the away side created the better goalscoring chances during the first half.

Ziyad Ghali – who plays at the top of the diamond behind strike pair Ryan Philpott (18 goals) and Finlay Dent (11) – swept the ball out to Finlay Dent, who laid the ball off to an unmarked Calvert, who drilled his right-footed drive across the keeper and past the far post from 25-yards.

Erith Town produced a well-worked one-touch pass inside the final third which involved Ladic Melconian and James Miles (always impressive in the middle of the park) and he played in Milton, but he lacked composure inside the box and his cross-shot sailed across the keeper and headed out towards the corner flag.

Philpott pressed Dockers’ right-back Sam Smith and the home side were awarded a free-kick, which was floated in deep by Miles towards the back stick but centre-half Ryan Mahal steered his header across the keeper and past the far post from within the six-yard box in the 29th minute.

Kennington almost grabbed the lead on the half-hour mark when Mahal pushed over Philpott, who tried to latch onto Griffin’s throw-in down the line.

Max Sutton whipped in a left-footed free-kick from close to the line on the right and Foley raised both of his hands above his head to flick the ball against the crossbar.

“They were dangerous from set-pieces tonight and dangerous from throw-ins.  That chance there, we dealt with it really, really well. Foley done well with that chance.  It was a bright start from us and we allowed them to get back into the game,” added Woodward.

Kennington’s manager Dan Scorer and his assistant Sam Fisher were pretty vocal within their technical area, complaining about the decisions from referee Freddie Young, being in the ear of assistant referee Mitchell Bush during the entire game and even spoke to members of the crowd sitting in the stand.

It was no surprise when referee Young pulled out a yellow card to book Scorer in the 66th minute.  Kennington will need to improve their discipline.   

Kennington – the better side of the two – missed a glorious chance to change the outcome of the game in the 33rd minute.

Griffin floated a left-footed cross into the Erith Town box where an unmarked Philpott sent his free-header straight at Foley from 12-yards, the keeper making a comfortable catch.

“He’s dangerous, that Philpott.  I thought he was lively, very lively tonight. He’s hard to mark, he’s very good.  His movement off the ball is very good. He holds the ball up well. He wins his flick-ons and he had a good chance there and we were lucky he didn’t convert,” added Woodward.

Somehow, Erith Town grabbed the lead – against-the-run-of-play – with 40 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Tom Ash hit a first time 40-yard pass down the line to release Milton, who cut in from the left wing and into the penalty area.  He was pressed by Whiting, who appeared to have got the last touch to the ball, poking the ball into the bottom left-hand corner with his left-foot.

“It’s Ollie Milton’s goal,” insisted Woodward.

“It’s a fantastic tackle. He kicked it onto Ollie but you just summed it (our first-half performance there). You asked me about two chances in the first half, that’s it. 

“It was a really, really poor first half from both sides.  We scored in the 41st minute and we thought we can hopefully hold on until half-time but obviously that didn’t happen.”

Goodwin then launched a long ball up – Erith Town are a direct outfit – and the ball was knocked down on the edge of the box by Ash but all Miles could do was sweep his left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from 18-yards.

Kennington restored parity, with 46:46 on the clock, which was deserved on the balance of play.

A kind ricochet inside the penalty area fell kindly for Kennington and Griffin easily cut past Ash and along the by-line before cutting the ball back towards the near post where Finlay Dent played a five-yard pass into Calvert, who applied the close-range finish into the near-corner from a couple of yards out.

“I thought it was poor defending there,” admitted the Dockers’ boss.

“Tom (Ash) got isolated one-on-one, they passed it. They had one chance, scuffed it and then we had a second one again (to clear). It comes down to being ruthless in the box and I don’t think we were ruthless enough in both boxes in the first half.

“I thought our goal was very lucky as well, so both probably cancelled each other out, so going in at nil-nil was probably a fair result.”

Woodward revealed he gave his players the hair-dryer treatment during the interval – and it clearly worked as Erith Town were a much better team after the hour-mark.

“Pretty much the same as Saturday, (I gave them) a bit of a (you can guess the word!), a bit of shouting and screaming. We’ve just got to make sure we liven up.

“We lacked a little bit of authority and belief in the first half and we stepped it up in the second half.”

Woodward had seen enough, immediately after Griffin hit a long ball down the channel to release Philpott, who took a touch inside the box before spinning and dragging a right-footed angled drive across Foley and past the far post (11:40).

The introductions of Dyer (left central midfielder) and striker Taylor made an instant impact as Erith Town grabbed the lead with 17 minutes and 8 seconds on the clock.

Dyer played a 25-yard pass along the deck into Milton, who played Miles in, who reached the left by-line before putting it on a plate for Taylor to sweep over the line from close range at the far post.

“We made the change to bring on Harry Taylor and James Dyer.  When we played down there we didn’t change our shape to adjust to their (midfield) diamond and we adjusted to the diamond and once we brought Harry and James on, we changed the shape and I thought we was in control,” said Woodward.

“James is very exciting when he comes on. He’s been really, really good for us this year.  Harry’s a natural goalscorer and I thought he took his two chances.

“It was nice to get a goal there to put us 2-1 up and I thought once that happened we took ascendancy to the game and we was in control for the next 15 minutes or so.”

Ghali fed Finlay Dent, who drilled an angled drive from outside the corner of the Dockers box, which was comfortably saved by Foley at his near post.

Woodward brought on right-winger Omotunmise Akanni and he delivered a deep cross towards the back post where Kennington goalkeeper Daniel Smith picked up a back-pass from Griffin.

Daniel Smith was booked by the referee for kicking the ball away – another example of Kennington’s ill-discipline.

Woodward said: “For what though?  That’s the question I’m asking.  What was the goalkeeper booked for?

“The goalkeeper was booked for kicking the ball away. It’s dissent, which is a sin-bin!

“The referee’s decided to book him for kicking the ball away and then later he sin-binned a player for throwing the ball down in frustration, which is exactly the same.

“I don’t want to talk about referee’s too much tonight. I don’t know what the left-back said, so I can’t comment but the people that were closest said nothing was said to the linesman, which I don’t know.

“But I was more frustrated that the sin-bin didn’t go in for the goalkeeper.”

Sutton was standing a few yards away from assistant referee Mitchell Bush close to the corner flag and the referee pulled out a red card (30:27) and showed it to Sutton for alleged foul and abusive language aimed at the official.

Woodward referred to an article that Whitstable Town manager Marcel Nimani gave to local press about referee’s standards in this division.

“I don’t think they (referee’s) understand the sin-bin rule,” claimed Woodward, who must know they’re not rules but Laws.

“The referee’s make mistakes with sin-bins in our games and it needs to be addressed because he thinks he’s come off thinking he’s had a good game tonight.

“We’ve won 4-2. I shouldn’t be talking about the referee’s performance but I thought he wasn’t great for both sides and it’s something that needs to be addressed by the League.  Marcel comes out (with his opinion) and I totally agree with him.

“We train twice a week, Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. What do the officials do away from their matches?  When do they look to improve?

“I don’t want to sit here and slate them but when do they look to improve? Why are they not being called in for training events once or twice a month on a Monday night when there’s no games.

“They are being paid very, very good money. They’ve been given pay rises. We have to work on a training ground Tuesday’s and Thursday’s to improve. What are The FA doing to improve referee’s?

“You see enough games Stephen, ok and you must see some of the decisions that are poor.  Tonight, I don’t think he’s had a great game. I don’t think he had a great game for us against Corinthian or against Bearsted, where he made simple errors but how is he being helped to improve? 

“They have an assessor (now called Observers) now talking to him where he’s going wrong, holding his hand. That’s not how you’re going to improve.

“They improve by getting on the grass.  I’ll happily have referee’s. I’ve invited them in before for training to referee training games and things like that.  We want to, as a League, myself and Marcel talk and we want to improve referee’s. I don’t want to sit here and moan about them after a 4-2 win, sorry to rattle on.”

Erith Town were gifted a flattering 3-1 lead from the resulting indirect free-kick.

Dyer touched it back to Taylor, who drilled it low into the centre of the goal - past nine Kennington players lined up along the goal-line, leaving just one man close to the half-way line.

“It’s good to get a two-goal cushion again, which was positive but like I said, we let ourselves down by conceding a sloppy goal,” added Woodward, who then reflected on Taylor’s goalscoring haul.

“Can’t argue with that. He’s been injured for the last three or four weeks as well.  It was his first game back tonight. The idea was whatever the score was tonight, was to give him 30 minutes and that’s what we’ve done.”

Kennington pulled a second goal back with 39:08 on the clock, as none of the Erith Town players pressed the two players involved in the move.

Calvert swept the ball out to the left where Griffin (now playing at left-back after Sutton’s sending-off) was given time and space to drill a right-footed drive into the bottom left-hand corner from 35-yards.

“A good finish but again we’ve not engaged the ball, which is what we’ve got to work on, so we didn’t engage the ball and we’ve given him a free shot at the goal and Foley had no chance really,” admitted Woodward, a goalkeeper during his playing days.

Erith Town notched a flattering fourth goal when the ball rolled out of the Kennington penalty area and it was a case of who wanted it more between Ash and Griffin.

Ash pounced on the ball and drove down the right before fizzing the ball across the box for Taylor, who set up Milton, who flicked his first time shot tricking across the keeper to find the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards.

“Another good goal for Ollie.   He scored Saturday, scored another two tonight, which is good for him.  He’s in a rich vein of form at the moment, so credit to him and Harry’s involved again,” added Woodward.

Milton was provider again this time for Akanni, who dragged his shot past the post from six-yards before the board for a MINIMUM of six additional minutes was raised.

Referee Freddie Young threw Griffin in the sin-bin (46:51) for slam dunking the ball into the ground right in front of the away dug-out and Griffin did not emerge as the final whistle was blown at 55:02.

Whiting hit a long ball out of defence – there were too many long balls from both teams tonight – and that ended in substitute midfielder Lucas Dent floating the ball into the box where substitute winger Sammi Takalobighashi flicking his header harmlessly wide of Foley’s goal from 10-yards.

A tackle from Akanni resulted in Calvert retaliating and referee Young consulted with Bush and Ronald Albert which saw both players sent off for violent conduct, where they can both expect to pick up three-match bans.

Erith Town finished the game with 10, Kennington with eight.   The referee got his big decisions correct, only the one where Kennington goalkeeper Daniel Smith could have been thrown in the sin-bin for kicking the ball away after picking up the back-pass, which was a back-pass.

“The referee’s puts up 96 minutes. That happened on the 96th minute. He’s still saying on the 96th minute, there’s still two minutes to play. That is needless tonight, that is needless,” claimed Woodward.

“Neither player threw a punch, it was handbags, back in the day it used to be handbags. There was a little grabbing and pulling. It was completely split up and when they got up they shook hands and walked away.

“That (both red-cards) was not needed.  Again, we’ll appeal it. Well send the footage in. How can the referee improve on that situation? The game’s done. Now the players’ of both teams have been affected by that.

“That’s the second time this season that we’ve had bad decisions go against us and Rajan Singh (received a red card) down at Snodland and again tonight, another poor one, where the player is punished.

“I just want improvement. We’re happy to help the referee’s. I’m not sure who’s in charge of the SCEFL referee’s now.  Whoever’s in charge, we just want improvement on the referee’s.  I fully support Marcel. If he wants to go further. How are they improving? How can we improve the referee’s and officials together?

“Because we need them, we do need them. There’s no ifs and buts about it. There’s been some very, very good referee’s that we’ve had this year and some of them have been absolutely brilliant. Some haven’t been great but you speak to me and try to improve them. I just want improvement across the board.”

Glebe remain at the summit with 59 points on the board from their 29 (of 40) games.

Deal Town have climbed up to second-place (55 points from 24 games) following their 4-0 home win over Hollands & Blair.

Faversham Town are languishing in third-place – despite having the largest ever budget in this League’s history – with 54 points from 28 games.

Corinthian are in fourth-place with 53 points from 26 games, followed by Bearsted with 50 points from 26 games.

Outside of the play-offs are Whitstable Town (50 points from 29 games), Erith Town (47 points from 26 games), Punjab United (42 points from 25 games), Snodland Town (41 points from 25 games) and Lydd Town (38 points from 25 games).

The bottom six sides are Tunbridge Wells (27 points from 24 games), Kennington (21 points from 28 games), Sutton Athletic (21 points from 27 games), Stansfeld (19 points from 27 games), Rusthall (18 points from 27 games) and Welling Town still occupy the sole relegation berth with 16 points from 27 games.

“We’ve got 14 games left, we’ve got five away games, nine at home, so we’ve just got to keep chalking them off,” said Woodward.

“Faversham, Snodland and Bearsted have still got to come here so we’ve got a tough run-in, but they’ve got to come to us and we’re on our own patch and we’d like to make sure we pick up points in those games and go away and do the right thing.”

Erith Town welcome lower-league side Larkfield & New Hythe to Bayliss Avenue on Saturday for a place in the Kent Senior Trophy Final up for grabs, where the winners will play either Whitstable Town or Croydon.

“It will be a tough game. I know they’re Div One. They’ve got some exceptional players.  You’ve got the likes of Joe Bingham, Jordan Carey’s a good goalkeeper. The boy up front Day’s scoring lots of goals and Danny Lye’s won the league and is a good manager. He won it at Ashford so he knows how to get things done.

“We’ve got to make sure we prepare right.  I know people will look at it and thinking it’s a banana skin for Erith Town but if you look at both sides I feel they’ve got players that can compete in the top end of Step Five.”

The Dockers then travel down to Deal Town for a Challenge Cup Semi-Final First Leg (Tuesday 20 February), before hosting Bearsted in the League on Saturday 24 February, before welcoming Steve King’s side back to Bayliss Avenue for the Second Leg on 27 February, for a Final date against AFC Whyteleafe or Corinthian.

“We’ve got to go down there on Tuesday after they’ve come back from Bridgwater (in The FA Vase Last 16 on Saturday, which this website is covering).

“They’ll be tough. We’ve got a tough week, a very tough week.  We’ve got Deal, Bearsted, Deal, so that’s going to be tough. We’ve just got to mentally get it right.

“Listen, the plan is we want to be in and around those play-offs. We don’t want to be a Step Five club. I don’t want to be a Step Five manager.  We’ve got the personnel and the players. We just have to make sure we have the belief and we just have to look to get into those play-offs and anything can happen in those play-offs.

“There’s a long way to go. Fourteen league games, so it’s about getting as many points on the board as possible. Semi-Finals are nice but they’re a distraction.  We want to make sure we get into the play-offs.”

Woodward, meanwhile, is hopeful striker Louie Clarke – who scored 33 goals for Rusthall last season – can play some part towards the climax of this season.

“He’s been on the grass training, so Louie Clarke will be about six to eight weeks away so we might see him before the end of the season. He’s been a massive loss for us this year with his ACL but listen any side will miss Louie Clark and we have missed him. It will be nice to get him back in the grass by the end of the season.”

Erith Town: Mackenzie Foley, Sam Smith (James Trueman 84), Tom Ash, George Goodwin, Ryan Mahal, Jerome Jayaguru, Ollie Milton, James Miles (Omotunmise Akanni 75), Jake Lovell (Harry Taylor 58), Ladic Melconian (Jamie Miller 84), Harrison Carnegie (James Dyer 58).

Goals: Liam Whiting 41 (own goal), Harry Taylor 63, 78, Ollie Milton 88

Sent Off:  Omotunmise Akanni 90

Kennington: Daniel Smith, Jordan Griffin, Max Sutton, Harry Lavender (Lucas Dent 86), Liam Whiting, Edward Miller, Kundai Munyama (Luke Hughes 81), Ziyad Ghali, Ryan Philpott, Finlay Dent (Sammi Takalobighashi 81), Craig Calvert.

Goals: Craig Calvert 45, Jordan Griffin 85

Booked: Dan Scorer 66 (manager), Daniel Smith 75

Temporary Dismissal:  Jordan Griffin 90

Sent Off:  Max Sutton 76, Craig Calvert 90

Attendance: 120
Referee: Mr Freddie Young
Assistants: Mr Mitchell Bush & Mr Ronald Albert
Observer:  Mr Ian McGrath