Sporting Club Thamesmead 0-4 Erith & Belvedere - I said it a few weeks ago, we need a miracle, says title-chasing Erith & Belvedere boss Owen Jones

Thursday 18th April 2019
Sporting Club Thamesmead 0 – 4 Erith & Belvedere
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 18/04/2019 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Thursday 18 April 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Owen Jones says he is praying for a miracle to claim the Southern Counties East Football League First Division title despite climbing to the top of the table for the first time this season with eight days of an exciting title-race remaining.


The Deres took advantage of playing before everybody else on Good Friday by beating ninth-placed Sporting Club Thamesmead in a convincing manner.

Centre-half Robert Curtis powered home a far post header following their first corner of the night before Harry Harding notched his fifth hat-trick of the season to break a club record lasting 53 years by taking his tally up to 44 goals.

Erith & Belvedere are sitting top with 71 points and they welcome fifth-placed Sutton Athletic to Park View Road on Easter Monday (15:00), before playing Bridon Ropes in the London Senior Trophy Final at St Paul’s Stadium in Rotherhithe next Wednesday, before completing their league campaign with a trip to bottom-four side Snodland Town on 27 April.

Bridon Ropes follow on 69 points and they travel to seventh-placed Forest Hill Park on Good Friday, before they host sixth-placed Holmesdale on Easter Monday and complete their campaign with a final day trip to Sutton Athletic.

Long-term leaders, Welling Town, have slipped down to third-place on 69 points and they travel to bottom-six side Kent Football United, host basement side Meridian VP before completing their first campaign at this level with a trip down to Lydd Town.

Kennington have 65 points on the board and they travel to Sutton Athletic, host Greenways before travelling to Sporting Club Thamesmead on 27 April.

Sutton Athletic have banked 61 points and play three sides above them in the pecking order.

“It is what it is, isn’t it? We turned up to a job and the job was to get three points whatever way we could get it,” said Jones, following his side’s 22nd league win of the season.

Sporting Club Thamesmead’s assistant manager Jason Long has taken charge of team affairs for four games since manager Joe Ford was taken ill.

“Tonight, obviously disappointed with the result,” he said.

“Being a local derby, Erith & Belvedere are always a nice team to try to beat. The last time that we played them we had an opportunity to beat them so it didn’t phase us going into the game, especially on a good run of games.

“The cause of what it’s for, it’s all for Joe Ford, who has been fighting for his life and the togetherness these boys have shown has been incredible so that’s where it started. Joe’s fought for us all season and he’s put a lot of work in, which has been amazing.

“To what’s happened to him is horrible but the boys have really pulled their sleeves up. They’re young lads but have really turned into young men now and have really come and had a good go. They’ve all pulled together, they’ve all been professional and been getting here on time and have all stuck together.”

Having lost 2-1 at Snodland Town last weekend and came away from Dartford with a 1-1 draw at Kent Football United on Tuesday night, playing again on a Thursday night caught up on his amateur side.

Long admitted: “I think it did, a little bit of fatigue there.  There were some individual mistakes that cost us a little but I can’t fault them for keeping going.”

Both sides treated the football like a hot potato and kept giving it away during the opening exchanges before Erith & Belvedere struck the underside of the crossbar inside the opening eight minutes.

Sporting Club Thamesmead centre-half Tamer Bilal tracked and tackled Kameiko Pope-Campbell inside his penalty area but the striker cut the ball back to Ramell Lake, who cut the ball onto his left foot and crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar from 22-yards and the ball came out to Chan Quan, whose rasping drive was well held by Charlie Martin.

“Charlie is a good goalkeeper, he did well,” said Jones.

“Ramell has got to stop hitting the crossbar! I’m sure you have seen him do that a few times! He’s got to start putting it in the back of the net. He’s a very good player, the effort was good but he was unlucky with it.”

Long added: “They’ve come at us, they’ve got good quality, there’s no doubting that.

“I don’t really want to think too much about them but we just have to be a little bit more disciplined in shutting the ball down and defending as units a litlte bit better.” 

Sporting Club Thamesmead were without their talisman Josh Patrick, who had work commitments so they had to rely on balls up to big target man Anthony Fenech.

A big kick from keeper Martin was flicked on by Fenech and was sliced away by Reece Barrett but Jamie Williams right-footed volley from 25-yards flashed across goal and went harmlessly wide of the far post.

Erith & Belvedere opened the scoring with 11 minutes and 4 seconds on the clock, following their first of three corners.

Lake swung in a delivery of high quality from the right and Fenech lost his man in Curtis, who planted his free header into the top near corner at the far post from inside the six-yard box from a tight angle.

“Rob’s been tremendous in the last four or five games, he’s really applied himself,” said Jones.

“At last someone got around the back post, where I’ve been shouting all the time for people to get around the back and he did and he took it well.”

Long added: “Again, it’s a mistake, just organisation in the box. Fenech’s not followed his man there and he’s put his hand up but he’s come back in the team. He’s a big figure to aim for on the pitch and he lost his man and we’ve been done at the far post. We have conceded a couple of goals from set-pieces so it is something that we need to work on.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead squandered a glorious double-chance to level the game up with exactly 20 minutes gone.

Left-back Timi Osibodu floated in a first time cross from the left and Fenech rose inside the penalty area just eight-yards from goal and planted a downward header, which forced Daniel Teeley to make a great block to his left before Fenech poked his shot towards the bottom right-hand corner from four-yards, which was blocked again by the highly-rated stopper.

“A great ball in by Timi, we do like our full-backs to get on and join in with supporting the play,” said Long.

“A bit disappointing that the boys around him, Merrick Simms and Jamie Williams weren’t there to follow up as well.  It hasn’t dropped to him and it hasn’t come close enough to him to get the rebound but he got himself in a good position to get the header and if we get that then our tails go up.

“We have a go because we are a tempo playing team. We’re young and fit and to get another 90 minutes out of seven or eight of them over two days, they’ve still had a go.  That might’ve been a little turning point of them getting worried and us going at them.”

Jones added: “Well, you’ve seen Daniel Teeley play quite a few times and we know we probably have got the best goalkeeper in the league, or the division.”

The classy Harding cut the ball back to right-wing-back Connor Dobson, who looped in a first time cross from the right but an unconvincing downward header at the far post from left-wing-back Guliano Tresor Mpungi bounced into the keeper’s hands.

Erith & Belvedere doubled their lead, scoring on the counter-attack, with 26 minutes and 7 seconds on the clock.

The Acre’s holding midfielder Andrade Caetano floated a ball towards the Erith & Belvedere box but the ball was cleared and fell to Harding, who fed Pope-Campbell, whose sublime touch saw him ghost past Osibodu before playing a crossfield pass to an unmarked Harding, who cut the ball onto his right boot before stroking a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 22-yards.

Jones said: “Harry is Harry isn’t he? Again, you’ve seen Harry play a few times. Harry is Harry. I just let him get on with it and we just hope he can get the goals and he did today, so he took that one well.”

Long added: “Again, a little bit of organisation on the set-piece from a corner, a little bit of organisation on the defensive point of it where we haven’t dealt with the counter.

“If the boys can talk a little bit more to organise those things, we were a little bit exposed there one-on-one which we need to organise to get the cover man in and those mistakes cost us and I think that’s where we are at the moment.

“Those small errors and those small mistakes are costing us quite dearly as a club and over the season that’s the reason why we’ve not picked up as many points as what we potentially could’ve done.”

Bilal pinged a diagonal ball out of defence and found Joel Mensah in space and he whipped in a great cross from the right but Fenech’s trademark header looped over the crossbar from 14-yards, despite being left unmarked inside the penalty area.

Sporting Club Thamesmead created an opening just before the interval when the diminutive Max Williams swung in a corner from the right but Bilal rose to plant his header over the top of the far post from 15-yards.

Long said: “Again, it does show a bit about us to attack them. I think we were a little bit more positive to believe we can score from set-pieces because we do have an aerial presence in Tamer and Max Williams’ delivery is different class.

“He’s one of the most technical players I’ve seen at this level and he’s got the ability to go and play higher and he’ll get picked up if he keeps going but he’s very good friends with Joe Ford and he’s put in a shift every time for him.”

Erith & Belvedere suffered a 4-3 defeat to Welling Town here on 13 March and that was very much in Jones’ thoughts during the interval.

He said: “What I said to them was remember the Welling Town game! We went 2-0 up and ended up losing, the same at Bridon Ropes. All these games when you take a lead and get a bit lapse. I just said ‘look we’ve got to be on it,’ we’ve got to change our game, turn them and play longer.”

Long added: “We’re disappointed that we’re 2-0 down and we said about the individual mistakes and our mistakes can cost you but we said you’re still in the game. The next goal is the most important one and we said if we get that it will upset them. 

“We had enough about us to have a go. We changed formation a bit and went more attacking with three at the back and the two wide players but we didn’t settle into it as we would’ve liked and unfortunately the third goal went there way.”

Erith & Belvedere scored a controversial third goal with 11 minutes and 6 seconds on the clock.

Dobson played the ball out to substitute striker Jojo Ogunbiyi, who flashed a low diagonal pass across the face of goal towards the far post. Harding appeared to be offside but Stephen Ryan’s flag stayed down as Harding tapped the ball over the line from a couple of yards out.

Long said: “Again, a couple of decisions didn’t go out way before that. We had Jojo Ogunbiyi pulling one of our players which the ref and linesman didn’t see. It was a little bit frustrating not to get that decision and maybe that switches the focus and concentration off for the boys and fair play to Jojo, he’s got down their right wing and put one in but it did look offside!

“I’m a little bit frustrated that decisions haven’t gone for us but you don’t want to blame the officials but we always look at them if that decision goes for us.”

Jones admitted: “It was offside! I’m being honest, it was offside from where I was, he was offside but then to be honest there’s been games when people have been offside, balls not crossed the line and they’ve given the goal. It works it’s way back to us again to have a bit of luck.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead could have folded at that point but they kept plugging away.

Merrick Simms, who was pushed up front to partner Fenech at the start of the second half, was released down the left, cut into the box and his cross was met by Mensah, whose shot looped in to the air and Curtis cleared the ball off the line and Teeley caught the ball as it dropped.

“That’s what I’m trying to say to them at half-time,” said Jones. “Just be careful because they will up their game and be quicker. They’ve got pace in their side so we just had to be on it but we did well to react on the second ball.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead were guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the 61st minute.

Merrick whipped in a great cross from the left and Max Williams got in behind Dobson just 10-yards from goal but flicked his free header across the keeper and past the far post.

Long said: “That’s what we were looking for. We put Merrick up top and using his speed and pace to get him in behind, which we knew he can do. If that goes in, it gives us a little bit of light, it gives us a chance. I admire the boys for having a go and still being positive and still trying to have a go.”

Quan floated in a cross into the Acre penalty area but Ogunbiyo rose to steer his header past the far post from a couple of yards inside the Acre penalty area.

Inside the final 20 minutes, Erith & Belvedere’s holding midfielder George Jones floated in a free-kick from the left and Barett – who plays on the left of a three man defence – rose to plant his header wide from eight-yards.

“It’s come too late really but our set-pieces are just coming together so that was good to see them at last attacking the ball like they should,” added Jones.

“Also Sporting Club are very good at set-pieces as well so we had to be aware of that as well so there were a lot of headers from both sides but in the end we do what we do best and get the ball down and play.”

Jones swept in a high hanging free-kick in from the right touchline which was met by a poor header from Mpungi, who had ghosted in unmarked at the far post to send his downward header past the near post from four-yards.

A deep free-kick from Acre keeper Martin was cleared out to Max Williams, who chested the ball before smacking his left-footed volley over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.

Two of the home side’s substitutes combined late on when Jedd Smith fed the ball into Charles Etumnu, who slotted in at right-back and that moved Mensah further forward because Mensah was the weak link defensively during the first half.

Etumnu hit a right-footed half-volley as soon as the ball bounced up but his attempt from 25-yards bounced past the far post.

Erith & Belvedere wrapped up a comfortable victory, courtesy of Harding’s club record goal, which was timed at 45:15 on the clock.

Jones clipped the ball over the top and Acre centre-half Jamie Rawsthorne was chasing shadows as Harding sped past him down the right channel.

Harding turn past Rawsthorne oozed class and the finish was even better, placing a left-footed angled drive across the diving keeper for the ball to nestle sweetly inside the bottom far corner.

Long pointed the finger of blame at his holding midfielder Caetano.

“A bit of a mistake by our players, he’s a bit upset by it Kante. He’s got to lean. We say to him to break up play and play two touch pretty much drop your shoulders, look whose around you and play what you see and he tried a little bit of magic in our own half, which he got caught out there and that’s the reason how it cost us.

“We’re looking to move on the attack and players have gone and he’s got caught out and they’ve done us with a bit of quick play in behind so he’ll learn. He’s been fantastic for us, he’s been professional all season and he’s just got to get his head up and go again and he’s done well and he has to keep going, it happens.”

Harding is too good for the tenth-tier of English football.  He should be playing at the Bostik Premier Division but no lower than that!

Jones heaped plenty of praise on record breaking Harding.

“What a goal it was! At the end of the day we’re not stupid. Harry wants to break records and that’s what his aim is. If that’s what’s motivating him to get the goals who am I to complain?

“It’s a great night for him, a great season for him. He’s a great lad. He’s an opportunist when he’s near the goal. He’s a lovely human being, he’s got a great personality and character and the boys love him.

“He’s an acquired taste in terms of lots of people want him, lots of club’s have come in for him but when I say he’s an acquired taste you’ve just got to let him get on with his game.

“A lot of people shackle him, you can’t shackle somebody like that. He’s just got natural ability to play wherever the ball is, you’ve just got to let him get on with it. He’s a class act but without the other 10 players that are on the pitch he ain’t scoring anything. It’s really down to the boys behind him working their socks off to create the space for him to ghost in and score goals.

“I’m quite surprised he hasn’t made it as a pro really but then why hasn’t anybody looked and thought to take a chance on this lad because he’s got something, you can see it.  I’m sure if he can work hard, he can do it at the next levels.”

Looking forward to an exciting final eight days of the season, Jones added: “Squeaky bum time!  I can’t concentrate on the Cup Final at the moment.  I told the boys at the end well done and I said all my bits and pieces and then I said if anybody knows how to pray make sure you’re praying. We need those two teams (Bridon Ropes and Welling Town) to mess up tomorrow. That’s all we can do. We’ve done our bit and then we’ve got to do our next bit on Monday.

“This is when I say squeaky bum time. It really has been like squeaky bum time, you’re anxious, nervous and concerned and even today it was difficult for me.

“As a Christian, I will just pray as I do. I will pray and Lord it’s up to you, it’s in your hands because I’ve said it a few weeks ago, we need a miracle. That’s what it is. It’s going to take a miracle.”

And with a Cup Final thrown in to the mix against a club (Bridon Ropes) that’s also vying for the title and promotion into the Premier Division, Jones replied: “We’ve got to play. Everybody has got to wake up and smell the coffee and the reality is if you want it you will go through it and it is what it is at the moment. We have to apply ourselves and play!”

With 42 points on the board, Sporting Club Thamesmead complete their campaign with a trip to Stansfeld on Easter Monday and host Kennington, while their trip to Rochester United is still to be re-arranged as Ford was rushed into hospital on the eve of the game and the game was respectively postponed.

Long said:  “The boys have got a few days rest now so it’s well-deserved.  Everyone’s available. We’ll let the boys have a good rest over the weekend and we’ll go again and we’ll take it to them and see what we can do.

“The Rochester game has to be re-arranged but that hasn’t been called up yet so I don’t know if that’s going to happen?

“If we beat Stansfeld on Monday it puts us above them and Kennington have a chance of winning the league so we’ll keep positive and professional and stick together and we’ll see what we can do and that’s where we’re at.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Charlie Martin, Joel Mensah, Timi Osibodu, Andrade Caetano, Tamer Bilal, Jamie Rawsthorne, Jamie Williams (Charles Etumnu 46), Ben Williams (David Jesus 58), Anthony Fenech (Jedd Smith 75), Max Williams, Merrick Simms.
Sub: Max Walsh

Booked: Ben Williams 30, Jamie Williams 38, Tamer Bilal 48, Timi Osibodu 85, Charles Etumnu 90

Erith & Belvedere: Daniel Teeley, Connor Dobson, Guliano Tresor Mpungi, Robert Curtis, Tony Hill, Reece Barrett, Ramell Lake (Jojo Ogunbiyi 48), George Jones, Kameiko Pope-Campbell (Fred Obasa 61), Harry Harding, Chan Quan.
Subs: Bobby Holley, Gravlyn Kwtondo, Romayle Wade

Goals: Robert Curtis 12, Harry Harding 27, 57, 90

Attendance: 84
Referee: Mr Silvester Aina (Belvedere)
Assistants: Mr Stephen Ryan (Tunbridge Wells) & Mr Stephen Luke (Pembury)