Phoenix Sports 1-3 VCD Athletic - I'm going to stay loyal to the boys that won the league because they deserve a chance in the Ryman League, says Phoenix Sports boss Steve O'Boyle
Phoenix Sports 1 – 3 VCD Athletic
|Location||Mayplace Ground, Mayplace Road East, Barnehurst, Kent DA7 6JT|
PHOENIX SPORTS 1-3 VCD ATHLETIC
Friday 24th July 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East
PHOENIX SPORTS manager Steve O’Boyle says he trusts the players that clinched the Southern Counties East Football League title to keep the club in the Ryman League at the end of this season.
VCD Athletic claimed the local bragging rights with an impressive display of counter-attacking football as they punished the mistakes that were made by their newly-promoted neighbours from around the corner.
The Vickers deserved their 2-0 lead inside the opening 38 minutes through Leon Fisher and Jack Stevenson, who was the best player on the pitch.
Phoenix Sports made six changes at the break and pulled a goal back through substitute striker Andy Constable with 15 minutes left, before Stevenson capped off an impressive display with his second goal of the night.
“The thoughts on it was I thought we played a half decent side,” admitted O’Boyle afterwards.
“They showed a lot brighter than us. We didn’t really get to grips with their formation first 15-20 minutes of the game.
“I actually thought we worked the formation out and we came back into the game but the difference in tonight’s game was that we haven’t defended very well and their finishing was better than ours.
“Every single goal they did score came from us having possession of the ball and one thing we was good at last season was teams couldn’t score against us and tonight we was too easy to score against us by giving the ball away and at the other end we had some half decent chances and we never put them away.”
VCD Athletic manager Keith McMahon admitted chasing shadows against Ebbsfleet United (1-3) and Bromley (0-5) earlier on in their pre-season campaign has helped their fitness levels going into tonight’s game.
“Very pleased, a good run out for us. I thought for the first 40 minutes we were excellent,” said McMahon.
“We’re getting better, we worked hard and we scored three very good goals to be fair and we could have had a couple more, but I’m pleased with that.
“A little bit mix-and-match second half but I thought we weren’t as fluid but when you make changes and the game stops and starts, it’s like that.
“But we’re starting to gel as a team now. That’s our fifth game together and if you saw some of the football we’ve played, you wouldn’t think that was only our fifth game as a side. None of us have really played with each other.”
Miserable wet weather before the game and during the first half put off many people for this Friday night derby and the 88 fans saw the Ryman Premier League Vickers stamp their dominance on the game straight from kick-off.
McMahon said: “That’s the good thing. We had a hard pre-season. We’ve done six really hard sessions. We’ve started with Ebbsfleet and Bromley and had to work hard and chase the ball. Just a few defensive mistakes in those two games, but our fitness looks good.
“We’ve got a hell of a lot of pace in this side and it showed. Not many teams can out work Phoenix and you could see that last year but I think we did and I thought we had a good shape and we looked dangerous.”
Phoenix Sports were guilty of giving the ball away on a regular basis during the opening period and VCD Athletic’s attacking football was pleasing on the eye.
O’Boyle explained: “Listen, they’re a Ryman Premier side. Keith knows the Ryman League inside out and I’d imagine he’s put together a very good side there.
“They did start bright. I’ve got to say to you no excuses, but we played Dartford on Tuesday (losing 2-0) and maybe a few of the players had heavy legs. We played well on Tuesday and we worked really hard and we started slow and they (VCD) started quick.”
VCD Athletic looked better than a Ryman Premier League outfit as they put the Ryman League Division One North hosts to the sword.
Stevenson released striker Alex Teniola through on goal inside the opening four minutes – but the striker one of the many players to leave Cray Wanderers at the end of last season – dragged his shot across the face of goal and past the far post from 15-yards.
Teniola then cut the ball back for Ritchie Graham to sting Steve Phillips’ fingers with a first-time rasping right-footed drive from the corner of the penalty area, before Fisher played the ball into winger Niko Muir, whose right-footed angled drive zipped off the wet turf and flashed just past the far post.
Muir then played a sweet one-two with central midfielder Aaron Wickham before unleashing a right-footed angled drive from 35-yards, which took a deflection before being grabbed by Phillips, diving low to his left.
VCD Athletic kept banging on the door and it was no surprise when they took a fifteenth minute lead.
Stevenson - who on this performance should be performing at a higher level of football – played a defensive splitting pass to put Fisher through on goal and he drilled a low right-footed drive towards the bottom corner.
Phoenix keeper Phillips used his feet in an attempt to make the save but the ball ricochet off his feet, hitting the near post before nestling into the back of his net.
McMahon said: “We started well. Every game we’re getting better and better. It was a good start and we needed a goal. We had three shots in the first ten and we got a deserved goal.
“Jack’s outstanding. He was the first signing that I made. I say him (play for Aveley) last year. We moved him into centre midfield tonight and Wednesday and he can unlock doors. We don’t normally play through the middle and it was a good run and he’s picked the ball and it was a very, very good finish at pace.”
O’Boyle’s side were punished for making mistakes – welcome to the Ryman League!
“We started with Russell Bedford trying to nut-meg their fella in the centre of the field, giving the ball away and they broke on us,” said the Phoenix manager.
“Steve Phillips has saved it with his legs. It hit the post and it’s gone in. I’ve told him at half-time goalkeeper’s try to save it with their hands. I think it was an error by Russell Bedford and an error by Steve Phillips!
“Listen, it’s pre-season! I’ve said to them after the game I would rather make mistakes in games like this, miss chances in games like this and we all click and it goes in on the first day of the season. It’s pre-season. I will be honest with you, I’m not a fan of pre-season. Pre-season is pre-season.”
But former Redbridge striker, Chinedu McKenzie, squandered an excellent chance to grab an equaliser for battered Phoenix Sports after eighteen minutes.
Right-winger Harrison Carnegie released McKenzie through on goal, striding forward before drilling his right-footed angled drive across keeper Rob Budd and past the far post.
“I don’t think he’s had a great game tonight to be fair,” said O’Boyle, who was without Yacine Gnahore (holiday).
“He started like a house on fire for us. He’s a good player. He’s scored a lot of goals for (Redbridge) last season for a team that got relegated. He’s only 21-years-old. I think he’s raw, he’s got a lot to learn. We’ve seen enough of him already to say he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
But VCD Athletic cut open Phoenix again with sea of attacks.
Stevenson cut onto his right-footed to narrowly miss the diving keeper and also the foot of the far post from 25-yards.
Budd, who left Thamesmead Town in the summer after Terry Spillane signed former Harlow Town goalkeeper Andy Walker, was called into action in the 35th minute.
George King slid the ball forward to release McKenzie, who shrugged off Vickers’ central defender Paul King to put himself through on goal but Budd got down low to his right to parry the ball away towards safety.
Budd was McMahon’s number one at Thamesmead Town and the manager said: “I had Rob at Thamesmead for years and he won the goalkeeper of the year award in the (Ryman One) North when we got promoted. He’s been out for five months with a shoulder injury and he needs some minutes.
“We’ve signed young Luke (Colquhoun) and he’s played most of the games. Rob played second half against Erith Town on Wednesday and we gave him a start today and Luke will play against Harlow tomorrow but Rob just needs minutes, he’s a bit rusty. He’s a good lad and a good goalkeeper.”
VCD Athletic swiftly went up the other end and just 15 seconds later Muir clipped the foot of the near post with his right-footed drive from 22-yards.
McMahon said: “We didn’t let them play and we looked dangerous going forward with the three of them. Once they start getting more games together and the understanding - we haven’t worked on anything in training. We’ve had six solid work sessions and everything that we try and do in games, we’ve not done no set-pieces, no defending. We spoke about it and we’ve talked it through about our shape.
“It’s getting better and we looked a handful for that first 35 minutes.”
But VCD Athletic deserved their commanding 2-0 lead.
Fisher released Stevenson charging down the left channel and Phillips came rushing off his line and failed to gather the ball on the edge of the box.
Stevenson was forced wide, heading towards the touch-line and from 30-yards out, looked up and curled his right-footed shot dropping inside the near post of an empty net.
McMahon, hailing the stunning strike, said: “Great finish! He scored a worldy on Wednesday and it’s a great football move as well that put him clear, but he skipped past the keeper but to bend it in from the touchline, as soon as he got (sight) of goal, he didn’t roll it in, he smashed it in. A good finish.”
O’Boyle blamed a defensive mistake again for conceding.
He said: “Scott Whibley has the ball at centre half, passes it straight to their centre midfielder, they break, Steve Phillips comes out, he shouldn’t have come out and the fella’s put it away quite well.
“Two mistakes for the first goal and two mistakes for the second goal.
“Listen, I’m not going to fault those boys because those players for me we’re fantastic. It’s pre-season, mistakes happen.”
Stevenson only just cleared the crossbar with a 35-yard chip when he noticed the struggling Phoenix keeper off his line after Phoenix created a decent chance towards the end of the first half.
Captain Russell Bedford clipped the ball into Richie Hamill’s chest, who swept a sublime diagonal volley over towards the far post, but McKenzie struck his powerfully hit hooked volley agonisingly past the near post.
O’Boyle made six changes during the half-time interval as Phillips, Steve Springett (left-back and centre back), Chris Hill (centre back) and striker Ricky Freeman got through 90 minutes.
O’Boyle said: “I’m doing a team talk at half-time with a team that’s not even going back out there in the second half so that’s all just probably put it into perspective!
“We’re 2-0 down at half-time, what do you do? Do you want to try to get back into the game? The bottom line is you need to get everybody fit so basically we took six players’ off and it weren’t about winning or losing the game today. It was about getting people fit and minutes on the pitch.”
McMahon made two changes at the break, bringing on central defender Jai McKinllay (ex Fulham) and former Cray Wanderers central midfielder Giannoulis Fakinos. Vickers travel to last season’s Ryman League Division One North runners-up Harlow Town on Saturday.
“We need to give people breaks because we’ve got a game tomorrow so ones that can’t play tomorrow played the full 90,” explained McMahon.
“Kingy is just coming back from a bit of an injury anyway and young Jai has just been released from Fulham, who has trained with us and he played the whole game against Erith Town in the week and we just wanted to see him play against better opposition. He played in the second half.
“We call him Cesc (Fakinos), he’s been at Cray Wanderers and he’s played at a good level of football and we just need to give people minutes.
“Aaron (Wickham) signed for us in the week and he played a whole game for us last week and we just need to give some people some legs for tomorrow.”
With so many new faces on the pitch, the second half, inevitably, failed to match the first half for quality, but at least it stopped raining!
Phillips made amends for his earlier mistakes by making a fine save to prevent Stevenson scoring with a rasping drive from 15-yards after Phoenix fell asleep at a quickly-taken two-man short free-kick down the right channel after 58 minutes.
McMahon said: “The keeper’s made a good save. That’s the bonding with the team. We try to play everything quickly at the moment.
“There’s been some people talking in the summer saying my team is a long ball team, who are smashing it! As you’ve seen tonight, we don’t smash it too much and we play some particularly good, one-touch football.”
The first time that Phoenix Sports ventured into VCD’s penalty box during the second half came in the 70th minute but Springett’s low left-footed free-kick from the right was cleared away.
But Phoenix Sports pulled a goal back through Constable’s composed finish.
A big kick down the pitch by Phillips wasn’t cut out by Vickers’ right-back Mathiass Bakare and Constable pounced on a mistake by the onrushing Budd, who came out but failed to gather the ball. Constable took a touch, maintained his composure to drill a low right-footed shot into the bottom far corner of the net from 16-yards.
O’Boyle said: “It was a good finish by AC. What AC has got, he will score us goals if you give him a chance, he will put the ball away.
“He scored a lot of valuable goals at the back end of last season and that’s why the reason I signed him for next season. He might be playing in the Ryman League but he knows where the back of the net is. I’ve got no doubt he will score goals for us if given the opportunity.”
McMahon added: “That’s all he’s done all through his career. It was a mistake, one punt forward, Matty said he lost the ball in the lights. It’s bounced over and he’s got inbetween Buddy. A decent finish. It’s pre-season, something we can work on.”
Vickers’ left-back Ashley Probets played the ball up to Teniola, who turned his man to stroke his right-footed shot towards the bottom corner, which was pushed around the post by the diving Phillips.
VCD Athletic killed the game with a third goal with five minutes left on the clock.
An eye-catching sweeping move forward ended in Teniola slipping the ball through to Stevenson, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
McMahon said: “It was about four great one-touch passing, give-and-go and he’s rolled it through and he’s taken a touch and buried it. He’s scored twice in the week, scored twice again today. His movement, you can’t pick him up and he’s got deceptive pace.
“It wasn’t one of his best games if I’m honest. If you saw him Wednesday night he was outstanding but the quality the kid’s got, he was the best player on the pitch – that’s why he was my first signing when I got the job.
“I watched a lot of games last year and he stood out. He’s got great touch, great vision, he works hard and he could have worked a lot harder tonight but he’s played the full 90 and he will do tomorrow because that’s the lad he is. He’s just come back off holiday, he’s just got quality. He can score goals, his touch, his movement, he stands out.”
O’Boyle added: “We had the ball at full-back, gave it away again and they broke on us. We never tracked our runner. Yes, good goal for VCD’s point of view, but a bad goal by Phoenix’s point of view!”
O’Boyle admitted that he was impressed with second half wingers Christy Patterson and Jack Dimmock (no relation to Meridian manager Richard Dimmock), so much so the pair signed Ryman League forms after the game.
O’Boyle said: “I thought we done ok actually. I brought on two young kids on out wide, who basically got no experience of playing men’s football. I’ve been really impressed in pre-season. They’ve turned up and there attitude’s been fantastic. They’ve got a little bit of pace about them and Chris has scored two goals last weekend and Dimmo has scored a few goals as well so I’ve been really impressed with them.
“I thought why not throw them on today? I thought they done exactly what I wanted them to do and they’ve both signed Ryman forms for us.”
Patterson ventured forward at pace before hitting a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which was saved comfortably by Budd.
Former Cray Wanderers goalkeeper Luke Colquhoun was called into action after only just 50 seconds after replacing Budd at the end of the game.
Jason Goodchild released Freeman (back at the club following a spell in Ryman One South at East Grinstead) through on goal but the keeper managed to get something to the shot to divert it past the post.
McMahon said: “I thought there was about 15 minutes to go because we had a little break. Luke’s going to play the whole game tomorrow. Buddy was tired. I thought we’d give him a little bit of a rest.
“We’ve got two really good goalkeeper’s to choose from. We had seven players missing tonight. We’ve got a squad of about 23 now that are all fighting for places. It’s good. We’ve got a game tomorrow, then we got Dartford (next Tuesday), Whitstable (next Thursday) and East Grinstead (1 August) where we have to look to cement the positions down and look to go in (the league) in two weeks’ time.”
McMahon, along with Dartford manager Tony Burman regularly visit Phoenix Sports for a drink on a Sunday.
“I know a lot of people here, I love the club, I love the committee and Steve O’Boyle, we go back at Thamesmead and some of the players.
“It’s a club I’ve got a lot of admiration for and it’s a club that a lot of other established clubs around should strive to be like, what they’ve done here. It’s a lovely football set-up now. The committee here are unbelievable. Steve is a lucky man. They work tirelessly for the whole club, not just the seniors, they do the juniors.
“It’s mostly the best run football club I know off around here as a whole and they should enjoy their time in the Ryman League. They deserve to be here. They’ve worked really hard.
“I really hope they have a really successful season and if I can help them out in any single way, I will do. I wish them all the best.”
O’Boyle insisted he will keep faith with his title winning team, although he may learn that he needs to bring in more players with Ryman League experience to adapt to life in Division One North.
He said: “I’m happy. We’ve had a good pre-season actually. We’ve had a hard week with Dartford and VCD. No-one’s expecting us to beat these teams but up to now I’m really pleased.
“We’ve got quite a big squad at the moment. We’ve cut it already. I might have to cut it again but I’ve stayed quite loyal to the players that got us promotion and too right. Winning the Southern Counties East Football League last season was a fantastic achievement for Phoenix and these guys deserve a chance in the Ryman League and I’ve got no doubt that they will do that for us.
“I’ll be honest with you, I can’t tell you the amount of people who want to play for this football club at the moment but I think those boys deserve a chance and yes I’ve made a few signings but the main thing is I’m going to stay loyal.”
Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews (Jeff Allen 46), Steve Springett, Russell Bedford (Lemar Hurley 46), Scott Whibley (Jason Goodchild 46), Chris Hill, Harrison Carnegie (Jack Dimmock 46), Jacob Mingle (Christy Patterson 46), Ricky Freeman, Chinedu McKenzie (Andy Constable 46), George King (Richie Hamill 42).
Sub: Lewis Mingle
Goal: Andy Constable 75
VCD Athletic: Rob Budd (Luke Colquhoun 89), Mathiass Bakare (Felix Ogeah 81), Ashley Probets, Aaron Wickham (Giannoulis Fakinos 46), Paul King (Jai McKinllay 46), Ricardo Joseph, Ritchie Graham, Leon Fisher, Alex Teniola, Jack Stevenson, Niko Muir (Ryan Palmer 64).
Goals: Leon Fisher 15, Jack Stevenson 38, 85
Referee: Mr Darren Blunden (Dartford)
Assistants: Mr Steve Perry (Barnehurst) & Mr Jamie Paternoster (Bexley)