Thamesmead Town 4-1 Maidstone United - We'll fight our way out of trouble, says Keith McMahon

Tuesday 21st January 2014

Ryman Premier League
Tuesday 21st January 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

THAMESMEAD TOWN manager Keith McMahon says the greatest day in the club’s history will be maintaining their Ryman Premier League status at the end of the season.

The Mead produced their greatest performance of the season when they produced a shock 4-1 home win over Maidstone United, who would have leapfrogged over Kingstonian back to the summit had they avoided defeat at Bayliss Avenue.

It was a night for the underdog as David toppled Golaith in front of Thamesmead Town’s record highest crowd as a Ryman League club.

The Mead, who went into this game on a three-match unbeaten run but still in the bottom four with five wins from 28 games, stunned their second-placed opponents when they took a thirteenth-minute lead when striker Tommy Whitnell applied a close range finish to score his first goal for the club since his move from bottom-of-the-table Cray Wanderers.

Sean Roberts drilled home a second seven minutes before the break, before The Stones pulled a goal back through Jerrome Sobers’ header.

But Thamesmead Town skipper Junior Baker thumped home a long-range header before Whitnell slotted home a second, before their night was marred when midfielder Simon Glover was sent-off for two bookings at the death.

Thamesmead Town leapfrogged over both East Thurrock United and Wingate & Finchley, who both suffered away defeats tonight, into nineteenth-place in the table with 26 points, while Maidstone United remain in second with 53 points from 27 games, with only four points separating the top six sides.

“It’s a long time coming, I think, with some of our performances,” said a proud McMahon afterwards.

“Listen, to beat a side like Maidstone, who are a decent side, 4-1, we really battled well and deserved it.  They had a lot of possession but we know what they’re all about.

“To score four goals against anyone in this league is massive but performances over the last three months have been massive.

“We’ve just ran and ran and ran and in the end we’ve wore them down and thoroughly deserved it.

“It’s a great win for the club. I’m really pleased for everyone, the committee and we need to move forward from that now.”

Maidstone United manager Jay Saunders was bitterly disappointed with his side after they failed to take advantage of Kingstonian’s 2-1 home defeat to Metropolitan Police last night.

“I felt in both boxes they showed a little bit more desire than us to be honest.  Simple as that,” said Saunders.

“I suppose that’s this league though this year.  I think every team gets top, you think they’re going to go on a little run and then they stumble up.

“I do feel whoever gets top can put five wins together I think they will start to pull away because it seems to be that league this year.

“It just shows you what the Premier is all about.  I think nothings guaranteed. Disappointing as I say. I just felt we lacked that little bit of desire in both boxes.”

The majority of the 305 crowd expected Maidstone United to claim the points and Saunders rued several missed chances.

They created their first chance inside the opening six minutes when they forced the first of nine corners.

Alex Flisher’s out-swinging corner from the left went to the unmarked Jack Parkinson, who planted his header harmlessly wide of the right-hand post from fifteen-yards. 

Flisher then whipped in another corner from the left, which was flicked on and Sobers ghosted in at the far post and steered his shot agonisingly wide of the near post.

Thamesmead Town’s opening chance came inside eleven minutes.

Derek Duncan clipped a quality diagonal ball to Whitnell, who cut the ball back to Rashid Kamara, who turned his man and his left-footed drive looped off Sobers and dropped over the bar for a corner.

But Thamesmead Town took the lead in the thirteenth minute, when midfielder Duncan, 26, was unlucky not to score his second free-kick of the week – after scoring the crucial goal to beat Grays Athletic at the weekend.

Duncan clipped his left-footed free-kick from 25-yards over the wall and the ball crashed down off the underside of the crossbar and Whitnell reacted to steer the ball into the net from close range.
“It will be interesting to see whether it went over the line, I’m not sure,” said McMahon.

“He got the winner from a 30-yard free-kick on Saturday, straight into the top corner, so I actually think the keeper pushed it onto the bar. I’m not sure. If he did, he’s made a great save.

“Tommy’s all about poaching and scoring goals. He’s worked so hard for us.  He’s played three games and today he’s got just rewards.  It was a great free-kick and a good finish at the end.”

Saunders added: “We’ve had them watched Saturday and I know Derek Duncan from years back when he was a kid, playing with him. He’s got good delivery and I said don’t give silly free-kicks away in and around the box.

“I said first fifteen minutes get them camped in their half and we’ve thrown it out to Brownie (Alex Brown) and he gets tacked. It’s come inside and we’ve given away a cheap free-kick.

“You hope they take it on board and they don’t and to be fair to the lad he’s hit the top corner and like all good strikers do, he’s followed it in.”

Saunders felt his side should have restored parity in the 23

Right-back Dan Parkinson clipped a diagonal ball to release left-winger Alex Flisher, who brought the ball under his spell before drilling a low left-footed drive across goalkeeper Sam Mott and past the far post from fourteen-yards.

Saunders added: “Good chance, yes.  I think Flish last year was banging them in.  I think at this stage last year he probably had eleven goals so it’s disappointing.

“He’s got to hit the target there really, but that’s the way we are at the moment. We’re just not making things count.”

Thamesmead linked up in midfield through striker Shamir Mullings and Duncan before the ball was spread out to Rashid Kamara, who turned before stroking his right-footed shot into Lee Worgan’s gloves at the near post from 20-yards.

Thamesmead Town increased their lead in the 38
minute with a sweet low strike from midfielder Roberts.

Duncan floated over a free-kick towards the far post, which was knocked down by Baker and Roberts drilled a low left-footed drive through a crowd of players for the ball to nestle into the bottom right-hand corner from 22-yards.

“Sean Roberts was outstanding! For a youngster he’s deserved that goal,” said McMahon.

“In training, he does that all the time.  The one thing we say to him that he should score more goals and he’s popped up and it’s a sweet left-foot strike and he’s found the bottom corner.

“It was a good time to score for us as well. It gave us a little bit of a cushion.”

Saunders wasn’t pleased with his players for not picking up Roberts.

He said: “We’ve not cleared our lines properly and then we haven’t picked up seconds on the edge of our box. We should have cleared our lines properly and if we don’t we make sure he shouldn’t have had that much time to get a shot off, but again it could have been avoided, but to be fair to the lad he stuck it well but I think you’ve got to stop it at source.”

Former Bromley striker Mullings flashed a right-footed drive past the far post from 25-yards, before Maidstone United failed to take a lifeline at the end of the first half.

Former Tonbridge Angels striker Frannie Collin delivered a free-kick from the right, the ball got stuck underneath Jack Parkinson’s feet inside the crowded penalty area and the ball ran loose to Alex Brown, who swept the ball across goal and past the far post as the Mead escaped the goal-mouth scramble.

When asked what his thoughts were at the break, the Thamesmead Town boss replied: “In recent weeks we’ve been 3-0 up (against Billericay Town before drawing 3-3) and we know with Maidstone’s quality, their power from set plays and throws it weren’t going to be easy and good sides don’t lie down and they didn’t.  They came at us and they scored.”

Saunders added: “Not happy! I still thought we were in the game.  I thought we were creating chances, creating opportunities, getting plenty of balls in the box.  One fell to Jack (Parkinson) and he couldn’t get it out of his feet and there were a couple of other chances.

“I felt we was in it and we came out second half again and we got it back to 2-1 and still you feel here we go and then we gave a crap third goal.”

Maidstone United keeper Worgan made a comfortable save to deny Roberts scoring with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area, only 37 seconds into the second half.

But McMahon was cursing his luck when his side should have had the game dead and buried inside five minutes.

Roberts whipped in a cross from the right and Mullings’ weak header from six-yards sailed across the struggling Worgan and bounced agonisingly wide of the far post.

McMahon said: “We had a great chance to go 3-0 up with Shamir.  I thought it was in and it looked in all day and it’s just bounced past the post.

“It would have been game over. I thought today young Shamir Mullings was outstanding.  He’s a youngster, he runs well, he works hard, he’s up and down in games but he can’t head the ball.  Well today he’s mostly played against one of the powerful aerial sides and he’s been immense.  He deserved that to go in but it was a great header back to where it come and it’s just agonisingly gone wide but for me that was game over. It didn’t (go in) but we had to keep going.”

Maidstone United went close to pulling a goal back when Dan Parkinson floated a free-kick into the Thamesmead penalty area, but his older brother Jack sent his header over the bar from seven-yards.

Jack Parkinson then received the ball from Flisher’s arms, before taking the ball forward before cracking a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which deflected behind for a corner.

Maidstone United pulled a goal back in the 59
minute following their seventh corner of the game, courtesy of central defender Sobers’ second goal of the season.

Flisher swung in a left-footed corner from the right and Sobers powered his downward header into the back of the net through a crowd of players from six-yards, to the delight of Jack Parkinson who ran towards the travelling fans behind the goal fisted the air.

Saunders said: “We’ve had a hell of a lot of corners tonight.  That’s what I mean by desire in the boxes. I think if they had nine corners they would have scored three or four of them because they just showed that extra bit of desire in the box and we didn’t today.  People didn’t get across their men, they didn’t really want to attack and win things and that’s what you get.”

McMahon revealed Mullings was at fault for not keeping tracks on former Bromley defender Sobers.

“Again, Shamir, we’ve just praised him, he was marking him and he just let him go,” said McMahon.

“It’s a good header. It’s a good ball in. They had a hell of a lot of corners tonight. I think more than anybody has had against us.  We’ve defended all of them apart from that one.  We’re disappointed but I just thought we showed great character.  They thought they were going to get back into it and we’ve gone straight up the other end and scored and showed some great quality.”

But any hopes of a Maidstone United fight-back soon evaporated when clinical Thamesmead Town scored twice in five minutes.

Duncan clipped a 63
minute free-kick towards the far corner of the penalty area where Baker powered his looping header across Worgan to drop into the far corner from eighteen-yards.

Saunders said: Graeme’s (Andrews) not headed it properly and it’s fallen to Jack and Jack could’ve played it quicker, didn’t, got frustrated and given away a cheap free-kick.

“They’ve just hung it into the box and to be fair it’s a hell of a header, but he shouldn’t be given a free header. I’ll have to look at it. I don’t know if it’s being filmed tonight but it’ll be good to see it and see exactly what happened there.

“Don’t get me wrong, the lads done well, it’s a hell of a long way out – again avoidable.”

McMahon added: “Junior Baker has scored direct from the header. It’s gone wide and he’s got up and he’s rose and headed it straight back in the goal.  Shamir put it in but it was already in.

“It’s looped over Worgs. Junior’s decent in the air and it was a great, great header from the corner of the box. 

“It gave us that little bit more breathing space and it gave the lads another lease of life. It dampened them a little bit and gave us an extra ten yards to keep fighting.

“If we didn’t get another one we’ve learnt that we’ve sat back and teams have scored and got at us and we’ve just had to keep going.”

The Mead wrapped up the shock victory when right-back Luke Edgar split the now Maidstone United back three to release Whitnell through on goal, with a low precise pass through the heart of defence.

The striker latched on to the ball and kept composed to slot the ball past Worgan from 12-yards, into the bottom right-hand corner.

“Listen, young Luke, it’s his second game for us. He’s only been at the club for a week. I threw him in the deep end on Saturday, which surprised him. He’s a centre half and he had a tough game today. Alex Flisher is a good player and we thought we gave him a little bit too much space in the first half, even though his big, strong and quick. He didn’t do any harm but in the second half I thought he was outstanding.  He got a bit more comfortable. He got on the ball and put it in a good hole.”

McMahon was pleased that Whitnell has got off the mark for his new club.

“You want to see your centre forward, who scores goals, to go through, clear through one-on-one from 40-yards.  He’s took his time, composure and he’s slotted it and that’s killed the game right off.

“That’s his first two goals in three games so it aint a bad turnaround. He’s worked so hard. He has deserved more. All chances we’ve had recently have fallen to Shamir but it just goes to show both Tom and Shamir work their socks off and I thought today it was Tom’s turn to score and deservedly so.”

Saunders added: “I think at that point we’ve gone three at the back. We’ve chucked an extra man up front and I think you’re going for it so you might as well lose 4-1 if you’re losing 3-1. You’ve got to have a go at it and that’s what we’ve done.

“Millsey (Tom Mills) got the wrong side of him and he’s got away.  Tom’s quick but I knew as soon as he went through he’s going to finish that, but again I don’t read too much into the fourth because we’re throwing bodies forward.”

Stunned Maidstone United continued to create chances but they couldn’t get past a resilient Thamesmead Town defence again.

Richard Butler lost the ball inside his penalty area and Maidstone United substitute Jack Harris cut the ball back to Zac Attwood, who cut the ball across goal and Flisher slid in to steer his shot past the near post.

Another substitute, Charley Robertson, linked up well with Alex Brown in midfield before Flisher put in a cross from the left and Collin sent his free-header wide from eight-yards.

Collin – who was otherwise in Baker’s pocket - stroked a right-footed shot on the turn from 25-yards, which was saved low by Mott, who has returned to Bayliss Avenue after playing for Welling United and East Thurrock United.

But the only negative on Thamesmead Town’s night was when Glover received his second yellow card at the death from referee Alex Neil, for an alleged elbow on Flisher right in front of the dug-outs.

Both managers were asked their thoughts on the red card.

Saunders said: “It’s a bit harsh to be fair. I don’t know with two minutes to go was there really a need to send him off? But I suppose the laws of the game he’s leaned with his elbow.  I know Gloves is not that sort of person so it’s one of them.”

McMahon said: “I just said to the referee I’m disappointed with the second one. He said he leant with the elbows. It’s either a straight red but the first one was poor.  You’re sitting here thinking the last minute of the game, there’s nothing in it.  I’m disappointed with the second booking. Gloves is gutted he’s going to miss one game. It will be a tough game for us but we have to look at the positives and we’ll worry about that later.”

McMahon, meanwhile, was full of praise for his resilient defenders.

“You have got to give our centre halves a lot of credit,” he said.

“We’ve not had our skipper (Lewis Tozer) for three games and we’ve only let a goal in and won two.

“Junior Baker was outstanding, so was Richard Butler and we can’t not give young Jay Porter a mention at left-back. A young kid from Dartford against a very good side. I talk to Tony (Burman, the Dartford manager) a lot. He’s got to be a big prospect at the end of the year for them, so I thought we defended brilliantly and Sam (Mott) either punched or caught the balls into the box.

“We’ve defended very well. We were like our old self. We’ve put our necks on the line, diving in the way. We put in a proper performance and just showed the will to win.”

McMahon’s aim is to maintain the club’s Ryman Premier League status and tonight’s victory and climbing out of the relegation zone will give everybody at the club a massive lift.

“The greatest day was getting in the league. The greatest day will be staying up and that will be the greatest achievement the club has ever had,” said McMahon.

“To beat a side like Maidstone doesn’t mean you’ve cracked it and you’ve done well. They’re one of the title favourites, they’ve got a great crowd, a great following. Jay knows his stuff and he’s got a great load of players and that will be the team to beat, what I’ve seen. I’ve watched them quite a few times and they’re very organised.”

McMahon added: “We’re the club that has a knack of upsetting and being underdogs and winning.  We are where we are and the team that wants to roll their sleeves up and fight will get out of trouble – that’s our club!”

All of Maidstone United’s four defeats have come away from home on grass, as they remain unbeaten in fifteen games on their artificial pitch.

Saunders said: “I think on the night we’ve created a lot of chances – again same as Saturday but at the moment we’re not taking our chances and at the other end every mistake or everything we do we get punished for.

“I think Thamesmead have not had bundles of chances tonight. If you look at it I think we’ve probably had quite a few more but that’s the way we are at the moment. We’re not taking ours and at the other end we’re getting punished for sloppy mistakes.  I think all goals could have been avoided tonight and that’s what disappoints me the most.”

Looking at tonight’s defeat as a chance missed in the race for top spot, Saunders who has now slipped down to third-place after Dulwich Hamlet’s 4-2 win at Margate, added: “It’s frustrating.  I think it’s a great opportunity for someone this year.  We can’t be too down. We’ve got to pick ourselves up.  I think that’s our fourth defeat all season so we’ve got to take positives from it or try to.

“Don’t get me wrong, to lose 4-1 to a team that was in the bottom four is disappointing but you’ve got to give Thamesmead some credit.  Every chance they had, they put away and they worked ever so hard and fair play to them.”

Thamesmead Town: Sam Mott, Luke Edgar, Jay Porter, Junior Baker, Richard Butler, Simon Glover, Sean Roberts, Derek Duncan, Shamir Mullings (George Savage 90), Tommy Whitnell (Theo Fairweather-Johnson 86), Rashid Kamara (Danny Phillips 75).
Subs: Lanre Azeez, Rob Budd

Goals: Tommy Whitnell 13, 67, Sean Roberts 38, Junior Baker 63

Booked: Simon Glover 42

Sent Off: Simon Glover 90

Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Dan Parkinson (Jack Harris 68), Tom Mills, Jerrome Sobers, Graeme Andrews, Michael Phillips (Charley Robertson 46), Alex Brown, Jack Parkinson, Zac Attwood, Frannie Collin, Alex Flisher.
Subs: Fabio Saraiva, Elliot Cox, Will Godmon

Goal: Jerrome Sobers 59

Booked: Dan Parkinson 37, Jack Parkinson 62

Attendance: 305
Referee: Mr Alex Neil (Sutton, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Dele Sotimirin (Brixton, London SW9) & Mr Ryan O’Sullivan (Croydon, Surrey)