Phoenix Sports 4-1 Cray Valley (Paper Mills) - I didn't see that one coming, admits Cray Valley boss James Collins

Thursday 27th July 2017
Phoenix Sports 4 – 1 Cray Valley (Paper Mills)
Location Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT
Kickoff 28/07/2017 19:45

Pre-Season Friendly
Friday 28th July 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) manager James Collins insists his side will be ready to play Abbey Rangers in The Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round next Saturday.

The Millers finished in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division last season and produced giant-killing acts to beat Welling United, AFC Wimbledon, Dulwich Hamlet and Metropolitan Police to become the first side at their level to win the London Senior Cup, but they were thrashed by Bostik South side Phoenix Sports in their penultimate pre-season outing.

Calamitous defending from the Millers gifted Phoenix Sports a three-goal advantage going into the break as former Hythe Town striker Frankie Sawyer was left unmarked in the box to score a couple of copy-cat goals, before former Thurrock striker Jack Barham also got on the scoresheet.

Phoenix Sports scored a fourth goal on the hour-mark through left-back Ashley Probets’ 30-yard free-kick.

Cray Valley’s right-winger Denzel Gayle capped off his outstanding performance by pulling a goal back in the final six minutes as Phoenix Sports came out comfortably winners in a game that was refereed by former Thamesmead Town and VCD Athletic player Farai Hallam.

Phoenix Sports manager Steve O’Boyle, who starts his Bostik South campaign with a trip to Ramsgate on 12 August, said: “I was really pleased with the win, I know it’s only pre-season. They’re a good side and I think they will do really well this year and they have a couple of ex-Phoenix players.

“I really thought tonight was going to be tough.  They’ve beaten Thamesmead in the week and beat Dulwich Hamlet, won the London Senior Cup last year, are run by a decent manager.  I thought it was going to be tough and it was a tough game. They tested us going forward and we sort of took our chances.

“I’m just pleased to win football matches. It doesn’t matter if it’s pre-season or whatever.  I know people say it doesn’t mean much but I think you get a winning mentality. If you cross over that white line you want to win, don’t you?  That’s what I’m about. We got beaten by Tonbridge Angels the other week and it was pre-season but I didn’t enjoy it and I do enjoy winning football matches.”

Collins admitted: “I didn’t see that one coming really!  We gifted them three goals in the first half. We were in possession of the ball for all of the goals.  They haven’t worked for their goals, which is frustrating.

“Since we lost that Ashford game 5-2 (on 26 February 2017) and all through pre-season we’ve tightened up a little bit but today was just very similar to that second half in that Ashford game.  I just thought they wanted it more all over the pitch.  I thought they roughed us up and we didn’t real with it really.”

Any Abbey Rangers scouts at tonight’s game would go home rubbing their hands ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup tie.

Collins replied: “Don’t read anything into that! I thought we were ready, I still think we’re ready. We changed it around a little bit, I didn’t want to give too much away as to what my team will be.  I pretty much know, baring a few positions but I said to them in there it will be done on form because I’ve got a lot of good players.

“I thought we were a little bit sloppy in the warm-up and it sort of carried on to the pitch but I’m not worried.

“I know that’s not us. We’ve been really good all through pre-season. We’ve been spot on. It’s gone too well if anything and maybe this is a little bit of a reality check.”

The start was even as Cray Valley created a decent opportunity, created by some decent wing play inside the opening nine minutes.

Enoch Adjei found left-back Fabrice Blewordah on the overlap and he whipped in a low cross towards the near post but a poor touch inside the box from Gayle, who cut into that position, saw the ball bounce off him and comfortably past the post.

“I thought first 20 minutes we started quite well actually,” said Collins.

“I thought we were in control of the game really. We played a little bit where we sat in a little bit in pre-season.  I thought we were quite comfortable.  That was the first half chance and usually find our way into the game after that.”

Cray Valley lost the midfield as their captain Jason Thompson struggled, as did lone striker Scott Reilly, who failed to impress during his 64 minutes out on the pitch.

Thompson delivered a corner in from the right towards the far post which was stabbed wide by Joe Matthews, who came up from the back.

But Phoenix Sports grabbed the lead with 17 minutes and 44 seconds on the clock.

Right-winger Kweku Ansah drove down the right and easily beat Matthews before cutting into the box to roll the ball back for an unmarked Sawyer to rifle his first time shot into the roof of the net from 10-yards.

“That’s why we’ve brought him in because he scores goals,” said O’Boyle on his summer signing.

“We tried to sign him last year actually but he was on a contract at Hythe and I’m really pleased he’s come on board. The two boys up front played really well together.  I know for a fact he’ll score goals for us this year.”

Collins said: “We got the ball, we passed it sideways after two touches, which is one of my pet hates.  You want to try to press forward and I think there was a forward pass on but we went sideways and then we take on three touches and you don’t need to take three touches out wide.

“Frankie Sawyer is intelligent.  In our league everyone runs into the box and we’ve got bodies back into position on the edge of the box and you give the ball away against a decent team and decent players and they punish you.

“Again, it’s a good learning experience.  I was just a little bit disappointed three times after that we still haven’t sussed it out but it was good movement.”

The second goal was almost like a carbon copy, when it arrived just 138 seconds later.

Matthews’ poor back-pass was intercepted by Barham down the right and he cut the ball back from the by-line for Sawyer to sweep his shot into the bottom left-hand corner, while unmarked, just eight-yards from goal.

O’Boyle said: “Jack could’ve shot himself, unselfish of him, sort of made sure it was a goal but the two forwards linked up well there and an easy finish in the end from Jack Barham’s pass.”

Collins added: “Exactly what I was saying, a sloppy one but he’s pulled off and no one has sensed it.  We’ve given the ball away for the first goal and then they got in and they scored.

“We gave the ball away for the second one and two identical goals and as a manager that probably is the most frustrating thing for me.  Everyone makes mistakes but why did we get punished twice in three minutes with the same goal? That’s frustrating when we’ve had possession of the ball!

“It was a sloppy back pass. We moved the ball across the back way too slow for the whole of the first half and ultimately if you do that you’re going to get caught out – and we did!”

Taylor McDonagh clipped the ball out of defence, the ball was looped forward off Adam Cooper’s head and Reilly took a touch before drilling his left-footed drive flashing past the right-hand post from 25-yards as Phoenix Sports’ goalkeeper Johnathan Roberts had an easy night, having helped Lewisham Athletic win the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Division One West title last season.

Sawyer almost helped himself to a hat-trick when he swept the ball out to Kelvin Ojboe, who found Robinson on the overlap, who cut the ball back for Sawyer, but this time Laurence Collins made a vital block, the ball looping just over the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick.

O’Boyle added: “That was a good move, a really good move down the right-hand side.  The full-back and the winger combining and it was unlucky. It was a good block. I thought it actually went in, but it didn’t.”

Collins added: “It was a good block, it was a great block to be fair.  We were all out of position. We said at half-time, he’s done the same thing three times.  Ok we blocked it in the end.  People have got to pick up on that!”

Cray Valley, who tried to play out from the back, were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply all over the pitch and they faced a mountain to climb when Phoenix Sports were gifted a third goal with 39 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

This will go down as one of the worst goals that you will see during the 2017-18 season.

Goalkeeper Luke Colquhoun played the ball out from the back to McDonagh, who cleared the ball straight at Ojboe’s feet some 35-yards from goal. The winger slipped the ball through to Barham, who rode McDonagh’s desperate last-man sliding challenge on the edge of the box before the striker swept his shot across the keeper into the bottom far corner.

O’Boyle said: “That was a good goal by Jack.  I think he had a lot to do still. I think the defender maybe tried to bring him down. He rode the tackle and it was a good finish. He deserves that goal. He missed a penalty the other night and you can see his work rate is phenomenal.”

Collins said: “Same thing again, they put pressure on us, they closed us down.  We’ve given the ball away again. They haven’t worked for any of the goals.  That’s why we were getting so frustrated on the sidelines because they haven’t worked for any of them. We’ve just given them three goals and good teams take those chances.

“I think we’ve got good defenders. We need to learn how to defend in transition when we lose the ball and that’s what we’re going to do a bit of work on.  Everyone’s entitled to bad days. It was just a bad day at the office. It wasn’t great in the first half.”

Shell-shocked Cray Valley rallied in the final four minutes with former Phoenix Sports skipper Russell Bedford curling his shot over the crossbar from 16-yards, after a nice neat move involving Gayle and Adjei.

Bedford then turned provider to set up a chance for Adjei, who saw his curling shot on the turn drift harmlessly past the far post.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

O’Boyle said: “I thought they had goals in their team and I didn’t want them to score in the second half but I said we manage the game second half, we don’t have to rush anything, sort of try to keep the ball and win the game 3-0, that’s a good result.”

Collins revealed that he and his assistant Bradley Sandeman read their players the riot act.

“Yes, not good enough! Brad had a go first and then I started getting more angry!

“It was to give them a kick up the backside really because all we’ve done is praise them so far and rightly so, they’ve been absolutely outstanding towards the back end of last season and all through pre-season and that just wasn’t good enough and there was so much wrong with it first half.

“I’m not too concerned because I thought we were in control when we made that first mistake and they were individual errors as opposed to being a formation thing.”

Phoenix Sports made a couple of changes at the break with former Sittingbourne talent Conrad Lee slotting in at left centre half, while former Dartford winger Dajon Golding was later withdrawn through a knock.

Cray Valley made five changes at the break and it certainly helped their players lift their desire and hunger levels during the second half.

Driving force in the middle of the park, Alex Nelson, was keen to impress against his old club, playing a diagonal to Cooper, who cut the ball back for Gayle, who powered his deflected angled drive over the bar.

Roberts then made a comfortable catch from Cooper’s glancing header as Nelson floated in a deep cross in from the right.

The Millers were pressing their hosts more in the second half, which did not happen at all in the first half.

Collins explained: “I wasn’t bothered with the pressing. I didn’t want us to overly press today.  I know what our weaknesses are and I wanted to work on our weaknesses today without going into too much detail for anybody reading so that wasn’t too much of a worry for me.  Us not pressing allowed us to deal with some of our weaknesses so we’re using it as a little bit of a training exercise.  We work on pressing, we decided not to press first half and decided to press second half so that was more down to our instructions rather than get a rocket really.”

Roberts was finally called into action when he dived low to his right to prevent Gayle drilling his left-footed drive into the corner from 30-yards after he brought Nelson’s inside pass under control.

O’Boyle said: “First 10-15 minutes, I think they were going to press us higher up the pitch so basically our instruction was start the second half and turn them a couple of times because you don’t want to get caught in possession when we’re being pressurised.

“I thought we rode the storm because they came out quick in the second half.  We basically went 4-0 up and there were chances here and there and that but the boy on the right (Gayle) was lively for them and I thought it was a good game of football.”

When asked about his replacement for the injured Steve Phillips, O’Boyle revealed how he found the Lewisham Athletic goalkeeper.

“He’s come in for Steve Phillips, I didn’t want to risk him with an ankle injury. There aren’t many goalkeepers about.  I don’t work with him he works up the market. We talk about football and I just said to him the other day ‘do you fancy a game in goal?’ and he done really well.”

Collins said: “I had a conversation with Denzel in the summer.  I believe he’s one of the best wingers in this league.  I go through Ryan Palmer, Rory Hill, Henry Muggeridge, Harrison Carnegie and Kieron McCann, they score more goals than Denzel and that was my thing for him this year, he needs to score more goals.  We need to work on that and he’s got five in six in pre-season.

“He’s got all the attributes and he was outstanding tonight. He was brilliant for us last season, his work-rate off the ball was unbelievable. He was getting to the by-line in the first half and his decision making has got to be a little bit better but I can’t criticise him too much, I thought he was our best player.”

But Cray Valley’s momentum was extinguished when Phoenix Sports scored their fourth goal with 14 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

Jamie Miller slid in to stop Golding in his tracks and Colquhoun set-up a four-man wall.

Probets stroked his left-footed 30-yard free-kick over the wall and the ball curled and dipped towards the bottom right-hand corner.  Colquhoun was in the right position but he was at fault for failing to prevent the ball dropping into the corner.

O’Boyle said: “Ash has done that a few times last season. He’s got that in his locker.  He’s got a lot of goals from free-kicks for us and his left-foot is fantastic.”

Collins said: “Luke said he should’ve saved it.  Goalkeeping is not my forte so when he says he should’ve saved it, then he should’ve done.

“We’ve not made a challenge to the edge of the box but another goal where we’ve not given a goal away, but it’s not good enough! They’ve not given us any free headers tonight and they didn’t give us any time on the ball tonight so we’ve been punished again.  That was another avoidable goal.

“I’m very good friends with Boylie and I’ve watched Phoenix a bit and he’s done that a lot against a lot higher opposition than us.”

Bedford played the ball into Nelson, who strode forward before Roberts made a comfortable catch as the midfielder tried to chip the keeper with his right-foot from 30-yards.

Phoenix Sports final opportunity came in the final 20 minutes when Golding released Barham through on goal down the right but he dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post.

Talented winger Gayle deserved to get on the scoresheet as he caught the eye, pulling a goal back with 38 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

Collins hooked a diagonal pass to release striker Ben Francis down the right channel and he cut the ball back for Gayle, who cut inside and drove a deflected left-footed angled drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 16-yards.

Collins revealed that Gayle is going to have a day off tomorrow while the rest of his squad travel to Bayliss Avenue to play Southern Counties East Football League First Division side Sporting Club Thamesmead.

“Pleased he’s hit the target, he’s got five goals in pre-season now. Well pleased with Denzel, he’s the only player who has got a day off tomorrow. I’ve given him a day off.

“It would’ve been mostly a different 11 but now everyone’s going so we’ll probably have 22 players out. Everyone’s been told they’ve got to come in tomorrow.  I’ll have a think about it tonight.  We need to finish with a good performance but training is important next week.  Denzel has come out of it with credit, everyone’s allowed an off-night. We just need to have a good performance tomorrow, get back to what we’ve been doing all through pre-season and then have two good training sessions and then travel to Abbey Rangers in The FA Cup.”

Former Greenwich Borough central defender Danny Young had protected Roberts superbly up until that point of the game – before Gayle scored.

O’Boyle said: “Arguably, he (Gayle) was probably the best player on the pitch tonight, wasn’t he?  I thought he played really well. If I was being a bit critical of him, maybe his end product at times but I thought he hurt us tonight and we struggled to keep hold of him.”

O’Boyle says he faces a selection headache for tomorrow’s trip around the corner to VCD Athletic’s Oakwood ground to play Erith Town.

“I’m treating it as a first team game,” said O’Boyle who misses the game as he’s on a family holiday.

“It was a really good idea a little while ago but we are picking up a few injuries and out of respect to Erith Town we’re treating it as a first team game but I’m a little bit down to bare bones at the moment.

“Dajon Golding was going to play tomorrow but he’s had to come off injured here today. He’s had a bit of a niggle so we were going to play him 45 today and give him some time tomorrow as well but he’s had to come off. 

“We’ve got a few knocks and no disrespect but we’ve got to look after them and we can’t risk people in pre-season but we’ll put out as many boys as we can.”

The Football Association must do more to ensure footballers take up the whistle and Hallam is a familiar face around these parts, although he referee’s in the Essex Senior League.

“I felt he had a fairly good game, let the fame flow. I thought he was quite good, I didn’t really notice him and that’s a good sign when you don’t notice the ref,” said the Cray Valley manager.

“I don’t know who’d want to (become a referee), which is probably not the right thing to say.  I always think as a manager when your team is not playing well, they get a tough time.  You always start harassing the referee and it’s not fair on them sometimes.  I like the referees who talk to you and they’re approachable.  They’re going to make mistakes, I’ll probably make 20 mistakes in the dug-out, the players will make 20 mistakes on the pitch and the referee will probably make 20 mistakes. Unfortunately, they’re the ones that everyone vents at. It’s great that people do (take up refereeing), there’s probably not enough of them. It’s a thankless task.”

O’Boyle simply laughed: “He done alright, didn’t he? I would never do it. I would rather do time!”

Phoenix Sports: Jonathan Roberts, Tony Robinson, Ashley Probets (Billy Muckle 85), Jack Hopkins, Danny Young, Terry Murray (Conrad Lee 46), Kweku Ansah (Dajon Golding 46, Johnny Miller 74)), Zac Bryon, Jack Barham, Frankie Sawyer (Charlie Tagg 81), Kelvin Ojboe.

Goals: Frankie Sawyer 18, 21, Jack Barham 40, Ashley Probets 60

Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Luke Colquhoun, Adam Cooper (Josh James 64), Fabrice Blewordah (Danny Smith 46), Laurence Collins, Taylor McDonagh (Jamie Miller 46), Joe Matthews (Ashley Sains 46), Russell Bedford, Jason Thompson (Alex Nelson 46), Scott Reilly (Ben Francis 64), Enoch Adjei (Michael Hagan 46), Denzel Gayle.

Goal: Denzel Gayle 84

Attendance: 59
Referee: Mr Farai Hallam (Gants Hill, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Nick MacKenzie (Orpington) & Mr Kieran Stoneham (Gravesend)

Coverage Sponsored by: