Sporting Club Thamesmead 0-3 Lewisham Borough - I still think there's enough time to turn it around and we will try our best, says winless Sporting Club Thamesmead boss Danny Harris

Monday 02nd October 2023
Sporting Club Thamesmead 0 – 3 Lewisham Borough
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 02/10/2023 19:30

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup First Round
Monday 2 October 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

SPORTING CLUB THAMESMEAD manager Danny Harris insists there is enough time to turn it around after extending his side’s winless run to 10 games at the start of his first job in the tenth-tier of English football.

The Arce are rooted to the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table with one point from their opening eight league outings and they were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Lewisham Borough at Bayliss Avenue.

Sporting Club Thamesmead finished second-from-bottom last season with 27 points from 32 games and the club have now suffered 34 defeats from their 48 games in all competitions since the start of last season.

Lloyd Davis’ men are sitting in third-place in the division with 18 points from their opening seven games, three points behind AFC Whyteleafe and Rochester United, with a game in hand.

Lewisham Borough opened the scoring through central midfielder Freddie Horlock’s free-header from a set-piece before an unmarked Horlock slotted in his fourth goal of the season after only 34 seconds into the second half.

Sporting Club Thamesmead showed plenty of character during a vastly-improved second half performance – hitting the crossbar on three occasions – but they switched off to allow substitute striker Bryan Zepo to slot in his sixth goal of the season following a quickly taken free-kick with six minutes remaining.

Lewisham Borough face Premier Division opposition in the Second Round with Sutton Athletic or Welling Town visiting Ladywell Arena in November.

Sporting Club Thamesmead made five changes to their side that lost 2-0 at home to Tooting Bec on Saturday 23 September, while Lewisham Borough made seven to their side that came away from K Sports with a 5-1 win at the weekend.

“I thought first half, a couple of silly mistakes cost us the lead,” said Danny Harris, the former manager of Lordswood’s under 23s.

“I thought second half we battled really hard and got back into the game, apart from giving away a really sloppy second goal straight away, which our centre-half immediately put his hands up.

“I thought then we created two or three great opportunities, hit the crossbar three times, a couple of cross-shots but we always looked a bit suspect at the back and we got caught out late on for the third goal.

“It’s been the story of our season. We’ve been in games. If you look at some of the scorelines, you think we’ve been hammered.  We’ve competed in most games this season.  I think we’ve actually put in an effort and tried our best.

“What was missing tonight? I would say up front.  I think we lack penetration. We didn’t create enough opportunities.  I think we hustled and bustled well.  I think we defended quite solid but we lacked a little bit up front.

“We’ve signed five or six new players in the last week and brought a little bit older players with a little bit more experience.  We haven’t really had a chance to work as a group since we’ve signed them.

“We’ve had a few of the youngsters, who were really struggling at this level of football to step down and go and play Sunday morning football because they feel themselves that they were struggling at this level.”

Lewisham Borough’s Davis added: “Pretty much a game of two halves really.  We rotated the squad a little bit, just through tired legs. This was our fourth game in nine days but we came here to get the job done.

“It was pretty difficult but we saw it over the line. The win is what matters. We could’ve done it with a bit more style, probably, but overall the boys got the job done.  Loads of tired legs.”

When asked about making seven changes to his side, Davis replied: “Just rotation and resting. We want to keep fresh legs and stuff like that. We really wasn’t to give it a good go this year.” 

Lewisham Borough started the game on the front foot and right-winger Khayrie Harris was a constant threat.

Khayire Harris easily cut inside Sporting Club Thamesmead winger Jay Oborne before cutting the ball back for central midfielder Erik Shehu, who swept his first-time shot past the foot of the near post from four-yards after five minutes and 24 seconds.

Shehu then turned provider for the impressive Khayrie Harris just 30 seconds later and his shot bounded off the base of the near post.

“Khayrie is a talented player. A lot goes through him. He’s really young and he’s got the world at his feet.  He just needs to get one and the goals will probably flow for him,” said Davis.

Danny Harris added: “Their winger was nippy all night and he caused us problems. He was the main outlet for them.  I thought he looked quite dangerous from start to finish.”

Lewisham Borough were playing out from the back and no attacking Sporting Club Thamesmead player were making an attempt to press and win the ball back in the attacking third throughout this encounter.

Sgehu and Horlock linked up well in the final third before left-winger Zacchius Ajose cut the ball onto his right-foot before hitting a 30-yard drive just over the crossbar.

Lewisham Borough deservedly took the lead with 23 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock, when eagle-eyed assistant referee Thomas Sansom spotted that Sporting Club Thamesmead centre-half Daniel Akintimehin had dragged down Khayrie Harris just outside the penalty area.

Khayrie Harris took the resulting free-kick on the right by-line and clipped a left-footed free-kick towards the edge of the six-yard box for Horlock to bury a free-header past Scott Harris.

“I mean, at first I wanted the penalty but I’ll take the goal,” admitted Davis.

“Brilliant. Brilliant. Freddie offers us something different from midfield.  He picked up a goal in our last game, two tonight. He knows what he’s doing. He’s calm in front of goal.”

When asked why Horlock was substituted in the 57th minute after an impressive night’s work, Davis revealed: “He was knackered! He called for a sub initially. His legs were dead. He’s done a load of running. He clocked up the most KM’s in the last game and probably the most now, so he’s just tired.”

Danny Harris added: “It was a needless free-kick but it was also a free header. We’ve got to do better with that position and we’ve got to deal with that stronger.”

The home side switched off from Lewisham Borough’s first corner of the night.

Ajose played a short corner from the left to Khayrie Harris, who wasn’t pressed by a slow thinking defence, taking a touch before flashing a right-footed angled drive past the foot of the near post from 15-yards.

Sporting Club Thamesmead goalkeeper Scott Harris pulled off a fine save to prevent Lewisham Borough doubling their lead in the 34th minute.

A poor kick from the keeper should have been cleared by Kayden Turner-Bernard, who had his pocket picked by fellow central midfielder Shehu, who released Khayrie Harris through on goal.

Khayrie Harris’ right-footed shot was blocked by his namesake, who stuck out his right leg to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner and the keeper got up and caught Horlock’s right-footed drive from 25-yards into his midriff.

“He is my son, yes. Stuck out his right leg. He’s done a bit of a David de Gea (former Manchester United goalkeeper) save at that moment in time,” said Danny Harris.

“He’s hard to beat. He’s a presence in goal. He’s a big unit. He’s throwing the ball a bit at the moment because he’s actually playing through a groin strain and he’s actually playing through the pain barrier so I’m not going to criticise him because he’s actually putting his body on the line.”

Davis added: “I mean at that point, I thought we could’ve put the game out of sight but maybe I’m asking for too much?”

Dominant Lewisham Borough went close in the 39th minute when centre-half Cairo Duhaney-Burton played the ball up to Horlock, who swept the ball out to Khayrie Harris.

Oborne tried to kick him just outside the corner of the box but the winger was too good, cutting inside him and left-back Billy McGarrigle, before stroking a left-footed angled drive across the diving keeper and just past the foot of the far post.

The home side offered nothing in attack, with their best chance coming from a set-piece with the last kick of the half.

Holding midfielder Ben Newman drilled a left-footed free-kick from 35-yards which flashed past diving goalkeeper Samuel Dowding and just past the right-hand post.

“First half we were more on the back foot but I thought we looked solid without, Scott made one save. A couple of times we gave the ball away sloppy and I think if you look at the three goals tonight, most probably were our own downfall,” admitted Danny Harris.

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Danny Harris said: “We made some changes, we switched to a 3-5-2 and we said to the boys we’ve got to come out for 10 minutes of the second half and we’ve got to be on the front foot and we’ve got to have a go at them because we still believe that we’re still in this game.

“We’re only 1-0 down, roll your sleeves up, (and give me) work-rate, commitment, heart – go out there and show what you’re made off.  Unfortunately, within a minute we gave away a sloppy goal.”

Davis added: “It’s (our defensive shape) something we try to pay attention too. We weren’t happy conceding that amount of goals in the first couple of games of the season so far, so we’re working on our shape and protecting what we have.

“I told them to just continue to enjoy it, remain disciplined and although we’ve rotated, we’ve still come here for the win and put the game out of sight.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead boss Danny Harris made a treble change at the break, while centre-half Akintimehin moved over to left-back, Jordan Chidley was partnered in the centre by right-back Adewuyi Akande and winger Santana slotted in at right-back, while McGarrigle switched to defensive midfield.

However, Lewisham Borough doubled their lead after only 34 seconds when Akande switched off in defence and opened the gate.

Big targetman Kushal Palmer put it on the plate for Horlock, who took a touch before emphatically placing his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 10-yards.

Davis said: “I mean Freddie’s there. If you need someone to score, Freddie’s there. He’s always lurking in the box. He’s getting on the end of stuff and it’s all going his way.

“One-nil is always dodgy but we knew if we score early, hopefully that will put it to bed.”

Danny Harris revealed: “Listen, Ade’s put his hands up to it. He knows he should’ve done better. He knows he should’ve cleared it and he thought he had more time. He looked over his shoulder. He hasn’t done what he should’ve done and made a real stupid error and it’s unfortunately lead to a goal, which then puts us on a real back foot.

“All the half-time talk then goes out of the window and it makes the second half extremely hard for us because we’re chasing the game.”

Keeper Harris made a comfortable save in his midriff after Palmer took a couple of touches and cut inside his marker before stroking a left-footed drive bouncing into the keeper’s hands from 25-yards in the 50th minute.

Lewisham Borough left-back Jerome Cole threw the ball towards the near post and Palmer held the ball up at the near-post and hit a shot on the turn which bounced into Scott Harris’ gloves for a comfortable save, before Sporting Club Thamesmead started having a go and playing the rest of the game on the front foot.

Santana was given licence to roam forward and his driving runs caused Cole issues.

The home side struck the crossbar for the first time on the hour-mark when Turner-Barnard released substitute Tyler Lochner, who fed Santana, whose deflected shot from outside the box looped over the keeper’s shoulder and looped against the crossbar, before McGarrigle’s first-time left-footed drive from 25-yards was comfortably saved by visiting goalkeeper Dowding.

“Listen, Dayo’s main position is right-fullback and he can play in any position on that side,” revealed the Acre boss.

“He’s got the pace, he’s got the strength and I think at times he needs to learn to deliver a little bit quicker and a little bit better but I think tonight you can’t fault his effort.  His application and his desire was there and he’s been unlucky. He’s hit the bar twice and on another day, they go in.”

The home side struck the crossbar for the second time at the half-way point of the second half.

Santana drove into the box before drilling a right-footed shot against the crossbar from 15-yards, with manager Harris looking up in the heavens in despair.

A frustrated Danny Harris said: “That was even a better one, with a great short and unfortunately the keeper is beat all ends up and it’s cannoned back off the crossbar.  Three inches lower and it’s in the back of the net and you’re back in the game at 2-1 and then you’ve still got about 25 minutes to try to get an equaliser, which I think maybe we might’ve done at that stage.

“With a bit more luck that goes in the back of the net but we’re finding it hard to score at the moment.

“It seems like the world is against us at the moment if that makes sense – nothing seems to be going our way!”

More quality play from Santana saw him reach the by-line, before the ball was cleared out to Lockner, who rifled a right-footed 25-yard drive, which crashed off the crossbar and debutant striker Devontae Young looped his free header over the crossbar from eight-yards from the rebound.

Danny Harris said: “We battled hard, they dug in. They took the game to Lewisham in the second half and had Lewisham on the back foot and on another night we score three goals but the third one was the worst one for us because it’s hit the bar, it’s a great shot from Tyler from the edge of the box, he’s done well.

“He’s whipped it in and the keeper’s beat.  It’s come out to Devontae, who is having his first game in seven months, having been out injured and he’s put it over the bar.  On another day, if he would’ve been a bit sharper, he puts the ball in the back of the net.”

Davis, meanwhile, admitted, “When it’s going for you, it’s going for you. We’ve got a young boy in goal. We really wanted him to get a clean-sheet. Samuel Dowding is only 16 and he’s full of confidence and Sam would’ve been unlucky if they had went in but they had some good chances, they had some good chances.

“I noticed they changed their shape to try to match some of the stuff that we were doing and at 1-0 and with us scoring so early, I think they had to go for it second half. It’s a cup game so when they were losing 2-0, they just started piling on the pressure.”

Lewisham Borough grabbed a third-goal on the counter-attack with 38 minutes and 10 seconds on the clock.  There was to be no whistle blown from referee Daniel Wyatt before the free-kick, which upset the Sporting Club Thamesmead manager.

A quickly-taken free-kick from substitute Montel Williams put Zepo through on goal and he rode a sliding tackle from Lockner inside the box before stroking his right-footed shot across the keeper from eight-yards.

“Similar goal that we scored in a similar place in the box on Saturday,” revealed Davis.

“We’re always looking for stuff like that. If the ref allows us, we want to play quickly. It’s just part of football.”

The former Ten-Em-Bee man added: “What pleased me? The result and the amount of goals that we scored and most importantly, the clean sheet.”

Danny Harris said: “Just one of those situations again where we just got caught on the break.

“I’m a little bit bemused with the referee because all night he actually stopped play and told every free-kick to wait for the whistle but for some unknown reason, that time he let it go but listen, I’m not going to moan at it.  I thought he was a little bit card happy towards the end but again, these things happen.”

Not one player in Sporting Club Thamesmead’s sixteen-man squad has scored a goal for the club this season, and substitute winger David Orisatoki found space before drilling a right-footed drive across the keeper and past the far post at the end of the game.

Danny Harris cannot afford to lose their London Senior Trophy First Round tie away to minnows Wimbledon Casuals on Saturday (14:15).

The hosts are in second-place in the Surrey Premier County top-flight with four wins out of four games and are four points behind leaders Worcester Park but with three games in hand.

Harris knows he is in a precarious position personally and defeat in Walton-on-Thames (on a 3G pitch outside Walton Casuals'/Walton & Hersham's stadium) against lower league opposition could end his reign at Bayliss Avenue,  with the likes of Jamie Phipps/Billy Hamlin, Del Oldfield and Danny Wakeling waiting for their next managerial opportunity.

“We are trying so hard. We are working night and day at it,” said Harris.

“We’ve signed some old senior pros.  Some of the youngsters’, we realised we’re not at this level and we’ve actually had awkward conversations in the last couple of weeks.

“We are desperate to do well for this club. We’re desperate to do well for the players and more importantly we’re desperate to do well for ourselves.

“We just need a little bit of luck. We’re just not getting the rub of the green. Every mistake we make is being penalised to the absolute max.

“We will train on Thursday night and we’ll come down here and we’ll regroup and go again. We’ll work on formations and set-plays and get ourselves going again and then we’ll travel there and hopefully put in a good performance and hopefully for once have a little bit of luck, a little bit of rub of the green and get ourselves back and have our first win of the season.”

When asked whether he has had conversations with the board concerning his future, Harris replied: “It is concerning, of course, it’s concerning because in all of the football that I’ve ever done, I’ve never had a run like this. 

“It’s concerning but it’s early in the season. I still think there’s enough time to turn it around and we will try our best.

“There’s been words. I think they’ll like to keep us on board. I think they’re quite happy that we can turn it around but I think they need to see a result as well.  I think that’s the thing.  I’ll be honest with you. I think they do need to see a result.

“We’re trying desperately hard to get them a result, which I’ve said to him (joint-chairman Lee Hill) and the other board members that we are working tirelessly at it, so the trouble is, it’s football and you know what happens in football, so I can’t give you an honest appraisal and honest answer on that because I don’t know.

“It’s a banana skin but listen, we need to get a win so we won’t be going there and not playing a full team. We’ve got to try and get a result. We need a result. We need to build some confidence so we will be going there and trying to take a strong squad there and hopefully get our first result of the season. It won’t be without trying.”

Meanwhile, Whyteleafe, Rochester United, Lewisham Borough, Forest Hill Park (18 points from nine) and Larkfield & New Hythe (17 points from nine) are in the hunt for promotion at this stage of the season.

Lewisham Borough welcome bottom five side FC Elmstead (10 points from seven games) to Ladywell Arena on Saturday.

“I would’ve liked 21 points form seven games but we’re chuffed with our start and hopefully we can stay grounded and maintain it,” said Davis.

“The manager, we get on very well. I know him very well in terms of football.  We’ll just do our best and get another W hopefully.”

When asked about his aspirations for the season, Davis replied: “We just want to win every game, we just want to win every game.  What do you think it should be?”

When asked about facing Premier Division opposition in the next round of the Challenge Cup, the Lewisham Borough boss replied: “Haven’t even looked that far ahead.  I didn’t even know who we had next.  There’s so many cups that we’re involved in and so many games.  We’re up for playing whoever we get and we’ll try to win it.”

Sporting Club Thamesmead: Scott Harris, Adewuyi Akande, Billy McGarrigle, Ben Newman (Tyler Lockner 46), Jordan Chidley, Daniel Akintimehin, Jay Oborne (David Orisatoki 46), Callum Alderson (Markus Marcus 46), Devontae Young, Kayden Turner-Bernard (Imre Sandford 75), Dayo Santana (Jack Alderson 86).

Booked: Daniel Akintimehin 23, Adewuyi Akande 35, Jack Alderson 87, Jordan Chidley 90

Lewisham Borough: Samuel Dowding, Peter Sequeira (Adekunle Adeyinka 63), Jerome Cole, Jordan Bilongo (Montel Williams 73), Nicholas Harvey, Cairo Duhaney-Burton, Zacchius Ajose, Erik Shehu (Kyden Thomas 70), Kushal Palmer (Bryan Zepo 74), Freddie Horlock (Sineen Sineen 57), Khayrie Harris.

Goals: Freddie Horlock 24, 46, Bryan Zepo 84

Booked: Peter Sequeira 36, Bryan Zepo 85, Montel Williams 90, Khayrie Harris 90

Attendance: 75
Referee: Mr Daniel Wyatt
Assistants: Mr Thomas Sansom & Mr Samsul Hadi