Sutton Athletic 1-4 Erith Town - I won't knock these boys, they've been brilliant for 36 games and whatever they've had thrown at them, they've stood up and been counted, says play-off chasing Erith Town boss Adam Woodward

Tuesday 11th April 2023
Sutton Athletic 1 – 4 Erith Town
Location Lower Road, Hextable, Kent BR8 7RZ
Kickoff 11/04/2023 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 11 April 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Lower Road

ERITH TOWN manager Adam Woodward says he is not feeling happy about missing out on winning the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title but wants to finish in second-place.

Erith & Belvedere are on course of claiming the league title and promotion into the Isthmian League South East Division, having picked up 81 points from their 35 games and have three games left to play.

Phoenix Sports are in second-place on 75 points with three games remaining and are in the sole play-off zone for the trip to a Step Four struggler on Saturday 29 April.

However, Deal Town and Erith Town have both played a game more and are locked on 74 points, as the Dockers bounced back from Saturday’s 2-0 defeat against Steve King’s side with a comfortable victory on a miserable rain-lashed night in Hextable.

Jamie Humphris – who was a sixteenth minute replacement for Harry Taylor (groin) - gave Erith Town the lead halfway through the second half from the penalty spot - to score his eighth goal of the season for the club -  before setting up the second, which was headed in by fellow striker Alfie Eldridge.

Eldridge then swept in his sixteenth goal of the season to put play-off chasing Erith Town in a commanding position going into the interval.

Eleventh-placed Sutton Athletic (now with 47 points with three games remaining), pulled a goal back through a bundled effort from winger Merrick Simms following a corner, before right-wing-back Joe Chalker drove in a late fourth to inflict the home side’s third defeat on the bounce, leaking 12 goals in the process.

“I thought we were really good first-half,” said Woodward.

“I thought second half they got back into it.  We set up a certain way.  We spoke to the players before the game about how they were going to play and when I looked at the team sheet, I saw they had a few missing, which I thought affected them a little bit because the players they had missing are quality players.

“Look, you can only play what’s in front of you.  I thought we were really good first half and then second half we allowed them back into it and maybe it was against-the-run-of-play when we got the fourth but I think it was sort of half done at half-time, the way the players played second half.”

Humphris, 34, who is dual-registered with Isthmian League South East Division side Beckenham Town, came off the bench to impress during the first-half, before his work was done in the 75th minute and was replaced by winger Rodney Eruotor.

Erith Town’s centre-half Jerome Jayaguru clipped the ball down the left-channel for Aaron Jefferey, who cut inside and his cross was handled by Sutton Athletic’s central midfielder Mason Simms and referee Stuart Beadle gave a harsh penalty.

Humphris placed his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Joe Hyde the wrong way to give Erith Town the lead with the first shot on goal after 21 minutes and 57 seconds on the clock.

“Maybe I’m being a bit harsh to the players because it looked awful out there but it's the same for both teams,” said Woodward, on the weather conditions.

“It’s another game where I didn’t think Mackenzie Foley was really tested, other than picking the ball out of his net.”

Woodward added: “I thought the penalty was harsh but it was a good run by Aaron.  Congratulations to him, he got married yesterday and he came into the side tonight and I thought he was really good for an hour. I got an hour out of him.

“He’s just got that little bit of experience, the runs he makes are really good as well.

“We missed a penalty in the 88th minute at Deal on Saturday but Humphris’ got the ball and he tucked it home.”

Hyde was the busier of the two goalkeepers and was called into making a fine reaction save after James Miles whipped in a quality delivery into the corridor of uncertainly and a header emerged from within a crowd of players.

Miles – who sits in front of the Dockers’ back three – took a touch and lofted a long ball over the top to put Chalker through on goal but Hyde rushed off his line to clear before the ball fell at Eldridge’s feet and his drilled shot was pushed away by Hyde on the edge of his penalty area.

“It was a good little bit of football and Eldo had the chance to tuck it home.  I think maybe he snatched at it a little bit and he’s been like that a couple of weeks. It was one, maybe, he’d look back and think he could’ve been a little bit more calmer in the situation,” added Woodward.

Erith Town doubled their lead with 30 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock when Humphris hung over a cross from close to the left by-line down the channel, putting it on the plate for Eldridge to bury his free header into the top right-hand corner.

Woodward added: “He couldn’t really miss, could he, honestly? 

“I thought Jamie Humphris done all the work for him, put it on a plate for him. It’s good for Eldo because he missed a couple of big chances on Saturday and he was a little bit down.  He’s got two tonight, which was really good and that will boost his confidence up because he’s been out for a long time this season.

“He’s on contract so we’ve backed him a lot and he’s back now. He’s not quite 100% there yet but he’s just got to get his head down and knuckle down.”

Sutton Athletic offered very little in attack during the first half.  Their 31-goal talisman striker Arlie Desanges wasn’t offered any service and the home side were clearly missing Conor Evans, who links up play well in the attacking third.

Holding midfielder Ashley Sheppard drilled a couple of efforts over Mackenzie’s Foley crossbar from the edge of the Dockers’ penalty area in the space of 86 seconds.

Clinical Erith Town increased their lead further by scoring their third goal of the night with 36 minutes and 43 seconds on the clock.

Humphris pinged a quality diagonal out from the Erith Town half to send Chalker on his way down the right and after cutting inside and reaching the penalty area he teed up Eldridge, who swept his shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

“It’s another one from Humphris’ setting it up.  Good for Chalker tonight, he’s been patient for the last couple of weeks.  He came on, on Saturday and he was really good, so tonight he got the start. It’s a good delivery, one that Eldo can’t really miss. He’s just got to put it in the goal.

“If you sat him down and said ‘you’ve scored 16’, I think he’ll turn round to you and say to you he should probably get 46! He’s missed a lot of chances and he knows that but he’s a young kid, he’s doing really well. He just needs to keep his feet on the ground, keep learning, keep developing.

“He’s got great strike partners in (30-goal) Steadman Callender, who is injured and (21-goal) Harry Taylor, and he’s got good people around him to listen to.

“If you’re a young striker there’s not many better to listen to than Jamie Humphris. He’s great for Eldo and I think that’s what he needs, someone who’s going to guide him. He’s got Harry Taylor as well who can guide him and scores goals and Steadman, who’s not a young man anymore, he’s knocking on 30. It’s good for Eldo to be around these people and take on all the advice that they give him.”

A fine pass from Ladic Melconian gave Eldridge a glorious chance to notch his hat-trick in the 44th minute but his left-footed shot on the turn from 22-yards bounced off the foot of the right-hand post, leaving Hyde rooted to the spot.

“I thought Ladic was really good in there tonight as well. He’s been a great find last year from Bridon Ropes. He works really hard in midfield, he’s got a little bit of quality.  I feel a little bit sorry for him at the moment, he hasn’t hit the back of the net like he has done but he’s worked his socks off,” said Woodward, who was then asked his thoughts at the interval.

“I wasn’t overly happy because I still think there’s certain aspects of our game that we need to improve on and we were allowing un-needed pressure coming onto us.

“It was make sure you go out and don’t take your foot of the gas and try to put the game to bed a little bit more.”

Desanges had one chance for Sutton Athletic, pressing Jayaguru on the edge of the box but his right-footed hooked shot was comfortably gathered by Foley inside the opening nine minutes.

Woodward revealed that Jayaguru is 19 and Tom Ash 18 and praised them both for keeping Sutton’s talisman striker quiet throughout the game and keeping the more established Ryan Mahal on the bench until the 87th minute.

“JJ (Jayaguru) came to us three days before the season started, he had no club and came to us and we had to throw him in because we had players away on holidays and we haven’t looked back since,” said Woodward.

“It’s good, the news on Saturday that he’s signed a contract so he’s looking to stay and build on us for next year, which is really good.   Alongside the goalkeeper,  JJ and Tom Ash are a fantastic pairing and they’re doing really well because they’re keeping out my captain Ryan Mahal, who’s an experienced player so they can’t do any more than what they’re doing to keep Arlie Desanges quiet is a credit to them.”

Sutton Athletic brought on their three substitutes and with left-back Dominic Vincent-Edwards coming off for England Kurti, who was pushed up to play behind Desanges, this meant Mason Simms slotted in at left-back.

This gave Erith Town some joy as Mason Simms often failed to cut out long balls that went in behind him and Hyde was called into action a few times.

However, a mistake from Foley gifted Sutton Athletic a consolation goal with 27 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.

Kurti sent in a high, hanging corner in from the right and goalkeeper Foley failed to deal with it and left-winger Merrick Simms bundled the ball over the line.

“Listen, Mckenzie’s held his hands up in the changing room and said ‘he should’ve dealt with it more’, which you can accept,” said Woodward.

“He’s not put any blame on anyone. We don’t really do that here. We don’t blame other people. If it’s a mistake made you’ve got to blame yourself and he’s held his hand up.

“It was a disappointing goal to concede but I didn’t see any saves from Mackenzie tonight other than picking the ball out of his net.”

Miles’ deliveries were on the money and his free-kick from close to the centre-circle was cleared out to Melconian, who dragged his left-footed shot trickling past the foot of the far post from 20-yards.

Daniel Carrington – who plays on the right of Erith Town’s three man defence – split open Mason Simms with a through ball to put through Melconian, but Hyde made a big save with his legs as the game reached the final 10 minutes.

The Dockers notched their fourth goal with 38 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock, through a first-time snap shot from Chalker, driving his right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards.

“It was nice for him to score tonight, he deserves that. I think that’s his second now in four or five games, so it’s good for Joe,” said Woodward.

“He’s another one that missed a big start of the season because of injury and he’s been in and out. He’s not been overly happy when not playing but he’s bided his time tonight. He came on, on Saturday and I thought he was exceptional and he done really well tonight.”

It should have been five at the death when Eruotor’s through ball released Chalker through on goal but he lacked composure after Hyde slipped over before the shot was played, which was hit straight at the keeper’s legs.

“Hyde pulled off a couple of good saves tonight,” said Woodward.

“He was lying on the floor so I don’t know whether that was a good save or a poor miss but I think he snatched at that a little bit. I think Chalker needs to get his head up, have a look and see the goalkeeper’s on the floor and be calmer and just slot it into an empty net.”

Rain drenched Woodward was shown a yellow card by referee Stuart Beadle, who allowed the home side to take a free-kick in the wrong place.

“As I reminded him, ‘it’s been taken in the wrong place,’ and those were the words I used and he felt it was a yellow card,” revealed Woodward.

Steve O’Boyle’s Phoenix Sports side travel to Whitstable Town on Saturday, Holmesdale next Wednesday and host Kennington on the final day of the season (22 April).

Deal Town travel to Maidstone on Sunday to play Punjab United in the Kent Senior Trophy Final, before travelling to league leaders Erith & Belvedere next Tuesday and host Sutton Athletic on final day.

Erith Town, meanwhile, host second-from-bottom side Canterbury City on Saturday, before Woodward returns to his old club, Glebe on the last day.

“They gave us heart, desire and a little bit of football.  Listen, I won’t knock these boys, they’ve been brilliant for 36 games, absolutely tremendous. Whatever they’ve had thrown at them, they’ve stood up and been counted.  They’ve had it really tough this year and they’re a credit to themselves. I wouldn’t change any of them,” said the Erith Town boss.

“We’ll just keep plugging away. I think we can get 80 points. If we can get 80 points, we’ll see where we are.

“We drew with Canterbury three-all down there and we were 3-1 down with five minutes to go and it was really tough.

“Glebe have had a bit of an upward turn with the new management and look like that they’re doing really well, so we’ll go there and we have to get six points from those games.

“I’m not happy. I wanted to win the league. Let’s be brutely honest. You don’t go into a league not to win it and we wanted to win it and we haven’t won it.

“It looks like it’s going to go to Erith & Belvedere and I know there’s no shame in finishing third or fourth with Erith & Belvedere, Phoenix and Deal in front of you because they’re well-established clubs with bigger budgets than us.

“We want to aim high. I’m an ambitious manager, the chairman’s ambitious, the players are ambitious, so we wanted to try to win the league and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

“Listen, we want to get second. We won’t mess about. We’re a point off Phoenix now, so we won tonight so the pressure goes back on them.”

Sutton Athletic: Joe Hyde, Harry Lawrence, Dominic Vincent-Edwards (England Kurti 61), Ashley Sheppard, Richard Gregory (Michael Fenn 67), George Wishart, Merrick Simms, Mason Simms, Arlie Desanges, Theodore White (Liam Spellward 61), Harry Bradford.

Goal: Merrick Simms 73

Booked: Mason Simms 71

Erith Town: Mackenzie Foley, Joe Chalker, Ronnie McClean, Tom Ash, Jerome Jayaguru, Daniel Carrington (Ryan Mahal 87), Aaron Jeffery (Malik Nosike 61), James Miles, Alfie Eldridge (James Trueman 83), Harry Taylor (Jamie Humphris 16, Rodney Eruotor 75)), Ladic Melconian.

Goals: Jamie Humphris 22 (penalty), Alfie Eldridge 31, 37, Joe Chalker 84

Booked: Aaron Jeffery 34, Joe Chalker 80, Adam Woodward 90 (manager)

Attendance: 70
Referee: Mr Stuart Beadle
Assistants: Mr Joshua Reid & Mr Kennedy Kikulwe