VCD Athletic 0-2 AFC Hornchurch - We couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo, admits Tony Russell

Tuesday 09th September 2014

Ryman Premier League
Tuesday 9th September 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

VCD ATHLETIC manager Tony Russell insists he will not change his side’s attractive style of play despite being in relegation trouble after nine league games.

The Crayford-based club lost this Ryman Premier League basement battle as AFC Hornchurch claimed their first league win of the season to move level on four points with the home club.

AFC Hornchurch arrived at Oakwood having suffered seven defeats on the spin and went 373 minutes without scoring a goal.

However, Gravesend-born striker, George Purcell, 26, took only fourteen minutes to end that drought by scoring with a driven free-kick underneath the wall.

VCD Athletic continued to play their passing game, going backwards and sideways frequently, which left lone striker Leigh Bremner a frustrated and isolated man against a former club.

The Urchins killed the game off with eighteen minutes remaining when central defender Omar Beckles headed home his second goal of the season following a corner to extend Vickers’ run of defeats to three games, which leaves them in the bottom two tonight.

“We’re obviously disappointed, I don’t like losing any game but pretty similar to how our season’s gone in a nutshell if I’m honest,” said Russell afterwards.

“We controlled the game, dominated possession, got in the final third and powder puff!

“That game pretty sums up the whole season bar the first two when we were all over the shop and we were un-organised but since then that’s been it!  We’ve had more of the ball, had more possession, maybe had more chances but we never really looked like scoring.

“We couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo!”

AFC Hornchurch certainly did their homework on VCD Athletic as hardworking striker Tobi Joseph ran himself into the ground by trying to close down Nick Blue and his back four as they regularly played the ball around from the back.

The visitors’ created their first chance after only 50 seconds when Joseph teed up Purcell, who stroked a first time left-footed drive into Blue’s gloves for a comfortable save.

Purcell was to strike the Vickers’ crossbar inside the opening eight minutes.

Central midfielder Tom Davis feed winger Junior Luke, who cut in from the left into the middle and Purcell let the ball run across him before cracking a left-footed drive from 20-yards, which screamed over Blue’s left shoulder and crashed against the crossbar.

“I thought they started bright for the first ten minutes, they were the better side,” admitted Russell.

“Just out of nothing he’s span on a six-pence.  I didn’t see it, let along Bluey.  He’s absolutely drilled it!

“Apart from that, I don’t really remember them creating that much.  I think that’s as far as they went.”

Purcell started the game well and his next shot was blocked and the ball went to Luke, whose left-footed shot rolled into Blue’s gloves for another comfortable save.

AFC Hornchurch deserved their fourteenth-minute lead as Purcell got off the mark for the season by scoring with a 28-yard free-kick.

Purcell drove his left-footed shot into the base of the wall, the deflection deceiving Blue as the ball flashed into the back of the net.

Russell said: “It’s not in off the wall, it’s through the wall! What can you do? I said to them at half-time, if you don’t want to get hurt by a ball don’t stand in the wall!

“I don’t understand when the ball comes, you all jump out of the way?! To be honest that’s criminal and I said that to them at half-time. All the boys in that wall have got a lot to answer for because you can’t do that!

“George can hit a ball. We had a warning earlier. He can hit the ball but to jump out of the way it’s poor. 

“When you’re struggling to score goals to give soft ones away, it gives you the uphill (struggle) from them.

“It seems to be the boys are having their own competition of the worst goals of the season conceded.  Two more today because the second one was much more of a calamity like the first one!”

VCD Athletic took until the eighteenth minute to create their first chance.

James Duckworth played the ball inside from the left flank to Karl Dent, who powered his right-footed drive over the bar from 35-yards.

AFC Hornchurch hit VCD Athletic on the break with their next chance later on in the half.

Chris Bourne broke down the left and left-back Alex Bentley and Purcell both joined in with the sweeping move, which resulted in Bourne sending his right-footed drive straight at Blue from 30-yards.

Davis delivered a free-kick into the Vickers’ penalty area where Frankie Curley sent his towering header wide, before the home side squandered a couple of excellent chances to claw themselves back into the game.

Lewis Perkins progressed down the right flank and whipped in a low cross towards the near post where Bremner nipped in to beat his man and opted to direct his stooping header past the post via a deflection.

Russell expected better from his striker, who like five other team-mates have only notched one goal this season.

“I don’t like to single out anyone but for a man of his standards he missed two sitters in that first half.

“Denty’s slid him in and he’s not even hit the target. It’s got to go across goal and then Perkins’ put a lovely ball and he’s in front of his man and he’s tried to head it sort of 20 centre meters off the floor and he’s just got to side-foot it in.

“I said to him at half-time, I was never a forward so I can’t really answer that but I’ve known Brems a long time and I know he can finish but I’m a little bit baffled at the moment why he’s not.”n and he'eh for a man of his standards he missed two sitters in that first half,"or because you can'since th

A quickly taken free-kick from VCD right-back Elliott Cox was played inside to Dent, who unleashed a left-footed angled drive towards goal from 25-yards, which was comfortably saved by former Thamesmead Town keeper Sam Mott at his near post.

A good run by Davis saw him tee up Purcell, who hit a first time left-footed drive which stung Blue’s fingers, the keeper gathering at the second attempt.

VCD Athletic squandered an excellent chance to restore parity just before the break.

Duckworth did well to poach the ball from Luke inside Hornchurch’s half and Dent played Bremner in behind the Urchins’ right-back Phil Starkey, but Bremner steered his left-footed drive past the near post.

When asked about his half-time thoughts, Russell said: “I thought baring the first ten minutes then we settled down and once we got going we moved them about. It’s the same old thing, we manipulated them, we moved the ball, we got to the final third, then nothing!  There’s a problem there and that’s us all season so our system is working.

“We’ve dominated in terms of possession. We’ve got ourselves into good openings, but nothing!

“As soon as you go a goal down you need to equalise quickly and at the moment we don’t look like nowhere near to score two goals in a game. We’ll be lucky to score two goals in a season with the finishing that we’ve got out there on show at the moment.

“It’s something that we’ve got to try to address. We’ve left it to the point of this is now becoming silly.  We are going through it a little bit at the moment and we’re desperately short. 

“It’s a bit of a nightmare at the moment.”

A poor 50th minute clearance from Blue went straight to Joseph, who raced into the penalty area but Blue made amends by smothering the ball at the striker’s feet.

Hornchurch winger Luke floated over a cross from the right where Purcell jumped to guide his header across goal and past the far post.

Purcell then turned provider as he reached the by-line before he cut the ball back for Bourne, who hit a first time shot over Blue’s crossbar.

Leon McKenzie made his second debut for AFC Hornchurch in the 61st minute and he almost scored with his first touch of the ball.

Luke hurled a long throw into the penalty area and the ball bounced off McKenzie’s head at the near post and Blue made a comfortable catch.

AFC Hornchurch continued to create the chances while the home side were content to pass the ball around the back instead of getting the ball forward quickly.

Davis released Purcell with a fine long ball in the 63rd minute and the striker cut the ball back to Luke, who took a touch and was given time and space to curl his left-footed shot around the far post from 25-yards.

AFC Hornchurch killed the game off with their fifth goal of the season with eighteen minutes left.

Davis floated a right-footed corner in from the left towards the far post where Beckles came up from the back to power his header into the near corner from three-yards.

“I thought it was a foul first before in the build-up,” said Russell.

“It was a nothing ball in the box and it went for a corner and then I thought the corner wasn’t a great one either! I thought he just floated it up. I don’t know. I need to talk to the boys.

“When someone heads the ball from three-yards out I kind of want to know where my centre halves and goalkeeper are?

“If I’m honest, he didn’t zip it in, he just floated it up. The boys have said their guy got hold of him there and just thrown him out of the way but it’s another s*** goal, sorry c**p goal in terms of us.

“The problem we’ve got as soon as someone scores one or two that’s it.  Unfortunately we’re not going to score at the moment and it is a worry, but we’ve just got to somehow get a few bodies in quickly as fast as we can.”

Bourne broke away down the left by making a 50-yard run to reach the by-line before he cut the ball back towards Curley, who drilled a first time shot harmlessly wide of the left-hand post.

AFC Hornchurch almost grabbed a flattering third on the break as the game reached injury-time.

Davis released Purcell, who started his run from near the half-way line to sprint into the penalty area but his left-footed shot was blocked by Blue’s outstretched left leg.

Russell said: “We were bombing forward and we were just filling boxes up and you’re going to get that. That was it. The only time they really looked like scoring.”

Bremner and Dent linked up well for Duckworth to send his left-footed angled drive sailing just over Mott’s crossbar.

Vickers’ left-back Ahmed Deen whipped in a cross which was headed back across goal at the far post by Lea Dawson and Dent glanced his header wide.

Russell said: “We’re getting in good areas and we’re moving the ball and I think there was a couple of times in the second half when the ball’s dropped to Brems in the box and he’s not anticipated.

“These are the things we can work on in our structure.  I’ve always said we can get them in these areas. We’ll give them the structure and it’s up to them to work within that structure so we’ll put them in those positions by doing the movement and it’s up to you what you do in that. Hence why you’re at this level and you can ask for what you ask for etc. We’re getting people in that position so I know it works.

“We haven’t got someone who can go past someone. We haven’t got that pace and that power to go past someone so it is a tricky one.

“I’ve seen nothing, no-one’s dominated us.  It’s that dilemma. I think it works but if I don’t get people in the right positions who are going to work with that it’s like walking around with a gun without no bullets.”

Russell must adapt quickly and be brave enough to change his passing style when they’re chasing games in the need to pick up points.

“If I generally thought it was the way forward, then I would,” said Russell.

“I don’t do it so everyone says you play good football. I do it because I think it’s the right way to win a game of football. 

“If you look at all the centre halves, they’re all giants. Against Bremns what’s the point of whacking it up to his head?  It’s really irrelevant.  You just give the ball back so it’s not a case of I don’t want to do it, it’s just I don’t think it’s going to do me any favours.

“If I generally thought the passing wasn’t working and we wasn’t creating chances or controlling the game, then I’ll stop doing it and I’ll come up with another idea and that’s us the whole season, home and away!”

When asked what his side are missing at present, the Vickers boss replied: “It’s hard because players read (the website).  What I need is someone to put their hand up and score some goals and be brave enough to shoot and take a chance.

“I need someone who is prepared to go at people, will get you in the right areas and when you get there you have that directness to go past the full-back every single time.”

Thamesmead Town, who are of a similar sized club as VCD Athletic, were also on four points after nine league games last season and ended up getting relegated.

“I’m feed up of people saying we’re struggling,” said Russell.

“I said if you come to the games we’re not struggling in terms of people are not whipping us out or stopping us playing,” said Russell.

When asked about being in a relegation dog-fight, Russell admitted: “I don’t think we are! I generally don’t! It sounds stupid.  I don’t really look at the table.

“If I didn’t know what the problem, then I don’t think I’ll be able to fix it.  You stood and watched this game today, you can tell me?

“I know we’re getting the boys in the right positions. I know we’re controlling the game. I know we’re stopping the other team from playing. I know we’re making them go long and keep giving the ball back to them.

“What I need to work out is how I’m going to get players in the final third who can deliver in this level of football.”

VCD Athletic: Nick Blue, Elliott Cox (Taylor McDonagh 75), Ahmed Deen, Nick Reeves, Ben Payne, Peter Smith, Lea Dawson, Karl Dent, Leigh Bremner, James Duckworth, Lewis Perkins (Ellis Green 61).
Subs: Ray Powell, Charlie Penfold

Booked: Karl Dent 80

AFC Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Phil Starkey, Alex Bentley, Elliot Styles, Omar Beckles, Frankie Curley, Junior Luke (Courtney Homans 84), Tom Davis, Tobi Joseph (Leon McKenzie 61), George Purcell, Chris Bourne (Junior Dadson 90).
Subs: Elyon Marshall-Katung, Frank Griffin

Goals: George Purcell 14, Omar Beckles 72

Booked: Tom Davis 77, Junior Luke 83, George Purcell 90

Attendance: 124
Referee: Mr Stuart Cheek (Ilford, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Ray Wells (London E10) & Mr Olivier Roguez (London E14)