Greenways 3-3 Sutton Athletic - I don't think anyone can say we didn't deserve that point on the second half performance, says Greenways boss Rob Jeffery

Monday 11th October 2021
Greenways 3 – 3 Sutton Athletic
Location Cobdown Sports & Social Club, Station Road, Ditton, Aylesford, Kent ME20 6AU
Kickoff 11/10/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Monday 11 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Cobdown

GREENWAYS manager Rob Jeffery praised his team’s togetherness for fighting their way back from 3-1 down to claim a deserved point at home to promotion-chasing Sutton Athletic at Cobdown.


The Gravesend outfit grabbed the lead against the run of play through right-wing-back Simon Walton’s eighth goal of the season before Daniel Kelly’s impressive Sutton Athletic side raced into a 3-1 lead.

Central midfielder Theodore White, left-winger Conor Evans and central midfielder James Sutherland all scored before the interval.

However, Greenways pulled a goal back just before the break, through central midfielder James Austin.

A flashpoint in front of the away dugout saw referee Paul Greenfield show red-cards to Sutton Athletic manager Kelly and his coach Tom Eldridge and Greenways also lost centre-half Matt Atkins.

Greenways were reduced to nine men inside stoppage time when central midfielder Oscar Saxton was forced off with a hamstring strain but centre-half Andy Pierce slammed home a last-gasp equaliser following a set-piece.

“I thought a draw was probably a fair result,” said Jeffery.

“I think first half they certainly had the best of it and we were lucky to get a goal right on half-time, which kept us in the game, but I thought second half we dominated, pressed them a bit higher and we forced the game a lot more and I think on the second half performance I think we deserved to get at least a draw out of the game.

“I was disappointed with the first half, I thought we could do a lot better. We didn’t do what we set out to do in the first half. I think we gave them too much time and space and if you give Sutton time and space they will punish you and that’s what they did but overall I’m happy with a point.

“There’s a togetherness in the squad at the moment and I think to go 90 plus five or six minutes that shows a lot about the boys. They stuck with it until the end and we got what we deserved.”

Sutton Athletic coach Tristan Cropley added: “For the fans entertaining, for us frustrating really. There’s a thing about getting what you deserve and what you earned. I think we deserved the win but we didn’t earn it so we’ll take a point and it’s a point in the right direction, it’s still a point.

“Greenways scored at the end of the first half and then at the end of the second half, so it’s just poor timing and silly mistakes really.”

Fresh from their 2-0 defeat at fellow promotion-chasing side Larkfield & New Hythe at the weekend, Sutton Athletic started the game on the front foot.

Ashford United manager Tommy Warrilow was in the sparse crowd to keep tabs on his long-term injury-hit striker Levi Gold, who came on for Greenways in the 66th minute and turned the game in his side’s favour.

But Warrilow and other Isthmian League South East Division managers have to keep tabs on Evans, who impressed down the left-flank for Sutton Athletic in the first half.

Evans sped down the left flank and cut the ball back for White, whose shot deflected just past the far post after only 160 seconds into the game.

Evans played the resulting corner short to Dan Gunner, who drilled a low shot towards goal and left-back Alfie Spiers’ back-heel was gobbled up by Daniel Stevens, low to his right.

“We wanted to get out of the blocks early and get an early goal and then we concede early and as you’ve seen with this team it doesn’t impact us. We go again and we did and very quickly we were back in the lead,” added Cropley.

Greenways, however, grabbed the lead, against the run of play at the time, inside the opening six minutes.

Greenways play with three centre-halves and the man in the middle, Atkins, launched a long ball which split open centre-half Darren Wheeler and Walton cut in and drilled his right-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 10-yards.

“A great finish from Simon. He’s upped his game this season. He’s given us a lot of assists and a lot of hard work and effort and he’s a very important player for the team,” said Jeffery.

“What he has done this season, he’s added goals to his game. I think that’s his eighth of the season so for him that’s a good return. It was a good finish and it was against-the-run-of-play but I think we were lucky to take the lead but if you get a chance, you take it.”

Cropley admitted: “We should’ve dealt with that a little bit better. I think we learned from it and everything else was sort of set-piece related or in and around the box but that was something that we should’ve cut out but we didn’t.”

Greenways goalkeeper Stevens pulled off a world-class save to prevent Sutton Athletic’s 12-goal striker Arlie Designs from adding to his impressive tally.

Once again the outstanding Evans was the provider, whipping in a quality cross from the left for the talisman to guide his free header sailing towards the top far corner from eight-yards, only for Stevens to dive high to his right to use his outstretched fingertips to push the ball onto the crossbar.

“How good was Conor Evans? Like he is every week! Very good but it’s those around him as well. You’ve got to win it and give it to him and you’ve got to be on the end of it but he’s definitely a driving force for the tam. If Conor plays well, we play well,” said Cropley.

Jeffery added: “Great save, great keeper. He’s kept us in it numerous times but that’s why he’s there and he did his job today. He's playing with one leg at the moment, he’s currently got a calf injury so he can only kick with his left but fortunately, we’ve got a two-footed goalkeeper.”

Sutton Athletic equalised in the 13th minute, with a well-worked goal.

Right-winger Joby Smith was inside the centre circle inside his own half and his sublime defence splitting pass cut open Atkins to put Desanges through on goal down the right and instead of trying his luck on the angle he put it on the plate for White to side-foot his left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from eight-yards.

Cropley said: “It was a bit too clever. I think if we play attacking football, the way that we play, I think we’re probably up there in the league in terms of entertainment wise.  I think we score some good team goals and we’re good at attacking transitions so I was really impressed with that goal.”

Jeffery said: “They’ve got good quality going forward.  I think they’re exceptional and they’ve got some players that will hurt you.

“They break quickly, they get it down the channels and they feed the box and that’s how they get their goals. Give them too much time, they will punish you and I think that’s what we did in the first half – we gave them far too much time.

“Theo used to play for us. I know him well, he’s a really good lad, a really good player. For them it’s a simple tap-in but it was one I thought we gifted them.”

A long throw from Greenways left-wing-back Sam Harris was cleared out to Saxton, who smacked a half-volley screaming past the left-hand post from 30-yards.

Sutton Athletic produced a quality move on the slick artificial surface to take the lead in the 24th minute.

Gunner played the ball into Sutherland, who released Smith in behind Atkins and he whipped in a cross which flashed across the face of goal and was gleefully tapped into the bottom near corner from a couple of yards out by Evans.

“Two little tap-ins, a little bit too clever sometimes. As a coach you just want them to score the simple ones but it was easy on the eye. It’s good for the fans and we don’t score boring goals,” said Cropley.

Jeffery added: “Same again, I think it was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, down the right-hand side, feed the box and there was someone at the back post. It’s very difficult to defend against.  They are a very good attacking team, so if you give them time, they’ll score.”

Sutton Athletic goalkeeper Joe Hyde was called into action in the 34th minute

Harris put over a cross from the left towards the back post where striker Rhys Abioye shouldered the ball towards the right-hand corner, only for Hyde to claw the ball out while diving to his left.

“He’ll be disappointed with that. He probably should’ve got a bit more on it,” admitted the Greenways manager.

Cropley added: “Great save by Joe and he did a couple of them tonight, top corner, bottom corner. He made himself big and there were times when there were some one-v-ones and he dealt with them.  I think he had a good game. The goals against column might look different in the morning but I thought he had a good game.”

Sutton Athletic’s centre-half Wheeler went long and split open Harris and Atkins to release Desanges down the right and he teed up Smith, who stroked his left-footed shot just past the left-hand post from just outside the D.

Sutton Athletic raced into a deserved 3-1 lead in the 40th minute and once again Evans was involved.

Evans hung over a cross from the left towards Sutherland and Desanges inside the penalty area and Sutherland was on hand to poke the ball past Stevens from inside the six-yard box.

Cropley said: “A good finish.  You originally think he’s teeing it up for Arlie because Arlie has jumped and put the defender off behind and Sutherland is at the back post to tap it in and it’s 3-1.”

“I’m not sure what happened there. The ball sort of seemed to take an age to drop down.  I think there might have been some miss-communication there between our defence and our goalkeeper. The balls hung in the air for too long and he’s just fallen into space and tapped it home,” said Jeffery.

“I wanted to get them in as quickly as possible because from what we discussed at the start of the game, I didn’t think we were doing it. We wasn’t applying the tactics that we set out to do and because of that they were getting more time and more space.”

However, Greenways pulled a goal back at a vital time, one minute and 40 seconds into stoppage time.

Striker Abioye was in a central position some 30-yards from goal and he sprayed the ball over to the right for Walton, who cut in and drilled in a low cross towards the back stick for Austin to tap the ball over the line with his left-foot from a couple of yards.

“That actually came form us pressing so it was James Austin that started that off,” said Jeffery.

“James got it down and played it to Rhys, who then fed Simon, who carried on with his run so that for me was what we needed to do from the first minute and that was a prime example of getting your rewards.

“It was a really, really good time to score and looking back on it, a very important goal for us.

“The goal highlighted what happens when you do the right things so we got in at half-time and discussed that we wanted to play a bit higher. We wanted to make them try and play out and for us to press them higher and I think we did that in the second half.

“The goal didn’t change the team-talk, it just made it an easier one in that we didn’t need to get two goals back, it was just the one.”

Cropley added: “There needs to be a bit of work in regards to stopping the cross in that situation and it was a phrase we hear a lot from opposing managers that I hate ‘game management'.  We didn’t see that. We were probably 30 seconds away from going in at 3-1. We didn’t stop the cross, two runners late in the box and one of them got there and it’s 3-2.”

Greenways started the second half on the front foot, creating their first opening after only 101 seconds when Austin released Walton in behind substitute left-back Joe Hill before dragging his shot across the keeper and past the far post from the angle, 15-yards from goal.

Walton then whipped in a cross from the right, which was headed away by Sutton Athletic’s centre-half Charlie Plummer and Abioye cut the ball onto his left-foot before curling his shot just over the crossbar from 25-yards in the 51st minute.

Jeffery said: “We did start well. I think we started the game with a bit more impetus. We were just a bit quicker, we were more aggressive in the way that we pressed them and I think because of that it got us on the ball in a lot better areas.

“The one thing we did do in the second half, we actually moved the ball and managed the game a lot better.  I thought in the first half in particular, I think we were quite rushed in our passes, we turned over the ball on too many occasions but in the second half we were a lot more calmer in our approach.”

Cropley added: “Our attacking transitions were good. We went through what their shape was, it was a different shape to what we’re used to.  We wanted to use the width of the pitch and also look at areas of the pitch that we were stronger and weaker in, so it was quite a calm half-time.

“We said we were letting in goals at silly times, let’s cut that out and if we can cut that out we know we can score.  We seem to be the league’s entertainers.”

Evans, now playing beside Abioye rather than out wide, missed a glorious chance to send the points back to Hextable when he should have killed the game off in the 62nd minute.

Yet again, Kelly’s men produced a slick move on the deck as Desanges and White linked up well in the final third and played the ball over to an unmarked Evans, but Blosse swiftly pounced to close him down and Evans lashed his left-footed shot over the crossbar from 12-yards.

Cropley said: “Good defending, that’s all you can say. If that was one of our defenders we’d be saying ‘well done!”

Jeffery added: “They’re going to get chances in the game. I did think we limited them in the second half but the couple of chances they did get were from our mistakes. I think largely the things they did well were from things we didn’t do well.”

Greenways continued to press for an equaliser and halfway through the second half Abioye cut the ball onto his right-foot before flashing his shot through a crowd of players and past the left-hand post from 30-yards.

The introduction of Gold livened things up further for Greenways in a second half that wasn’t as lively as the first from both teams.

“Levi’s a good player, direct player that wants the ball into feet, works defenders hard and is a horrible player to play against,” said the Greenways manager.

“He’s just come back from 12-18 months out with a knee injury so he played 60-70 minutes for us on Saturday and it was tactical to bring him on with about half-an-hour to go tonight.  I thought he impacted the game well.”

Greenways were denied a deserved 79th minute equaliser courtesy of a brilliant save from Hyde in a one-v-one dual.

Blosse’s long ball over the top put Walton through on goal and he drilled a powerful shot across the keeper, who dived to his right to tip the ball onto the outside of the far post and behind for a corner.

Cropley said: “We went straight down the other end and nearly scored straight after it. It’s those little boosts, you see your goalkeeper make a save, or a defender make a tackle, it spurs the team on and that save from Joe definitely did that.”

Jeffery added: “Simon was running at full pelt so he was trying to get the ball down. I don’t think he really got it down well enough so he could slot it so he ended up taking it on a half-volley. He’s hit it at the keeper and he’s made a good save in the end and parried it.”

Sutton Athletic also had another chance to win it but were thwarted by a fine save from Stevens.

Smith played a low pass in from the right and Sutherland’s right-footed shot on the turn from 20-yards was blocked by Stevens’ legs, smothering low to his right.

Plummer launched a long free-kick into the Greenways box for Sutherland to tee up Evans, who cut onto his left-foot before curling his shot just past the far post from 20-yards.

There were ugly scenes in front of the away dug-out which saw the referee brandish red-cards to Kelly, Eldridge and Atkins and when Saxton hobbled off with a hamstring strain, Greenways faced a mountain to climb.

Cropley revealed: “What’s unfortunate for me, the Greenways player saw Joby Smith going towards our dug-out at pace, the balls in front of him. As Joby’s gone into the dug-out because he was under his own momentum, the Greenways player (Atkins) thought it would be a good idea to follow through with his arm and elbow and crash Joby into the dug-out.  They’re both on the floor and Dan and Tom try to pick their 18 (Atkins) up and as they’re picking him up his elbows are swinging everywhere.

“The lino and the ref spoke a bit and came over and when I saw the red for Tom and for Dan I was shocked because for me they were the peacemaker. They were trying to get this lad off one of our players and the lad was swinging his elbows as he was going.”

Jeffery added: “I’m not sure it warranted that (red-card) but the referee, I don’t know what he’s seen. He’s spoken to his linesman (Andrew Butler) and given what he’s given, so we’ll have to take the punishment for that.

“It’s certainly something that could’ve been avoided and Matt’s gone in the changing room and apologised.  If you’re getting a red-card, there is something that you could’ve done better, so we’ve given the referee a decision to make and he’s made the decision, whether it’s right or wrong, you could say it’s harsh but we’ve put ourselves in a situation where the referee’s got to make one.

“For me, that’s disappointing particularly when we’re chasing the game so down to 10 men at that point and then Oscar Saxton pulled up with a hamstring strain and then we’re down to nine.

“Oscar had a good game actually, worked his socks off so that’s a loss for us. He’s been a good player for us, a big player for us, so he’ll certainly be missed.”

However, they deservedly claimed a point with a dramatic late equaliser, timed at 50 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Jeffery threw caution to the wind by making two changes in the 86th minute and one of them, Brad Cross, struck the near post with a right-footed free-kick from 20-yards, given after Plummer had harshly been penalised for a soft foul on Pierce on the edge of the penalty area after Blosse floated in a free-kick.

The ball fell kindly for Pierce to slam home the leveller into the middle of the net to share the points.

“I thought when it hits the post that’s when you think it’s not going to happen but I actually thought it was in. I thought it was going to hit the post and go in,” said Jeffery.

“I thought he caught it well but it just curled at the last minute and hit the post and dropped down and fortunately we were there, skipper Andy Pierce to bury it.

“You score in the 96th minute and it’s always jubilant but I don’t think anyone can’t say we didn’t deserve that on the second-half performance.”

Cropley said: “The question we have to look at and there’s nothing that we can do about it, but was it even a free-kick?

“There was a bit of a tussle on the edge of the box, the ref has given less throughout the game.  Both had each other’s arms around each other and it went their way. I don’t think it was a free-kick and they’ve scored from it because they reacted to the second ball and we didn’t.”

Sutton Athletic still had a chance to snatch the three points when substitute Leon Thomas cut the ball onto his left-foot on the right-hand side of the penalty area and his shot was parried away by Stevens, diving low to his right.

Sutton Athletic remain in the top six with 19 points from nine games, a place behind the play-off zone.

Stansfeld are top with 27 points (11 games), while the four play-off places are currently occupied by Croydon (25 points from 12 games), Larkfield & New Hythe (24 from 13), Tooting Bec (24 from 12) and Bridon Ropes (22 from 11).

Greenways, meanwhile, remain in thirteenth-place in the pecking order with 14 points from 11 games.

Both sides are in Kent Senior Trophy First Round action next with Sutton Athletic hosting Premier Division strugglers Welling Town at Lower Road on Saturday, while Greenways welcome Stansfeld here on Monday 18 October.

“It will be a tough game, you now what you’re going to get with Stansfeld,” said Jeffery.

“They work extremely hard, they’re a physical team, but they can play.  We played them on the first game of the season, didn’t show up and lost the game (5-2) quite comfortably in the end.

“They’re flying, we know a few of their boys, it will be a tough game, a very difficult game but we know what they’re about and they know what we’re about so I think whoever turns up on the day and performs better, will win the game.”

Cropley is “looking forward” to facing his old club, who are now managed by Darren Manning, who takes his Welling Town side to Bromley on Wednesday to play Holmesdale, having suffered back-to-back defeats since taking over from chairman Kevin Oakes.

“It should be a competitive game, I’m looking forward to it,” said Cropley.

“They’ve got a new manager in there, he’s trying to implement his new style of play. I know quite a few of their players but I don’t think they’ve had that new manager bounce yet, but will he have implemented his new way of playing by Saturday for us? Hopefully not and we will impose ourselves and when we’re at home, I back us at home against anybody.”

When asked about challenging for promotion, Cropley added: “It’s an old adage, I’m going to say it, you don’t enter no competition to finish fifth, sixth or tenth.  You enter a competition trying to win it. We’ve got as much chance as the other 19 teams that we come up against and we just need to get that consistency.

“Today was really about not losing back-to-back and we didn’t so if we can keep plugging away and get our points per game average up and beat those in and around us we’ll be there or three abouts come the shakeup.

“What are we now? Nine games in, it’s too early to tell. Come back to me when we’re 16 or 18 games in and then we’ll see where we’re at but we haven’t played Croydon yet.  Larkfield and Bridon are the only teams above us that we’ve played.”

Greenways: Daniel Stevens, Simon Walton, Sam Harris, Andy Pierce, Matt Atkins, Ollie Blosse, Tom Reardon (Brad Cross 86), Oscar Saxton, Rhys Abioye (Jack Jeffery 86), James Austin, Farai Maganga (Levi Gold 66).
Sub: Ross Penrose

Goals: Simon Walton 6, James Austin 45, Andy Pierce 90

Booked: Andy Pierce 52, Oscar Saxton 83

Sent Off:  Matt Atkins 89

Sutton Athletic: Joe Hyde, Marvin Francis, Alfie Spiers (Joe Hill 36), Theodore White (Leon Thomas 80), Darren Wheeler, Charlie Plummer, Conor Evans, James Sutherland (Richard Gregory 90), Arlie Desanges, Dan Gunner, Joby Smith.
Subs: Jordan Samuels, Harry Bradford

Goals: Theodore White 13, Conor Evans 24, James Sutherland 40

Booked: James Sutherland 85, Charlie Plummer 90

Sent Off: Daniel Kelly 88 (manager), Tom Eldridge 88 (coach)

Attendance: 65
Referee:  Mr Paul Greenfield
Assistants: Mr Andrew Butler & Mr Keith Wenham