Greenwich Borough 0-1 Erith Town - Let's keep the season alive, says Erith Town boss Mark Tompkins

Saturday 18th January 2014

Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 18th January 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium

ERITH TOWN manager Mark Tompkins says he wants his side to keep their season alive and complete the Southern Counties East Football League double.

The Dockers remain in fifth-place in the table with 35 points from 16 games, four points adrift of leaders Ashford United, who have a couple of games in hand.

Tompkins pulled off a tactical masterstroke as striker Joe Nwoko came off the bench to poke home the winner on his debut just fifteen minutes remaining of a game that lacked quality on a poor playing surface at Dartford’s Princes Park Stadium.

Greenwich Borough appointed Ian Jenkins, 46, as their new manager last Monday and the former Cray Wanderers boss made five changes to the side that thrashed Deal Town 4-0 under Owen Jones’ and Kevin Skrimpton’s guidance last weekend, following John Cumberbatch’s resignation on 6 January.

Aaron Day, Danny Young, Joe Vines (who previously played for Jenkins at Cray Wanderers) all made their Greenwich Borough debuts, as did midfielder Chris Edwards, who has arrived from Phoenix Sports.

Full-back Joseph Merry and central defender Leighton Francis have both left the club to sign for Fisher.

“It was so important that we did our job here today, which I thought we did,” said Tompkins.

“We done alright. We dug in. It was a good three points so I’ll have a pint with Jenko in the bar after the game.”

Jenkins said he felt disappointed that his new side lost their first game under his stewardship.

He said: “Disappointed with the result mate because when new managers come in you normally get a result on the day but fair play to them.

“I thought they battled well and set their stall out to play against us and they’ve got the result.”

Jenkins was sacked by Cray Wanderers at the end of September 2013, after 24 years at the club, the last fourteen as manager.

“Brilliant to be back, I’m buzzing. I’ve got my mojo back,” admitted Jenkins.

“It’s been a mad week really. I was interviewed two weeks ago, to now, it’s been mad.  I’m well happy to be involved.”

Jenkins spoke for the first time about his losing his job at his beloved Cray Wanderers.

“I haven’t spoken to you since then but that’s water under the bridge now,” he said.

“I was absolutely devastated for a long, long time.  I’ve been there a long time. I don’t think many managers will spend that much time at a club as a player and a manager.

“I just feel disappointed some people at the club were very disrespectful to me and a lot of them didn’t even talk to me. Some of the committee didn’t even bother talking to me, which I think is a bit harsh for what I’ve done with the club - but I was really disappointed.

“But now I’ve met a new chairman (Perry Z Skinner) who is positive as (Cray Wanderers chairman) Gary (Hillman) was all those years ago, who has been outstanding, who has given me what I’ve wanted, what I’ve asked for and I think this club is going upwards.”

Greenwich Borough were looking to get Jenkins’ reign off to a great start.

They created their first chance inside the opening seven minutes when Edwards swung in a free-kick and Billy Manners (who played on the right of a three-man defence) planted his free header over from 12-yards.

Gary Stock then released Stuart Zanone, who cut the ball back to Paul Lyons, who floated in a cross from the left and an unmarked Edwards planted his free header harmlessly wide of the target.

Edwards then whipped in an outswinging corner from the left where striker Jeff Duah-Kessie looped his header into the arms of visiting keeper Daniel Clark.

Erith Town created their first opening in the 21st minute, but their first two efforts ballooned over the Greenwich Borough crossbar.

Much-travelled midfielder Ben Yiadom played the ball up to lone striker Marcus Ekeh, who lashed his right-footed drive harmlessly over from inside the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Seventy-six seconds later, Yiadom stole the ball off Greenwich Borough defender Young and Aaron Jeffrey lashed his shot over the bar from 20-yards.

However, Greenwich Borough wasted the best goalscoring chance of the first half with 41 minutes on the clock.

Skipper Day played the ball into Zanone’s feet, who released Luke May through on goal and with only Clark to beat the former Chatham Town midfielder blasted his right-footed shot wide of the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Tompkins said: “They’re going to create, they’ve got some good players now.  Jenko has done well in just under a week as their manager. He’s got quality players.

“Every time I look at the paper he’s signed another quality player so we knew it was going to be a really hard game and we’ve come out with flying colours.”

Jenkins, who has brought in Paul Blade and Ricky Bennett as his assistants and Peter Burke as his goalkeeper coach, added: “It was good football up until that point and just a little bit more composure he could have just slotted that.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t create more chances in the first half.”

This was a hard-fought local derby and both teams failed to impress in front of the home club’s record crowd at Dartford.

“It was one of those games, playing against Tommo, being one of my old mates and all that,” said Jenkins.

“I just think both teams were more focused on a bit more work-rate involved and aggression and things like that.  The football wasn’t really flowing so I thought it was disappointing but the second half was better.”

Erith resident Tompkins added: “It’s one of those games mate, the way we set-up to smother their midfield.  They play a lot in midfield as well so two teams just cancelled each other out and as the game went on it just stretched and luckily enough we’ve managed to poke one home.”

However, news filtered through at half-time that former Gillingham midfielder, Luke Rooney, 23, starred for Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club in their 3-1 win over Halls AFC in their Kent Air Ambulance Kent Intermediate Challenge Shield Quarter-Final on the adjacent 3G playing surface.

Rooney made 53 appearances for The Gills between 2009-2012, before signing for bitter-rivals Swindon Town – and the Bermondsey born player departed League One side Crawley Town this month.

Both managers were asked about the sticky playing surface, which is suffering with two clubs playing on it.

“Pitch was alright, brilliant,” said Jenkins.

“From the chats that we had yesterday with certain individuals that were over here yesterday said it was going to be a struggle to get it on but it was alright. I thought the referee handed it really well.  He knew the conditions were going to be a little bit heavy but I thought he reffed it well.”

Tompkins added: “A bit gluey but if you’re going to call games off for that then we won’t play until the end of April so to me it was playable.  I’m old school and I know Jenko will probably say the same thing.  We played on mud-baths and
loved it!”

Tompkins said he was pleased with a much improved second half display from his side.

“At half-time we said we’ve got to get tight. We’ve got to press them. We can’t allow their midfield players to get on the ball and look up and try to pick out a pass. We’ve got to press the life out of them and it worked!

“We came out of the changing room and they’ve listed to what we said.  They got tighter. When the players listen to you, then you’ve got half a chance.

“We was a lot more dominant in the second half then we were in the first half, so I’m more than pleased.”
Greenwich Borough’s record signing, Zanone, endured a frustrating time when he was caught offside on six occasions.

The former Thamesmead Town striker drilled a low shot from an acute angle across Clark and past the far post inside the opening three minutes of the second half.

Danny Akers, who was playing in the centre of midfield, as opposed to right-back for his previous club Fisher, clipped the ball up field where Ekeh knocked the ball down for Jeffrey to screw his shot past the left-hand post from 20-yards.

Greenwich Borough went close on the hour-mark when May sprayed the ball out to Paul Lyons out on the left and he raced past Akers to reach the by-line, before whipping in a cross with his left-foot, which shaded the top of the crossbar and behind.

And within a minute, Erith Town forced a free-kick a couple of yards outside the Greenwich Borough penalty area, where set-piece specialist Akers curled his right-footed free-kick narrowly just over the crossbar.

Vines prevented a goalscoring opportunity for Erith Town when he made a last-man saving tackle to prevent Jeffrey popping a shot towards goal after a precise chipped pass forward from right-back Russell Bedford.

Jack Kelly made his first save of the game in the 73rd minute when Conrad Lee whipped in a cross from the left touchline towards the far post where Yiadom ghosted in and was denied by a fine near post save from the Greenwich Borough keeper.

The home side survived the resulting corner, before Erith Town capped off a better second half performance with Nwoko’s debut goal since his move from league rivals Cray Valley, with fifteen minutes of a disappointing game left.

Akers swung in the corner from the left where Dave Waters came up from the back to plant his header towards goal and Nwoko stabbed the ball over the line from inside a crowded six-yard box.

“That was our plan, to give Marcus Ekeh a good hour and give Joe Nwoko the last half hour to stretch them,” revealed Tompkins.

“I don’t know if you noticed we played one up front today. We’ve got a midfield player coming deep.  Marcus is better doing the one up front.  We said to Joe to bide your time, once they get tired, his pace will stretch them and it worked.”

The vocally aggressive Erith Town officials in the directors’ box wanted to win this game as much as their battling players on the pitch.

When asked whether his players raised their game playing at a Conference Premier stadium, Tompkins said: “I think so mate. They all look for this one.  As soon as Greenwich Borough were playing here, everyone wants to know when this game is.”

Jenkins, meanwhile, admitted he was disappointed with the winning goal.

“It was disappointing from our point of view,” he said.

“I’ve said to the boys in there it was the only ball that went in the box and we didn’t defend that well.  When you’ve got six foot plus players in that dressing room that have played at a (higher) level, they’ve got to be defending that better.”

Greenwich Borough created a couple of chances to snatch a point.

Edwards played a short corner to Day, who whipped in a cross into a crowded penalty area where Vines blasted a first time right-footed shot over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Jenkins’ first game in charge of the club ended in defeat, thanks to a brilliant save from Clark three and a half minutes into time added on.

Defensive holding midfielder Day clipped a ball straight down the heart of the Erith Town defence and substitute striker Frazer Bent cracked a right-footed half-volley from 22-yards, which was destined to crash into the roof of the net, but Clark stretched high to his right to push the ball over his crossbar.

Tompkins said: “That’s what they’re there for, saving goals!  Again, he hasn’t played for a month.  That’s his first game because he’s been out.  Our other goalkeeper (Steven Phillips) has done really well but he’s injured so Daniel Clark has had to come back in.

Jenkins said: “It’s a great strike and it was a good save from the lad. He’s won them the game at the end of the day, but we had three or four before that.  Danny Young had one, Vinsey had one as well. We had a few headers in the first half. It’s disappointing that we haven’t won but there’s a long way to go.”

Greenwich Borough remain sixteen points adrift of the summit at the halfway mark of their campaign.

Jenkins insisted he isn’t giving up on the title, despite being so far behind the front runners.

He said: “I said to the chairman if we win most of our games we’ve got a chance of going up – why not?”

“There’s a lot of games left. That’s a blip. I want to win them all. You’ve got to as a manager. 

“If you go on a run of eight or nine games in any division, it’s a lot of points. If teams drop points around you, the club’s looking to get promoted if we can.”

Tompkins, meanwhile, said he wants his side to keep their season alive and win the league title as well as the League Cup.

The Dockers welcome Ashford United to Badgers Sports Ground in the League Cup Quarter-Final on Tuesday night, leading 1-0 from the first leg.

“I said to the boys, don’t get to the end of March where we’ve got nothing to play for – let’s keep the season alive, otherwise it just dies.

“I love cup finals. I want to get promoted, don’t get me wrong but cup finals are important and you can use your squad in them.

“We create a lot of chances and don’t score enough goals and if you want to win league’s that’s what you’ve got to do – keep clean sheets and you’ve got to score more.

“I know they had a couple as well but we’ve got to take ours and that kills off games.”

Jenkins’ and Tompkins’ friendship goes back a long way.

“When I first got the job the chairman was saying the first game was going to be against Erith Town and he’s not just a player that played with me, he’s a mate of mine for years and years,” revealed Jenkins.

“I went to school with him and we grew up together. We truanted together, we missed lessons together and we played in the school team together.  He’s probably the only person apart from one other that I keep in touch with from school.  We go back a long way. 

“Listen, if any one’s going to beat you, I want it to be Tommo that beats me – good luck to him.”

Tompkins, also 46, added: “I’ve known him for about 38 years, I believe. I’ve known him a long, long time.  He’s a real good friend of mine.

“Once the game starts it’s not about friendship, it’s about getting the three points.

“Their time will come. They’ll do well this year under Jenko. I also believe there going to get some results for us. They’re going to nick some points off Whyteleafe and Ashford.”

Greenwich Borough: Jack Kelly, Paul Lyons, Billy Manners (George Jones 76), Aaron Day, Danny Young, Joe Vines, Chris Edwards, Gary Stock, Stuart Zanone, Jeff Duah-Kessie (Frazer Bent 71), Luke May.
Subs: Robert Curtis, Akeem Hanson, Gabriel Uyiekpen

Booked: Danny Young 90

Erith Town: Daniel Clark, Russell Bedford, Danny Moore, Conor Reardon (Lee Coburn 54), Dave Waters, Ben Yiadom, Danny Akers, Gio Fullone, Aaron Jeffrey, Marcus Ekeh (Joe Nwoko 59), Conrad Lee.
Subs: Rikki Cable, Callum O’Shea, Steven Phillips

Goal: Joe Nwoko 75

Booked: Ben Yiadom 28, Danny Akers 37

Attendance: 162
Referee: Mr Sikiru Idris (Denmark Hill, London SE5)
Assistants: Mr Guy Marley (Bexleyheath) & Mike Ingram (Chatham)