Peckham Town 3-0 Croydon - I think our fans are owed an apology, it wasn't good enough and they deserve better, says Croydon boss Liam Giles

Saturday 24th April 2021
Peckham Town 3 – 0 Croydon
Location Peckham Town FC, 37 Dulwich Common, London SE21 7EU
Kickoff 24/04/2021 13:30

London Senior Trophy Second Round (Sponsored by Kick Up Sports)
Saturday 24 April 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Dulwich Common

CROYDON manager Liam Giles issued an apology to supporters after his side suffered a humiliating London Senior Trophy exit at holders, ten-man Peckham Town.

Giles, who was serving the start of his three-match touchline ban after being sent-off during their 2-2 draw at Lydd Town in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division back on 3 October 2020, admitted his side’s preparations for this behind-closed-doors Second Round tie could have been better.

Croydon have now suffered back-to-back cup defeats having lost 7-1 at Ashford Town (Middlesex) in the Surrey Senior Cup 130 days ago and reached this stage of this competition by beating Athletic Newham 4-3 at their temporary home at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on 5 December.

The Trams were in seventh-place in the league table with 11 points from their seven league outings, played away from their Croydon Sports Arena.

Peckham Town last took to the field in the Kent County League Premier Division 175 days ago, going down to a 6-2 defeat at Kings Hill and were in sixth-place in the table with 14 points from their eight league outings.

Peckham Town celebrated winning the London Senior Trophy for the first time by beating AFC Cubo 5-4 after 16 penalties after 120 minutes of football ended goal-less on 28 August – and a brilliant second half performance gave them a giant-killing act here today.

“We weren’t going to hand it over without a big fight and we definitely put a fight out there today,” said Peckham Town manager Mary Phillip, the only female football manager in men’s senior football.

“They gave me 150% of what was asked of them. We knew it was a big game. We haven’t played since 31 October and this is our first real competitive game. We’ve only managed to get one friendly in because we had teams pull out on us so our match fitness was a worry for me today because although we’ve been doing our training, I wasn’t sure whether it would’ve been enough against a Step Six side.

“The training that I’ve been doing with the guys actually worked and our match fitness came to show because at times we looked a lot fitter than what they did.”

Giles said: “Extremely disappointing, very deflated really. If you don’t take your chances it will come back to bite you.  I think we could’ve had two or three in the first six minutes with Andy Somo there but fair play to Peckham, I think second half they stepped it up and I think the better team won in the end.”

Reflecting on his side’s preparation, Giles said: “Well, we could only do what we could in these last couple of weeks when the lockdown was lifted. Without having a training facility, the club ain’t got much money with the Arena the way it is, we’ve literally just managed to book in a couple of friendlies just to try to tick us over.

“We’ve managed to get a session in for an hour on Wednesday but preparation wasn’t great. It could’ve been a lot better but we don’t have the luxury of the facilities at the moment.”

Croydon started today’s game on the front foot and squandered glorious chances to kill off the contest within the opening 10 minutes before Peckham Town got back into the game and went into the break on level terms.

However, as soon as they lost holding midfielder Joe Thomas to a red-card within the opening four minutes of the second half due to a second yellow card for persistent fouling, Croydon went to pieces and Peckham Town came out deserved winners.

Lone striker David Gabor scored before he was forced off the pitch with a sprained calf and they twice struck the post before his replacement, Marcus Black notched a second goal late on before Brian Villalba put the icing on the cake with an injury-time third to earn a Quarter-Final trip to Bridon Ropes on a date to be arranged by the London FA.

Croydon should have opened the scoring after only 27 seconds when physically strong midfield general Jubril Adamson played the ball out to winger Aaron Loftus and his low centre was hit first-time by Somo but his left-footed shot was scuffed into the grateful hands of Trophy Final hero George Legg, who comfortably gathered the shot on his knees.

“Andy’s looking to go up through the pyramid. He had signed for (National League South side) Tonbridge Angels when they furloughed their staff,” revealed the Croydon boss.

“If he wants to go up the leagues, he needs to be putting them away.  I would’ve banked on him scoring. I would’ve put my house on scoring that one there especially but it wasn’t to be.  A lot of rust and non-activity, maybe.”

Peckham Town’s winger and captain Nicky Meta was a threat down the left wing and he cut in before unleashing a 30-yard drive which rolled into Lee Allen’s gloves for a routine pick-up with just 73 seconds on the clock.

Peckham’s right-back Youseff Bouimane dinked the ball out to winger Kevin Dance on the right and he shrugged past Croydon’s left-back Hanif Charles-Berry but dragged his shot past the near post from just inside the corner of the box.

Bouimane gifted possession to Croydon and John-Price Rylah whipped in a deep cross from the right towards the far post where Martin Smith smacked a left-footed half-volley which stung Legg’s fingers as he got down low to his right to make a fine save inside the opening 10 minutes of an open start to the game.

Peckham Town forced Croydon keeper Allen into making a fine diving save to his right as Villalba’s right-footed dipping free-kick was destined for the near corner of the goal following a 35-yard free-kick.

Croydon were winning the midfield battle during the opening 20 minutes and produced a fine move on the deck involving Richard White and Smith before nine-goal striker Somo swept the ball out to Rylah, who drilled his shot into the side netting from a tight angle.

Bouimane advanced into the final third and cracked a right-footed drive from 30-yards which stung Allen’s fingers after the ball came back out to him after some pin-ball inside the Croydon penalty area.

Peckham Town weathered the storm, however, and went close to grabbing the lead after half-an-hour.

Thomas freed Norman Hong, who advanced from his holding midfield role through the heart of the Croydon half and after skipping past Zach Powell, he was taken out by Croydon’s left-back Charles-Berry just on the edge of the box and Meta stepped up to curl his right-footed free-kick just over the top of the right-hand post from 20-yards.

Phillip said: “Croydon started brightly but the first 10-15 minutes, I’ll give it all out to them, they had us on the back foot but we hadn’t found our feet and we hadn’t actually got into gear yet – we were just all starting the game but once we got the ball down and started playing our game, I think we put them under a bit of pressure because our game is on the floor and creating space and get our players’ on the ball and running at players and put the other team on the back foot and that worked for us when we got hold of the ball today.”

The rest of the first-half was an even contest with no clear-cut chances for these two sides going into the break, leaving Croydon assistant manager John Gladwin to take the half-time team talk out on the pitch.

“I think on another day, if we take our chances, we would’ve been two or three up at the break really,” admitted Giles.

“I think that we almost blew our gasket really.  We came out, obviously it’s a warm day, very, very rusty. I knew we were unfit in our two warm-up games. We were way off it so I said to them try and come out fast, lets try to put the game to bed early and then we can lock in and look after the ball and they’ll be chasing the game. 

“We couldn’t take our chances.  We tried first 25-30 minutes and then we sort of went flat.”

Phillip added: “We knew they’ve got their favourite players and we’ve picked them up and we were holding out and when we got the ball we’d get it down and play.

“Our chances will come if we keep pressing and moving as a team but four minutes into the second half we got Joe sent off, which was obviously disappointing but our 10 players rallied around.

“I had to rejig a little bit and put one of my forwards (Villalba) into midfield but we scored minutes after that, which took a lot of pressure off myself and off the team and just allowed the team to settle back down and still play our game.”

Peckham Town were reduced to 10 men with three minutes and 43 seconds on the clock when referee Abdul Olol showed Thomas his second yellow card for persistent fouling, having clattered into Adamson inside the Croydon half of the pitch.

Phillip said: “It wasn’t deserving of a red card but that to me, being the manager and that’s how I saw it.  You’ve gone for the ball, you’re playing against a six-foot player, Joe’s five foot six, five foot seven and the player is crying like that.  He clearly won the ball and you saw where the ball went.”

Giles said: “I don’t think that was strong enough for a red. It was a second yellow, wasn’t it?

“Probably a bit soft, I don’t know if it was a culmination of things but I think it was a bit soft to be honest with you.

“With them going down to 10 men I would’ve expected us to certainly put the pressure on and I think it was the opposite way around today.”

However, despite being a man down, Peckham Town grabbed the lead in the 54th minute courtesy of a slick attacking move.

Hong played the ball into Villalba, who fed the ball over to Gabor on the right-hand side of the penalty area and Charles-Berry opened the gate to let in the striker and he produced a clinical finish, across the keeper and into the bottom far corner with an angled drive from 10-yards.

Phillip said: “David put them under a lot of pressure throughout the whole game. David was a handful for the Croydon back line. He had a few good chances, we didn’t get them way but second half he got his chance and he put it in the back of the net.”

When asked about Gabor’s strained calf, Phillip replied: “He spent an awful lot of running out there today for us and the pitch is hard and we haven’t been able to get games for match fitness, which plays its part.  The work-rate he put in was fantastic.”

Giles added: “Great finish – but again he had far too much space and I feel when they did go down to 10 men we almost dropped off them.  Their tails were up.

“I said it was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened because we were tired anyway and I think (my players) cheated once they went down to 10 and stopped working and gaps appeared.”

Croydon went close to forcing an equaliser just 138 seconds later when centre-half Powell clipped a ball over the top of the Peckham Town defence to put Smith through on goal but hooked his shot past the top of the near post as keeper Legg came rushing off his line.

“I think go back to the season without the break Smithy puts that in.  Very similar to the last round against Athletic Newham, that’s how he scored the winner, a ball over the top and he lobbed the keeper. I think we were very rusty,” admitted Giles.

Peckham Town were temporarily down to nine men when the referee put Meta in a sin-bin after winning a free-kick inside the centre-circle after being fouled by Adamson in a tussle.

The Peckham Town manager claimed: “He (Adamson) was a big eight and he’s gone down and Nicky just asked the referee to ‘get hold of the game,’ because the referee was losing control of the game.  Their players were swearing at him and nothing was really getting said until (Richard White) swore and the referee put him in the sin-bin (in the 75th minute with the score at 1-0).”

Gabor broke through a tired looking Croydon back four but scuffed his shot into Allen’s gloves from 20-yards as he aimed to slot his low shot into the bottom left-hand corner just before the hour-mark.

Peckham Town were to be denied a second goal in the 61st minute when the base of the post temporarily saved Croydon.

Rylah gave possession away inside his final third to Villalba, who played the ball along the deck to Gabor and his shot from eight-yards clipped the base of the left-hand post with the keeper well beaten.

Philip said: “We were looking to hold on, we wanted that 1-0. We wanted to go forward so it was about re-grouping, getting ourselves back into shape and we were just going to defend what we had. They were going to come at us and take the breaks when we can.  We defended a little bit deeper than what we would do but we know that when we go forward, we’ll go forward in numbers and that’s what we done.

“He went through and it came back out to him but because we’ve got nine men we’ve only got one player in the box, which was him and our other players were 10 yards behind him and couldn’t get back into the box because we were still defending our lines because we know they were going to break out at some point.”

Giles added: “They had the sin-bin and it was really hard to watch, obviously not to be able to influence the game, watching from afar.  Fair play to them, you would’ve thought that we had the nine men and they had 12 based on how the game spun really.”

A long diagonal cross released Smith down the left channel and he cut the ball back to Adamson, who scuffed a weak shot from 16-yards on the angle as Croydon failed to take advantage of playing against nine men at the time.

Peckham Town had something to hold onto and they increased their desire levels for the rest of the game, whereas Croydon’s players’ suffered from fatigue on a warm and sunny day.

“I feel our fitness, we were fatigued. It was almost like a bubble burst with a pin. We just deflated very quickly,” admitted the Croydon boss.

However, Croydon created an opportunity following their fifth and final corner inside the final 12 minutes.

Loftus swung the ball in from the left towards the far post but Powell rose and had too much power on his header, which only just cleared the bar.

At the other end and Peckham Town went close to scoring again.

Croydon cleared their lines and the ball came out to Bouimane in space and the Peckham right-back drilled his right-footed dipping drive just over the crossbar from 35-yards.

Black sprinted past a static Croydon defence but Allen came off his line and kept both of his legs closed as he blocked the low shot and just 18 seconds later Bouimane cut into the box from the right and his shot clipped the near post from a tight angle.

Phillip said: “That was a great strike from Youseff. He picked the ball up just over the half-way line and drove forward and then let one go. That was a screamer. If that had gone in that would’ve truly been game over.”

Giles added: “Again, we just looked so stretched, we were looking to get a goal with an unfit side.  The game’s stretched, it was wide open and we were our own downfall today.  I felt we were giving the ball away in silly areas and I feel that they played on our mistakes.”

Croydon should have taken the game to a penalty shoot-out in the final seven minutes when substitute Nathaniel Howe should have scored with his first touch of the ball.

Another long ball forward was flicked on by targetman Somo which sent Smith charging down the right and he whipped in a sublime cross towards the penalty spot but Howe hooked his volley over the crossbar when he was left in acres of space.

“It was a good move and I think we did play some good stuff in spells but Peckham defended very well,” said Giles.

“They were a lot more hungrier than us but on another day that ball goes in the back of the net but it just wasn’t to be today.”

Philip added: “To limit their chances, I think they had four decent shots in the second half when we’ve only got 10 players out on that field and we only had nine players (for 10 minutes) because we had a player sin-binned.

“To limit a team of Croydon’s stature to that number of chances, all credit had got to go to my players and the work-rate that they put out there today.”

The miss proved costly, however, as Peckham Town claimed the victory by scoring their second goal with three minutes remaining.

Meta swept the ball towards the far post and Charles-Berry was inside his own penalty box and he gifted the ball straight into Black’s feet and the sub striker placed his left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards.

Phillip said: “He couldn’t miss!  He had to put that one away.  Earlier he went through one-on-one and it was a great save by the keeper.

“You give Marcus two chances in that box, one of them is definitely going to go in that net and that is what he done.”

Giles added: “The ball’s come across to the back stick and Hanif’s headed it straight back to their forward, who was basically on the goal-line for a tap-in.

“Hanif’s a great lad. He was at (Isthmian South Central side) South Park this season so he signed for them, got an injury, so maybe a little bit of rust but he’s a great player so you would never expect him to do that. He’s put it straight back in the danger area and it was almost a comedy of errors.”

Peckham Town put the icing with an injury-time third as Dance’s sublime through ball along the deck split open the Croydon defence like a knife through butter to put Villalba in on goal and he easily skipped past keeper Allen before keeping his composure to slot the ball into the bottom far corner of an open goal.

Phillip said: “If we get opportunities to attack, that’s what we’re going to do. We were 2-0 up in a game, we were comfortable, we were defending nicely and we were holding onto the ball and keeping the ball most of the time.

“You put the ball out to Kevin and the space has opened up in Croydon’s area and Kevin exploited that and found Brian in the box, literally one-v-one with the keeper, danced around him and slotted the ball into the net and put the icing on the cake.”

Giles added: “We did just fall apart.  We were over exposed, chasing the game, unfortunately that’s the risk you take.  I think we had five up top at one point when the second went in.

“It was a great finish from the lad. They looked sharper than us. I’d love to know what they’ve been doing to get that sharp in that little bit of time but fair play to them, I think they’ll go on to win the competition.”

An impressive second-half performance form the holders, it was just a shame that fans were not allowed to watch it due to Government restrictions due to Covid-19.

Next up for Peckham Town is a Quarter-Final trip to Bridon Ropes, a side that were second-from-bottom in the league above when the league was curtailed with two draws from their seven league outings.

Peckham Town would be a side that would grace the Southern Counties East Football League First Division with an exciting brand of attacking football – but having no floodlighting at their ground is holding them back currently.

“Today is just our way forward for Peckham Town. We’re an onwards and upwards team,” said Phillip.

“This is a cup that we won last season and we want to go as far as we can in it this year.  We don’t take nothing for granted. We just go out there, work as hard as we can and hopefully get our results.

“You’ve got to create and make your own luck at times and I think we done that today.  We played literally most of the second half with 10 men and hard work out beats talent all day long and we had hard work and we had taken so if you’re not going to match that, you’re going to lose games.

“Every team goes out there to win a game. They’re not out there to sit pretty, like we’re not out there to sit pretty. We want to go out there and go forward in this cup, like they want to, so it’s going to be a whole new challenge out there for us but it’s one that we’re looking forward to, to see if we can get through to the next round.”

For Croydon, a club without a chairman, Giles had this message for their supporters’.

“I think they’re all owed an apology really, from me, from the players. It wasn't good enough!  The only plus side was they haven’t come here and paid to get here and paid to get in so perhaps that it was a good decision that no fans were allowed today.

“Our fans are great, they travel everywhere with us in numbers, they’re a really good bunch and they deserve better than what they’ve seen today, so apologies to them really.”

Peckham Town: George Legg, Youseff Bouimane, Mustapha Hashemi (Adam Toubal 52), Joe Thomas, Adam Carrick, Charlie Egleton, Nicky Meta (Tidian Barry 88), Norman Hong, David Gabor (Marcus Black 74), Brian Villalba, Kevin Dance.

Goals: David Gabor 54, Marcus Black 88, Brian Villalba 90

Booked: Joe Thomas 24

Temporary Dismissal: Nicky Meta 57

Sent Off:  Joe Thomas 49

Croydon: Lee Allen, Johnny Akoto (Jack Sims 58), Hanif Charles-Berry, Richard White, Zach Powell, Rhys Coleman, Aaron Loftus (Nathaniel Howe 82), Jubril Adamson (JJ Johnson 64), Andy Somo, Martin Smith, John-Prince Rylah.
Subs: Kieran Rufus, Dan O’Donovan

Booked: Martin Smith 24, Hanif Charles-Berry 30, Jack Sims 73

Temporary Dismissal:  Richard White 75

Attendance: 0
Referee: Mr Abdul Olol
Assistants: Mr Dorken Baltas & Mr Chisom Adiele