Phoenix Sports 2-1 Charlton Athletic - Charlton at home, yes everyone’s up for it. They’ve got to be up for Ramsgate away and Whitstable away and games like that, says Phoenix Sports boss Paul Bryon

Wednesday 04th December 2019
Phoenix Sports 2 – 1 Charlton Athletic
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 04/12/2019 19:45

Kent Senior Cup Second Round
Wednesday 4 December 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS manager Paul Bryon says knocking Charlton Athletic out of the Kent Senior Cup is brilliant for the club.

Phoenix Sports became the first side to book their place in the Quarter-Finals after beating Football League opposition for the very first time.

Jason Euell’s Charlton Athletic under 23’s are currently in third-place in the Professional Development League South table with 20 points from their 12 of 20 league games, eight points adrift of league leaders Watford and they arrived in Barnehurst on an eight-match unbeaten run in their league.

After beating Isthmian League Premier Division side Margate in the Kent Senior Cup First Round, Phoenix Sports won 2-1 at Faversham Town, before losing 3-1 at Hastings United and losing 3-2 at Chichester City before coming away from Ramsgate with a 1-1 draw at the weekend.

The part-time hosts went into this game sitting in tenth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 19 points from 14 games.

Charlton Athletic were given a helping hand from eagle-eyed referee Ben Atkinson, who was the only person in the ground to see a push inside the penalty box following Charlton Athletic’s second corner of the night and awarded a penalty, which was tucked home by holding midfielder Junior Quitirnia.

Phoenix Sports striker Ben Allen, who looked keen to impress, had a penalty saved by visiting goalkeeper Nathan Harness before they turned the game on its head with two goals in the space of 99 seconds in the second half when Lauris Chin and Jeff Duah-Kessie scored as Phoenix Sports celebrated claiming their biggest scalp in their 84-year history.

“I thought first half we were a bit naïve, we were trying to get instructions from the bench on how we play,” said Bryon.

“Once we worked out how they were playing I told them to pass the ball, they were pressing the ball in tight areas and they’re obviously fit lads, they train every day and they’re a little bit sharper than us.

“I thought their full-backs were getting on and we should be hitting areas where their full-backs have come from. I just thought we were a bit naïve and we were trying to get that instruction on. 

“We knew we would have that aerial threat. We were hitting the front man with our set-pieces.

“I wasn’t unhappy at half-time and I knew we would get back into the game.  Overall, I’m delighted with the result.

“I’m annoyed and my annoyance comes from the fact if we played like that at Ramsgate on Saturday we would’ve come away with three points and that’s what I’ve just said to them. 

“Charlton at home, yes everyone’s up for it. They’ve got to be up for Ramsgate away and Whitstable away and games like that and that’s what I’ve just said to them. Yes, I’m pleased but I’ve got a job to do and it just doesn’t stop here.”

Bryon made just the one change from their team at Ramsgate at the weekend with Lee Bird coming in for Ashley Probets – and the manager did play three at the back tonight.

“I’ve changed my formation because of the players I’ve had available,” explained Bryon.

“I wanted the players who have been loyal to me to get a chance to play in this game so I completely changed my formation. We haven’t played it this season or last season as it happens, it worked!”

Phoenix Sports created the first opening inside the opening five minutes when Bird found space down the left to float in a deep cross for Duah-Kessie, whose acrobatic scissor kick from 12-yards bounced into the hands of Harness.

“The thing I’m pleased with that, I told Jeff to hit it first time!  He’s done that and it just hasn’t come off but the fact that he was positive and hit it first time without trying to get it down and beat a man, it was a positive sign,” said his manager.

The Addicks’ took nearly 16 minutes to create their first opening when right-winger Abraham Odoh played the ball inside to Charles Clayden, who hit his left-footed drive dipping just over the crossbar from a central position some 22-yards from goal.

Charlton Athletic linked up well in a triangle down the right with right-back Kenneth Yao, Odoh and Clayden down the right, who released John Powell and his cut back was expertly cut out by a diving Phoenix Sports goalkeeper Steve Phillips, who surprisingly had a quiet night against full-time footballers.

Charlton Athletic were inches away from taking the lead in the 20th minute when Clayden released the ball on his outside to striker Wilberforce Ocran, who drove his right-footed angled drive across the keeper and skimmed the foot of the outside of the far post from just inside the penalty area.

“We played three at the back so we knew if we weren’t disciplined they’d hurt us wide so we tried to be disciplined and that was one time that they got in. I still think if he hit the target Steve would’ve saved that,” added Bryon.

Charlton Athletic opened the scoring from the penalty spot with 25 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Powell floated in a corner from the left and the referee Ben Atkinson must have seen something that no one else did and awarded Charlton Athletic a penalty.

Quitirnia stepped up and smashed his left-footed penalty high into the top right-hand corner of the net, despite keeper Phillips diving to his left and getting a hand to the ball.

“No idea! No idea what happened! The ref said we were pulling him back. I have no idea.  You see it every week in the Premiership, they’re never given, he’s obviously given it.

“It was Jack Hopkins. I asked at half-time. I just asked the referee was it for? He said he was holding him.

“I’m too far away so I couldn’t argue. He’s given it, they’ve scored so that’s the way it is, you’re not going to change his decision!”

Phoenix Sports were awarded a penalty in very similar circumstances and Allen failed to score it, with 31 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

There was pushing and shoving inside the Charlton Athletic box before winger George Whitelock swung the ball in from the right and Charlton Athletic striker Josh Davison fell on his backside inside his crowded penalty area after the referee pointed to the spot for the second time.

Allen stepped up and his right-footed penalty was parried by Harness, diving to his right, whose reactions were swift as he recovered to ensure Kenny Aileru couldn’t tuck home the rebound, flicking the ball on the top of the crossbar and behind for a corner.

“He said apparently he stopped our four (Hopkins) from pulling them three times and then the other guy pulled him, so it was exactly the same thing. He had his arms around him,” explained Bryon.

“I didn’t see what it was for but I’ll take it although we’ve missed it. We’ve been struggling for a penalty taker at the moment, I must be honest. That was Ben’s first pen.  It was a great save from the keeper, the keeper’s had a good day today. I know he’s got beat but he’s pulled off three worldies for me.”

Phoenix Sports’ right-wing-back Aileru played the ball in from the right and Allen made space before curling his left-footed shot from 22-yards, which was comfortably caught by Harness.

Phoenix Sports created a couple of chances from set-pieces towards the end of the first half.

Firstly, Whitelock swung the ball in from the right which was met at the far post by Duah-Kessie, who sent his downward header just past the left-hand post from three-yards out.

Whitelock’s fifth corner was also delivered deep and Danny Young – who played in the centre of a three-man defence alongside Lewis Clark (left) and Ryan Andrews (right) - looped his header just over the crossbar as the Charlton Athletic keeper attempted to flick the ball over.

Bryon said: “So I said to them just hit the far post, just hang it up because we’re better in the air than them. We play in a physical league, they don’t! I know under 23’s leagues, my other boy plays in it (Lewis for Crystal Palace).  I said put it far post and we’ll win every header and I was disappointed with our delivery in the first half if I’m honest and we spoke about that at half-time.”

“I said to them, for the full-backs to get on, we’ve got to exploit that space. The only way we’re going to get room to play in the middle of the park is put the ball where the full-backs should be and then the full-backs will stay at home, so I said we have to be a bit more agricultural and hit diagonals and put it in the channel a few times.  That was what I was trying to say to them during that first half but we’ve actually done it in the second half!”

Charlton Athletic were to be denied the lead inside the opening six minutes of the second half, courtesy of some great desire from Clark.

Powell put Clayden through on goal and he skipped past the advancing Phillips and slotted his low shot towards the bottom near corner, only for Clark to get back to clear the ball off the line.

Phoenix Sports grabbed an equaliser with seven minutes and 14 seconds on the clock, courtesy of Chin’s third goal of the season.

Allen played a sublime through ball to put Chin through on goal, who capitalised from a mix-up from centre-half Billy French, and this invited Chin to race through straight down the middle before dinking the ball past the advancing keeper into the centre of an open goal.

“I thought their centre-half was outstanding, Chinny had him one-on-one twice and his pace, he’s timed his tackles brilliantly.  I thought they’ve got some very good players but Chinny’s got in and the keeper’s come out in no-mans land and it’s a good finish from him,” said Bryon.

Phoenix Sports scored the winning goal just 99 seconds later, courtesy of Duah-Kessie’s eleventh goal of the season.

Allen floated a great cross in from the right which was met by Duah-Kessie at the far post and he hooked his left-footed volley past Harness to find the bottom near corner.

“That is what we spoke about, hit the far post and get around the far post, they can’t deal with it and Ben’s put one on the far post and Jeff’s done his job and he’s there for a tap in,” said Bryon.

“It was better (in the second half) in a sense that we played to our strengths against them. We know their strengths were nipping in and pressing us and stuff like that so we played to our strengths and it hurt them.

“Everyone says Jeff’s a s*** player, everyone says ‘why have you for Jeff for?’ 

“He’s always up there, I think he’s now the fifth top leading goalscorer now, he’s just one of those players, he can have bad moments in a game but he can win you the game.  He does the right things and I’m over the moon with him, I won’t swap him!”

Phoenix Sports were clearly up for it and showed desire and character to keep their lead intact.

Charlton Athletic cranked up their desire levels after throwing away the lead and right-back Yao played the ball down the line to release Ocran, who stung Phillips’ fingers with a driven cross-shot on the hour-mark.

Whitelock was putting in some precise corners and Jack Hopkins rose to head straight at Harness from inside the six-yard box inside the final 20 minutes.

The 19-year-old goalkeeper pulled off a world-class save to prevent Phoenix Sports scoring a third goal.

Clark played the ball over the top to put Allen through on goal and the former Gillingham striker drilled his left-footed shot towards the top near corner from eight-yards, only for the keeper to use a strong right hand to palm the ball over his crossbar, as he dropped to the floor.

“We’ve had another great chance when Ben’s gone through and the keeper’s pulled off a great one-handed save, which is a worldie, that’s 3-1,” said Bryon.

“The keeper’s had a good day, we’ve won 2-1 and their keeper was probably their best player!”

Charlton Athletic squandered a couple of glorious chances to spoil Phoenix Sports’ big night.

Clayden sprinted down the left before whipping in a great deep cross which was put on a plate for substitute Kareem Isiak, who flicked his free header across goal and bouncing past the far post from six-yards.

“He had a header, skimmed header, yes he’s got to do better there,” admitted the Phoenix Sports manager.

Phoenix Sports created another opening just 76 seconds later when Duah-Kessie steered his header across goal and past the far post when he met Whitelock’s corner.

Whitelock almost scored direct from the home side’s ninth and final corner of the night, swung in from the right and palmed over the crossbar by the impressive Charlton Athletic goalkeeper.

Charlton Athletic almost forced a penalty-shoot out but striker Josh Davison missed their best chance of the night with four minutes and nine seconds into time added on, with Harness joining the sea of Charlton players in the penalty area.

They forced a free-kick close to the by-line within the right channel and the ball was swung in by Quitirnia towards the near post and Davison’s powerful header smacked the underside of the crossbar from a couple of yards out.

“I know we’re a bit lucky there. I don’t know if it was a free-kick, the guy slipped and the ref’s given it for pulling but you take it. He’s hit the bar, it’s unlucky, I think that’s probably their easiest chance of the day but we got away with it. We dug in and got away with it. It’s a good result,” said Bryon, who was asked who he wants in the Quarter-Finals.

“I didn’t even know it was the quarter-finals! It depends who we get. It would be nice to get a Gillingham if they’ve won (at Bromley) or something like that. A home draw again.  Today is for the club, for us it’s a game of football but for the club it’s a gate and everything like that.”

Phoenix Sports beating Charlton Athletic in a competitive cup fixture will go down as the club’s greatest achievement so far.

“The thing for me is it’s a bonus game and I just wanted us to put on a performance and we’ve put on a performance and whatever the result is the result but we’ve put on a performance and we’ve got another bonus game now where we can maybe use some players.

“Tonight I played my strongest 11 I had available and I had four out.  I played them because they deserved to play in this sort of game but any other day I might play some bench players and stuff like that in this cup but not today.

“They want to play against Charlton so they deserved it. I can’t rest them for a game like this. This is what people want to play in.  If we go away to places like Ramsgate and that and you get a home game against Charlton I’m not going to leave out some of my senior players out when they’re dying to play.”

Now, the big challenge is replicating tonight’s performance away to 12th placed Whitstable Town back in the Isthmian League on Saturday.

Lloyd Blackman’s side lost 3-1 at home to Hastings United last night, with the new league leaders scoring all of their goals from headers from set-pieces.

“If we play like we did against Ramsgate, we’re in for a long afternoon, but if we play like we did today, we’ll win the game, it’s as simple as that.  No one will beat us if we play like we played today, maybe Hastings but after them, no one,” insisted Bryon.

“I’m expecting exactly the same as I got today, effort, desire, follow instructions, stick to the game plan, three points. That’s what I’m expecting. I’m expecting nothing less than a win.”

Bryon admitted he feels “disappointed” with his side’s position in the league table, five points adrift of the play-offs.

“Disappointing, disappointing with the way we play in some games. I think Ramsgate away was our worst performance. I think we haven’t performed to our ability if I’m honest, so I’m disappointed.

“I’ve just said to them, take that and play Charlton at home against Whitstable away and rather than Ramsgate away and if we do that we’ll win a game of football, simple as!”

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Kenny Aileru, George Whitelock, Danny Young, Ryan Andrews, Lewis Clark, Jack Hopkins, Lee Bird, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Ben Allen, Lauris Chin (Ryan Solan 89).
Subs: Andrew Dythe, Mahmoud Juma, Henry Douglas, Charlie Busby

Goals: Lauris Chin 54, Jeff Duah-Kessie 54

Booked: Ben Allen 90

Charlton Athletic: Nathan Harness, Kenneth Yao, Kasim Aidoo, Armando Junior Quitirnia, Billy French, Sam Keefe (Mo Bulhart 78), John Powell (Kareem Isiak 71), Charles Clayden, Josh Davison, Wilberforce Ocran, Abraham Odoh.
Subs: Nathan Harvey, Eddie Allsopp, Dylan Gavin

Goals: Armando Junior Quitirnia 26 (penalty)

Booked: John Powell 56, Abraham Odoh 89

Attendance: 220
Referee: Mr Ben Atkinson
Assistants: Mr Michael Butcher (Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey) & Mr Liam Vitoria (Sevenoaks)
Fourth Official:  Mr Scott Rudd (Rochester)