Phoenix Sports 3-3 Beckenham Town - We haven't thrown the towel in - give the club 110%, give it everything you've got to stay above the dotted line and everything will be fine, says Phoenix Sports boss Steve O'Boyle

Wednesday 14th February 2024
Phoenix Sports 3 – 3 Beckenham Town
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 14/02/2024 19:45

Isthmian League South East Division
Wednesday 14 February 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS manager Steve O’Boyle has told his players to give everything to the club to ensure they finish above the dotted line after being held by basement side Beckenham Town in a frenetic relegation six-pointer.

O’Boyle's side remain third-from-bottom in the Isthmian League South East Division table, having picked up 20 points (five wins, five draws and 16 defeats) from their 26 games, while Beckenham Town (14 points, three wins, five draws and 16 defeats) remain rooted to the foot of the table as their two-year stint in the eighth-tier of English football looks to be coming to an end.

Phoenix Sports stormed into a two-goal lead inside the opening 18 minutes through Daniel Duncanson and winger Ryan Hayes both scoring from outside the penalty box.

But Beckenham Town showed plenty of heart and desire to force themselves back into the game by scoring twice in 77 seconds through debutant Jameim Whyte’s close-range finish and the impressive Rhys Wyborn drilling in a 30-yarder.

Phoenix Sports headed in a third on the stroke of half-time through striker Luke Leppard, but Beckenham Town claimed a deserved point through Steven Townsend.

Phoenix Sports extended their winless run to seven games, while since Darren Anslow came in to the hot-seat at Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham Town’s statistics in League and Cup now read 15 games, two wins, four draws and nine defeats.

“I sum it up with a point on the board and it’s not the end of the world,” said O’Boyle, whose side lost to Herne Bay (0-2), Erith & Belvedere (0-1) and Littlehampton Town (0-2) before tonight.

“I agree with you, both teams gave everything. There wasn’t much quality in the game. I can’t fault their effort.

“It’s a point gained, just lost a few in a row, a point gained.

“It was a positive reaction.  Being 2-0 up and just thought maybe we should’ve kicked on from that and we sort of didn’t kick on and that’s probably the only disappointing thing for me.”

Sorry, Beckenham Town fans, Anslow failed to show up for the post-match press conference, so you will never know how your head coach feels about the club’s chances of escaping relegation.

Most of this game was played at a frenetic pace, with both teams often treating the ball like a hot potato – but both sets of players’ gave their all, giving plenty heart and desire for the cause.

Phoenix Sports drew first blood, taking the lead with nine minutes and 16 seconds on the clock, following a two-man set-piece.

Left-back Emmanuel Oladejo threw the ball inside to Duncanson, who cut along the 18-yard line while being closely marked before clinically drilling a right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

“Quite pleasing because we actually work on that throw, so it was nice to actually see a goal go in from it for a change.  We’ve worked on it in training and a good strike, a good goal,” said O’Boyle, who explained the reason why Duncanson was withdrawn in the 52nd minute.

“The thing is I think we missed him when he went off.  He hasn’t been well over Christmas and it's affected him quite badly and his fitness levels are not fantastic.”

Beckenham Town countered with Townsend playing the ball out to attacking midfielder Townsend – who played behind the two strikers of Whyte and Alfie Bloomfield – before he stabbed the ball to Segun Ikudehinbu, who lacked composure and lashed his first-time drive high, high over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Phoenix Sports doubled their lead with 17 minutes and 24 seconds on the clock after Beckenham Town’s centre-half Mudiaga Wanogho was booked for a challenge on Leppard.

Hayes appeared to look up and shape to float a cross into a crowded penalty area, instead the 38-year-old drilled a left-footed delivery from 35-yards which curled into the top right-hand (far) corner of the goal, giving keeper Nick Blue no chance, as Hayes notched his seventh goal of the season.

“I was just saying, there was a slight breeze and I fancied him on it and it was a very good strike,” added O’Boyle, who was asked his thoughts with his side leading two-nil at such an early stage in the game.

“How long to go? How long to go?  Just keep on doing what we were doing. It was working, keep on the front foot and that’s all you wanted really and like you say, maybe manage the game a little bit better.

“We didn’t manage the game. I think that’s something we don’t do, manage the game very well.”

Now facing a mountain to climb, Beckenham Town showed tremendous character to fight their way back into the game, as Phoenix Sports’ right-back Henry Douglas went missing on a couple of occasions.

Beckenham Town’s left-winger Freddie Nyhus drilled a left-footed angled drive towards goal from 25-yards which goalkeeper Andy Walker patted the ball up and that caused a goal-mouth scramble and Whyte placed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from close range as Beckenham Town pulled a goal back with 23:20 on the clock.

“A bit of a sucker punch really because it was a good save and a great block and then you think you’ve done enough to stop that going in and they’ve scored from it, so it was a bit of a sucker punch,” admitted O’Boyle.

Beckenham Town restored parity just 77 seconds later when right-back Nathan Paul smashed a diagonal from just inside the Phoenix Sports half over to the impressive left-back Wyborn, who drilled a left-footed angled drive across Walker to find the bottom far corner from 30-yards.

“We had the ball and we lost it.  We should’ve clipped the line, never, got caught. It’s something we don’t do very well and we had an overload on our right-hand side. We did for the first goal as well and we got caught down the side again. To be fair, it was a good finish wasn’t it.”

O’Boyle added: “Do you really want to know (how I was feeling)? I don’t want to swear!

“Look, it’s been extremely tough and we don’t seem to be getting any breaks.  Just want a little bit of the rub of the green and we don’t seem to be getting that.

“People say you don’t get that down the bottom.  You certainly don’t get that down the bottom but I’m not a manager whose making excuses and we will keep on going.” 

Beckenham Town were now in the ascendancy and playing on the front-foot, with Phoenix Sports’ confidence shot to pieces having thrown away an early two-goal lead.

The home side needed half-time, as Beckenham Town were the better side in a frenetic first half with so much at stake.

However, disaster struck Beckenham Town as their centre-half Donnell Anderson switched off and allowed Leppard to knock in a free header with 48:47 on the clock.

Central midfielder Denzelle Olopade switched the ball out to Hayes, who dinked a cross in from the right channel towards an unmarked Leppard, who steered his free-header into the top left-hand corner from two-yards at the far post.

“A good ball in and Luke got on the end of it didn’t he, so it was quite a nice boost going into half-time,” said O’Boyle.

“What does Luke give us? He gives us absolutely everything he’s got in his body. He plays 100%.  He’s a bit of a throwback from the 80s and he’s not everyone’s cup of tea is he but at least when I look at him in the changing room afterwards and I know he’s given me 100% and when you’re down there, I think you probably need that.”

When asked about his thoughts at the break, O’Boyle replied: “Not much really. Tried to keep it as calm as possible. Basically said ‘go out there again and defend better and basically the worst case scenario, make this the worst, most boring half of football ever if need be, to win the game – but win the game!”

Phoenix Sports goalkeeper Walker was the busier of the two keeper’s – but it seemed in the first half that every shot at goal went in (apart from one that lead to a goal).

Holding midfielder Terlochan Singh fed Segun Ikundehinbu, who found the impressive Freddie Nyhys in space and his left-footed angled drive from 25-yards out on the right, was smothered by Walker, low to his left inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

The home side produced a three-man move from left-to-right with wideman Marvin Herschel playing the ball into the middle for Olopade, who switched the ball out to Hayes on the right, who cut inside and onto his left-foot before whipping a curler around the far post from 25-yards.

O’Boyle felt his side should have headed in their fourth goal in the 59th minute.

Hayes floated in the home side’s third (of four) corner of the game towards the back post where centre-half Adejola Lahan powered his free header over the crossbar from eight-yards.

“I think he’s got to score that, I think he’s got to score that. It was a free header, at least hit the target, he’s got to score it,” added O’Boyle.

Beckenham Town’s manager Jason Huntley got off his seat in the stand to pass instructions over to Anslow from the perimeter fencing and this was the time for the away side to go all out attack in a 4-3-3 formation, sometimes putting four men up front.

They went close at the half-way point when Douglas picked up a yellow card from referee Lawrence Torz-Brown for a foul on Townsend.

Substitute striker Jeremiah Frimpong stroked a right-footed free-kick from 28-yards over the two-man wall and Walker dived to his right as the ball drifted past the top of the left-hand post.

At this point in proceedings, a sixth goal looked likely, and Beckenham were the most likely side to snatch it.

The ball was positioned just inches from the left touchline and Wyborn whipped in a free-kick with his left-foot. The ball was cleared and came out to Ikudehinbu, who cracked a stinging left-footed volley from 25-yards, which flew straight down Walker’s throat, who grabbed the ball at the second attempt while standing in the centre of his goal.

“Thank god for that,” came O’Boyle’s response.

“I never ever think the game’s won.  I never think a game’s won (at that point).

Hayes put in a low cross from the right towards substitute central midfielder Kieran King, whose right-footed shot on the turn from 18-yards was lashed over the crossbar in a central position.

Beckenham Town missed a gilt-edged chance to claim an equaliser when Wyborn played a quality 40-yard pass along the deck to split the Phoenix Sports defence but Townsend dwelled on the ball inside the penalty area and this allowed Peter to get back to block the shot, with Walker narrowing the angle at his near-post.

Beckenham Town deserved their equaliser with 37 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock with a well-worked move in the final third.

Wyborn fed Ikudghinbu, who played the ball to Townsend, who slipped the ball in behind Lahan to release Wyborn inside the penalty area who put it on a plate for Townsend, to stretch to poke his right-footed shot across Walker to find the far corner from six-yards.

“Disappointing goal to give away. I thought we was off the man. I don’t know whose man it was. We had enough time in there and I think if you’re defending for your lives and you’ve only got 10 minutes to go, I don’t think they should have that time in our box,” admitted O’Boyle.

Beckenham Town kept plugging away in search of a winner, while Phoenix Sports were looking fragile and looking to crack under pressure at any time.

The final whistle was blown by the referee at 53:15 after Walker made a comfortable save with the last chance of the game (48:03).

Blue (who didn’t make a save during the entire game) launched a big kick upfield, the ball was headed away by Douglas and the ball bounced a couple of times before an unmarked Townsend hit a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which Walker held comfortably low to his left, preventing the ball to nestle inside the bottom right-hand corner.

O’Boyle takes his side to fourth-placed Lancing on Saturday.

“My thoughts are Merstham got a fantastic result (2-0) at (league leaders) Ramsgate on Saturday. Can we do the same at Lancing?

“I will be positive. I will never go into any game thinking we can’t win.  If we go there and we play well – they’re a good side – but if we play well, we can beat anyone in this league and we’ve shown it. We’ve beaten Ashford twice, we’ve beat Sevenoaks, we’ve beat Chichester. We can beat any team in this league if we turn up on our day.”

The bottom seven contains Broadbridge Heath (25 points from 25 games), Littlehampton Town (25 points from 24 games), East Grinstead Town (24 points from 24 games), Merstham (23 points from 25 games) and Phoenix Sports (20 points from 26 games).

Erith & Belvedere (19 points from 26 games) and Beckenham Town (14 points from 24 games) are beneath the dotted line.

“We’re above the dotted line, as long as we stay above that dotted line, I don’t care.  I don’t know how we’re going to do it.  However, we do it, we do it.  I’ve just said to the team in there, ‘boys, 12 games to go, give me 110%, sorry, don’t give me 110%, give the club 110%, give it everything you’ve got to stay above the dotted line, everything will be fine,” said O’Boyle.

It's very hard for club’s to get out of the relegation zone in this eighth-tier division, as O’Boyle, who has suffered relegation with Greenwich Borough and Phoenix Sports points out.

“Have I been in this situation before? Yes, I have. We’re above the dotted line. When we was in this position two years’ ago, we was never above the dotted line. We was always below the dotted line and we were always chasing.  We’re not chasing. We’ve got to get more points than the two teams below us and can we try to catch a couple of teams above us.

“Listen, all we have to do is win our games, win our games and everything will be fine.

“I’m not going to lose confidence in my ability. I’m not going to lose confidence in the club and in the dressing room and I’ve got to just put everything I can into them and instil as much confidence into them as possible to keep us playing well because we have got some good players in there and hopefully they will show that in the next 12 games.

“We haven’t thrown the towel in. There’s no bell being run and we will fight.”

O’Boyle revealed that he is being priced out of the non-contract transfer market by clubs in the Southern Counties East Football League.

O’Boyle has lost striker Andy Pugh (retirement) and didn’t specify the injuries to Tom O’Connor and Bertie Valler, while Conor Johnson, Danny Lear and Bobby Mills have been ruled out with ACL injuries.    Contracted striker Tashi-Jay Kwayie is in New York through his work commitments as a model.

“The top end of the pitch has been an absolute nightmare and you try to replace Andy Pugh! It has been extremely tough at the top end of the pitch,” said O’Boyle.

“You’ve got three strikers with ACL’s, out for the season.  Conor Johnson, Danny Lear hasn’t kicked a ball for the club and Bobby Mills fell off a ladder at work. That’s hard but let’s not cry about it! Let’s not feel sorry for ourselves, we keep on going.

“I’m telling you now, I will tell you now, non-league football is on its knees and the reason it’s on its knees is this football club, right, I spend hours and hours every day trying to recruit players to bring players to this football club but players are getting offered stupid money to play park football, Step Six, Step Five. I can’t afford anyone!  I can’t afford to bring anyone into this football club because they can get paid more money playing Step Six and Step Five.

“It’s absolutely killing non-league football because players want ridiculous money without doing anything in the game for it and it’s becoming extremely frustrating.

“A lot of time goes into it and it’s getting worse! I’m on the phone constantly trying to get players into this football club to try to keep this very good club up.  Players don’t want to come because they want a pound note at Step Five and Step Six.

“I think a good young player should test himself at Step Four and play the highest level they can but football has got absolutely ridiculous!”

There could be another twist in this relegation dog-fight as Erith Town officials claimed last night that Erith & Belvedere signed Henry Arnold from the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division club without submitting a seven-day approach, which is usually done by email.

Arnold played in and scored in Erith & Belvedere’s 3-1 win away to Hythe Town on Tuesday 6 February, so if charged by the Isthmian League for playing an ineligible player, Erith & Belvedere are likely to lose those three points.

“Yes, I know the story, yes my thoughts are they’ve (Erith & Belvedere) played an ineligible player,” alleged O’Boyle.

“They’ve taken two Erith Town players (Macey Malyon and Arnold) within 28 days, sorry, that’s a Rule breach.

“I was at Greenwich Borough and I got deducted three points – I got relegated on those three points and I tell you what they’ve done is a lot worse than Greenwich Borough.

“I’ll be honest with you, on New Years’ Day I played Tom O’Connor up front against Beckenham because I needed authorisation from a Step Five club to bring a player in.  I never got the authorisation so I couldn’t play my player. I had to play a central midfielder up front, so you tell me how that’s fair for Phoenix and it’s alright for Erith & Belvedere to do it.

“They’ve played an ineligible player and they should be done three points.”

Meanwhile, Beckenham Town could be reinstated in the Kent Senior Cup and play away to Ebbsfleet United in the Quarter-Finals on 27 February.

Dover Athletic – who beat Beckenham Town 4-0 in the Second Round – have allegedly played a cup-tied player. 

According to Football Web Pages, Nico Jones wore the number five shirt for Welling United in their 7-1 defeat at Sevenoaks Town on 29 November.

According to Football Web Pages, Nico Jones wore the number five shirt for Dover Athletic – and was also sent-off during their 4-0 win over Beckenham Town at Eden Park Avenue on Tuesday 6 February.

The Kent Football Association have said that they are investigating the situation and “any actions will be processed in line with FA regulations and the competition rules.”

Meanwhile, this website prides itself on accurate match day reporting and interviewing manager’s post-match.  Just because you were criticised during an awful 6-1 home defeat, shouldn’t mean you decline a chance to tell your fans your thoughts on tonight’s game and your chances of escaping relegation.

Spending £5,000 (a season) of my own money – without funding – in a cost-of-living crisis , a couple of years after my mum died of cancer – giving club’s FREE PUBLICITY – all I ask for is 10 MINUTES of your time after a game.  Not too much to ask, is it?  Thank you to all the managers that do though.

Phoenix Sports: Andy Walker, Henry Douglas, Emmanuel Oladejo, Ross Craig, Dexter Peter, Adejola Lahan, Marvin Herschel (Gael Kileba 58), Denzelle Olopade, Luke Leppard (Joe Thomas 78), Daniel Duncanson (Kieran King 52), Ryan Hayes.
Subs: Lewis Clark, Liam Cormack

Goals: Daniel Duncanson 10, Ryan Hayes 18, Luke Leppard 45

Booked: Luke Leppard 45, Henry Douglas 67

Beckenham Town: Nick Blue, Nathan Paul, Rhys Wyborn, Terlochan Singh, Mudiaga Wanogho, Donnell Anderson, Segun Ikudehinbu, Freddie Nyhus (Eri Akintimehin 75), Alfie Bloomfield (Dieko Falade 56), Jameim Whyte (Jeremiah Frimpong 46), Steven Townsend.
Subs: Abbas Agoro, Henry Griffin

Goals: Jameim Whyte 24, Rhys Wyborn 25, Steven Townsend 83

Booked: Mudiaga Wanogho 17

Attendance: 121
Referee:  Mr Lawrence Torz-Brown
Assistants: Mr Gulam Damji & Mr Stephen Matthews