VCD Athletic 2-3 Phoenix Sports - Individual mistakes have cost us being in the top three or four, says VCD Athletic boss Keith McMahon

Sunday 29th December 2019
VCD Athletic 2 – 3 Phoenix Sports
Location Oakwood, Old Road, Crayford, Kent DA1 4DN
Kickoff 29/12/2019 13:00

Isthmian League South East Division
Sunday 29 December 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakwood

VCD ATHLETIC manager Keith McMahon says he will have to take abuse from his committee after losing a league game to their friendly rivals for the first time, despite playing against 10 men for 26 minutes.


The Vickers were by far the better side for large parts of this game against their neighbours Phoenix Sports but they extended their winless run to six games without a win after they threw it away through poor defending.

VCD Athletic opened the scoring inside the opening six minutes through Charlie MacDonald’s tap-in from inside the six-yard box.

But despite putting in a poor first half performance, Phoenix Sports swiftly turned it around by grabbing a 2-1 lead, courtesy of Danny Young and Jack Hopkins scoring after being left unmarked at the far post from two set-pieces.

Phoenix Sports’ right-back Henry Douglas, 18, was sent off for a second yellow card in the 64th minute before MacDonald’s resulting penalty was saved by visiting keeper Steve Phillips, but MacDonald scored his 12th goal of the season from the penalty spot when referee Simon Finnigan awarded the home side their second spot-kick of the game.

MacDonald, 38, has now scored an impressive 47 goals in 56 appearances for VCD Athletic but Phoenix Sports completed their smash-and-grab raid through Lee Bird’s placed finish in to the bottom corner with 12 minutes of the game left.

“How have we lost?  I think on chances maybe 3-25 or something like that but on the other side we couldn’t defend set-plays and gave a stupid goal away at 2-2,” admitted McMahon.

“Footballing side first half I think the game should’ve been buried. I thought we played really well, should’ve come in at least three up!

“I thought the referee was really good today. There were two big decisions in the game, it might’ve been their second goal when it was a foul on the keeper and then they get a corner and right at the end the referee said he might’ve made a mistake with the goal at the end but I’m not blaming that.

“I’ve just looked at the two defenders (Steventon and Bartley) who haven’t won the headers in the box and haven’t done their job properly and you can’t concede three goals with three chances really, maybe four, and not win the game.

“How did we lose? We know the issues. I can’t sit there and make the centre-halves win a header.  I’ve got to try and take some positives and how much we’ve opened up a decent side but at the end of the day when you look back at the end of the season the result will say 3-2 and no one will give a monkey’s how the game was played.

“We’ve played worse and won but it’s twice now here we’ve played really, really well and lost the last two home games and it’s something that we’ve got to have a go and look at.

“It’s just individual mistakes, they didn’t open us up, not once.  It’s just individual mistakes and it’s something we’ve got to learn. You can’t concede three goals at home and we did.

“Listen, individual mistakes have cost us being in the top three or four easy and our football, the way we go forward is up there with the best and I think everyone will say that but football is the whole department.”

Phoenix Sports boss Paul Bryon admitted: “I thought they had the first half if I’m honest. We weren’t bright enough, we weren’t picking up any second balls. We were probably a bit fortunate only going in one down if I’m honest.  We had a couple of really good situations because we were on our heels with the way the game went – but I’m over the moon!

“I spoke to them at half-time and I said they were quick to second balls and quick to everything. Their movement off the ball was better than us and they were better in every department and if you give me another 10-15% we can hurt them because they weren’t looking good at the back today. I thought they had mistakes in them even in the first half when we had a couple of situations where we should’ve scored but I thought overall the effort was outstanding!”

The Battle of Woodside Road attracted the home side’s highest crowd of the season of 228 who witnessed a frenetic local derby.

Phoenix Sports created the first opening after only 55 seconds following the first of their three corners.

Centre-half Ashley Probets swung in a corner from the left with his left wand and Hopkins found a pocket of space at the near post but swept his effort past the near post from eight-yards.

“I thought he should’ve used his head there. He tried to get his leg up and he’s kneed it wide but normally he puts his head in and we get that,” said Bryon.

VCD Athletic almost scored from their first corner but they won seven of them in total.

Holding midfielder Alastair Gordon swung the ball in from the right towards the near post where centre-half Jack Steventon swept his shot through a crowd of players and against the base of the near post, with visiting keeper Steve Phillips getting his hand to the ball but the referee awarded a goal-kick instead.

“We were superb in the first half and the only thing is we should’ve come in two or three up,” said McMahon.

“Every time we got the ball wide we hurt them, especially down the right. I thought the way we controlled the middle of the park as well, Alastair Gordon, Dominic Odusanya and Ayman El-Mogharbel absolutely tore them to pieces with our passing and movement.

“We hit the post and we should’ve got a corner from it as well but didn’t but it set things up for what was to come, I think.”

Bryon said: “I thought first half we defended set-plays really badly. We didn’t have a great shape for the corners or free-kicks and we looked a bit ragged to be fair. We were chasing shadows really but we got in at 1-0 and it was game on.”

VCD Athletic opened the scoring with only five minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Left-winger Kelvin Ogboe picked up a loose ball before pinging a diagonal crossfield ball over to right-winger Alex Gaggin. His pace took him past Lewis Clark on numerous times and he cut into the box before putting in a low cross towards the near post for MacDonald to nip in front of goalkeeper Phillips to poke the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from inside the six-yard box.

“That’s what Charlie does. We give him the ball there, he scores,” said McMahon.

“It was a great move. It was what we done a lot of in the first half. Every time we got the ball wide we caused them all sorts of problems. That’s how both the penalties came from. We had chances. It wasn’t rocket science.”

Bryon would like to see the goal back on video, although the match wasn’t caught on video by either club.

He said: “I’d like to see that because I don’t know how it’s got to him because we’ve got a player there and the keeper there and it’s gone through both of them and he’s got a little tap-in.  It is what it is and I can’t really remember how it’s got there. I’m trying to wrack my brains but I can’t.”

VCD Athletic continued to dominate the game, easily winning the midfield battle as Phoenix Sports failed to keep hold of the ball and treated it like a hot potato.

“It’s a million miles per hour, it’s always going to be. The midfield was packed, they’ve got three in there and they rotate well. We know how they play, they leave their wide men wide and they pop it around midfield and switch the play and get at us,” added Bryon.

However, despite being outplayed, Phoenix Sports wasted a glorious chance to grab an equaliser in the 34th minute.

Douglas roamed down the right channel and put in a low cross into the box where Whitelock and lone striker Jeff Duah-Kessie both had bites of the cherry but the ball ran through to an unmarked James Dyer who drove his right-footed shot into the base of the side netting from 10-yards.

On Douglas, Bryon said: “We had a right-back playing for us today, an under 23 who has never played for us.  I’ve seen him training. We worked with him on Thursday night and I thought he was outstanding in the first half against Kelvin Ogboe.”

On Dyer, Bryon added: “James is 16 years old the lad. He’s started his second game for us. He wanted to get on the ball. He’s a player still got to learn a little bit about the speed of the game but he played well for us against Cray Valley and he’s come in and done another job for us today.”

McMahon added: “Listen, he’s never going to beat my goalkeeper from there. You could see it was going wide. He’s done alright. I thought he done a little bit of trickery, I felt sorry for him coming off. He just whipped a ball in for their goal. When he did get the ball he looked a bit lovely and he’s checked it and hit a shot but it was well wide.”

VCD Athletic squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off just four minutes later.

Ayman El-Mogharbel, who sits behind the front three of MacDonald (central), Ogboe (left) and Gaggin (right), threaded a lovely low pass straight through the heart of the pitch to put MacDonald in on goal.

Linesman Piotr Zachwieja raised his flag and immediately put it down as Gaggin latched onto the ball instead and raced into the box, skipped past goalkeeper Phillips but from a tight angle he smashed his shot just the wrong side of the foot of the near post when he should have squared the ball to MacDonald who would have scored.

“He should’ve passed to Charlie, really poor from him. A great move, I think it was three or four one touch passing that opened them up,” said McMahon.

“The linesman done really well there because Charlie was never offside but he’s carried on, the refs carried on. I thought the ref controlled the game really well today, I’ve got no issues and all Gaggin has to do it just roll it in and Charlie walks the ball in the net so I was more than upset with that because it should be game over!”

Bryon added: “The linesman has half put his flag up and put it down again and we’ve stopped. Their fella has got to pass that. If he passes that we’re 2-0 down but fortunately for us he didn’t. We could’ve gone in 2-0 down at half-time.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the break.

McMahon said: ”Just keep going! I said don’t rue the chances, concentrate, defend properly and you will keep getting chances. Just keep doing what we’re doing, getting it wide, move the ball quick and you’ll win the game comfortably!”

Bryon added: “We said to get around the second balls, that’s where we were losing it, stop them switching the play.  I picked out a couple of their weaknesses and said that’s how we play it. 

“I got at Jeff Duah-Kessie a little bit because he needed a rocket and I think we came out second half and we took it to them. We needed to play higher up the pitch. We were sitting in a little bit and if we get at them, we had a couple of good situations and good opportunities before we actually scored and I thought second half we deserved to get something out of it.”

It was a cagey start to the second half before Phoenix Sports grabbed an equaliser with 10 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.

Dyer whipped in a delicious free-kick from the right and Phoenix Sports had only three players inside the VCD Athletic penalty area but one of them was Young, who was left unmarked at the far post and he buried his bullet header over goalkeeper Matt Funnell’s left-shoulder and into the roof of the net.

“A great ball from the 16-year-old lad,” highlighted the Phoenix Sports manager.

“It was meat and gravy to Youngie. We said if you hit the far post and he spun off far post unmarked and he’s put it in. It was a great header!”

McMahon added: “It’s poor defending. It’s a good header, it’s very poor defending.  It’s three men in the box and it’s very poor but that’s the story of us at the moment. Unfortunately, we are brilliant going one way, we’ve got a couple of tremendous full-backs.

“We’ve brought Rob Bartley in and he’s been excellent for us but he’s left Danny go and we spoke about set-plays and their delivery and I said it’s very disappointing.”

The game was turned on its head when Phoenix Sports grabbed the lead with 13 minutes and 26 seconds on the clock.

It came from their second corner, which was swung in from the right by Whitelock, the ball wasn’t dealt with by the home side and no one had tracked Hopkins run at the far post and he had the simple task of poking the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from a couple of yards out to score his seventh goal of the season.

Bryon said: “Desire, that’s what I spoke about at half-time.  We had three crosses go in the box and everyone was on their heels. Everyone has just got to make runs. If three or four of you are going to make runs, one of you will get on the end of it.

“We gambled and it dropped and Hoppo stuck his foot out.

“At 2-1 I thought ok we can probably get another one. We looked like getting a third at that stage.  I thought we were ok and then the penalty thing.”

McMahon added: “It was a foul on the keeper but the ref’s let it go. We spoke about Hopkins in the box the lad didn’t mark him and he’s buried it.  If you can’t defend set-plays you won’t win a game of football.”

Phillips made a comfortable save on the hour-mark when he held a shot on the turn from Steventon from 22-yards after the centre-half swept his shot towards goal after a free-kick was played into his feet by Gordon.

Phoenix Sports were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute when Douglas committed a foul to send El-Mogharbel to the ground as he cut into the box and towards the by-line down the left-hand side and the referee awarded a penalty.

MacDonald’s right-footed penalty was weak and Phillips dived to his left and grabbed hold of the ball to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom right-hand corner.

“Listen, Charlie will tell you it wasn’t a good pen,” admitted McMahon.

“You expect Charlie to score but it’s a penalty and Steve’s a great goalkeeper as well. He’s done well, guessed the right way and saved it.

“It was a good move as well.  I think the ref let him off with it. It makes no difference, two yellows or one straight red, he gets a game (suspended).  He had no choice but a really good quick pass and move, we done a very quick one-two in the box, like we’ve done all game.”

Bryon added: “It was his first game. He’s been thrown in at the deep end in a local derby and I thought he done really well.

“I was a bit annoyed because his facing his own goal, he should’ve just poked it off for a corner and no penalty and he stays on the pitch. He tried to do something a little bit clever and he ended up losing the ball and he’s caught him. I’ve got no arguments it was a penalty.

“Steve had a good game today. He’s caught everything, punched everything. He’s made two or three outstanding saves and the penalty save from a player of that quality was one for the scrap book I think.”

Bryon responded to put substitute Jack Barry on at right-back and his side had two banks of four with Duah-Kessie dropping deep but it wasn’t a good day for the 11-goal striker as he struggled up front on his own with a lack of support from his team-mates.

The striker was treated in the second half after suffering a knock to his right knee but Bryon revealed: “He went down funny on it and he cut his knee and you could see when we went down to 10 men he came alive in the second half but you could see he was getting tired so we brought Lauris Chin on but he’s alright, it’s not a bad one.”

Phoenix Sports sat back and invited pressure as VCD Athletic continued to probe, especially down the left-hand side with Brown roaming forward on the overlap with Ogboe with Odunsanya also pulling the strings inside the final third.

Phillips was outstanding in goal for Phoenix Sports and inside the final 15 minutes he flew to his left to push behind a rasping drive from an unmarked Gaggin, who cut the ball onto his boot and tried to curl his shot into the top far corner.

“That’s what he’s there for, he’s a good goalkeeper,” said McMahon.

“We kept moving it, passing it. Even against 10 men we had the game pinned in their half for the whole of the second half but fair play to them they were resolute and they rode their luck a little bit.

“They kept everyone behind the ball and we kept creating chance after chance after chance.  We should’ve scored a couple but he’s made a couple of great saves.

“Some of the football was outstanding. We done the same at Herne Bay, we played them completely off the park and lost (4-2) and we were 2-0 up and we’ve got to learn from that.”

Steventon launched a long throw into the Phoenix Sports box where his central- defensive partner Rob Bartley planted his near-post header straight into Phillips hands for a comfortable catch.

VCD Athletic deservedly equalised with 32 minutes and 2 seconds when MacDonald held his nerve from the spot.

Substitute wideman Courtney Barrington cut in from the left and was tripped by Young and referee Finnigan pointed to the spot again.

This time MacDonald drilled his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner, leaving Phillips rooted to the spot as the ball flashed past him.

“Listen, it’s another great move.  Courtney came on and was a handful. He skipped past one and Youngie maybe didn’t need to make the tackle but Courtney’s a little tricky player and he’s slight and he gets a toe here and there.  It was a pen and Charlie shows a bit of character to step up and take it especially 13 minutes after missing one.”

Bryon added: “He was caught in two minds and if he stood up he might’ve got the ball. He’s tried to nick it and the fella got a toe on it.  I don’t think there’s any arguments with that but Charlie’s put it away and I thought hang in for a point.”

Everyone was expecting a dominant VCD Athletic side to go on and win the game – but Phoenix Sports had other ideas and snatched an unlikely win just 48 seconds later.

Duah-Kessie worked the left channel and some more poor defending from the home side opened the door.  The ball was worked along the face of the penalty area and found Bird, who placed his left-footed shot nicely into the bottom left-hand corner from 18-yards.

“We’re down to 10 men and Jeff’s done brilliantly,” added Bryon.

“It was a great finish. Lee’s a technical player. I think we got a bit lucky how it spilt out to him but he’s put it in the bottom corner and put it in nice and neat, a side-foot pass into the corner and then the games back on.”

McMahon added: “It’s a complete cock-up! Bradley Simms should’ve cleared his lines and its ricochet and gone to Jack Steventon and he’s kicked it and it’s gone straight to the midfielder and he’s hit a decent strike. I’m mega disappointed because there’s only one winner at 2-2 with 12 minutes to go.

“You’re sitting there thinking be patient and even then you’re thinking we’ll be alright. I’m not happy but we’ll be ok.  It’s a hard one to take. I’m disappointed more in the way that we defended, the third goal was embarrassing if I’m honest after you go 2-2 up.  Disappointing, but you’ve got to many plusses of playing some great stuff and absolutely dominating the game, even before they had 10 men.”

VCD Athletic kept probing and Odunsanya pinged a diagonal over to Henry Ikeije, the substitute deployed wide on the right.  He drilled in a low cross towards the bottom far corner, which may have been flicked on by Barrington right in front of the keeper, but Phillips made yet another great save, getting down low to his right to hold on to the ball before the ball nestled inside the bottom far corner.

“Steve’s had a good game today and made some outstanding saves,” praised Bryon.

“I thought our discipline in there with 10 men, we let them have it in their half and when they crossed the halfway line they were passing it sideways and backwards and for us it was perfect because it was killing time.

“They kept trying to play and got their wide men ion and it was just an outstanding effort and disciplined performance in the last 20.”

Barrington was to be denied by another fine save from Phillips, who dived to his right to push the ball away.

Phoenix Sports had seven men defending their penalty area by the time Ikeije latched onto Simms’ ball over the top and drilled his shot over the top of the near post when he lacked composure inside the box.

VCD Athletic felt they had scored a deserved equaliser with three minutes and 48 seconds into time added on but Brown had committed a foul inside the box after following-up a save from Phillips.

Phoenix Sports climb up three places into eighth-place in the table with 25 points from 17 games and are now only five points adrift of the play-off zone.

VCD Athletic meanwhile, are in tenth-place in the table with 23 points.

McMahon takes his side to second-from-bottom side Ramsgate – who have 11 points from 18 games and are six points clear of East Grinstead Town, who occupy the sole relegation berth.

“You look at stats and possession and it means absolutely Jack s**t,” said McMahon.

“One end you’ve got to keep the ball out of your net and at the other end you’ve got to bang it in and there is no right or wrong way to play but I thought in all departments apart from defending we were exceptional today. 

“I thought we won nearly all the battles. I think we won most of the second balls, our midfield drove forward. Some of the football and some of the pace, yes decision making here or there but it’s one of those days.”

Bryon was delighted that he was able to seal the clubs first league victory over their friendly neighbours.

“We haven’t beaten them in the league, this is the first time in the league,” he said.

“We beat them on penalties in the Velocity Trophy but they beat us 2-1 at home earlier on in the season. They beat us both times last season so it’s evened it out a little bit.”

On next Sunday’s high-noon showdown at sixth-placed Guernsey, who are a point clear having played a game more than his side but have a clear advantage going into the game.

“We’ve got a horrible trip next week to Guernsey. It doesn’t make it easy. Guernsey are a good side now. They know how they play, they’re very energetic, they’re full of confidence,” said Bryon.

“Last year they were battling relegation, this year they’re fighting for play-offs and it will be a tough, tough trip with the early flight. We’ll have to be up at half-four in the morning, which isn’t right but it is what it is.  We’ll go out there and if we show the same desire and effort and put a little more quality to our game we should come away with something.”

But Phoenix Sports claim the local bragging rights in a game where both club’s have a friendly rivalry.

Bryon said:  “At least we’ve given (our supporters) something, these derbies are a bit drab and a little bit scrappy. It wasn’t pretty football but at the end of the day five goals, a sending off, two penalties. What can I ask for? I don’t want to have a heart attack anymore. It’s an entertaining game for the fans to watch.”

McMahon added: “I love all the Phoenix lot to bits as you know and you saw congratulations and you walk away but it’s another game of football.  Every game you lose hurts, it makes no difference because it’s Phoenix. It does to my committee. I’ve got to take a lot of abuse now! How did we lose? We know the issues.”

VCD Athletic: Matt Funnell, Bradley Simms, Raphe Brown, Alastair Gordon, Jack Steventon, Rob Bartley (Henry Ikeije 81), Alex Gaggin (Raheem Sterling-Parker 81), Dominic Odusanya, Charlie MacDonald, Ayman El-Mogharbel, Kelvin Ogboe (Courtney Barrington 70).
Subs: George Monger, Theodore McKenzie

Goals: Charlie MacDonald 6, 78 (penalty)

Booked: Raphe Brown 22, Bradley Simms 58

Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Henry Douglas, Lewis Clark, Jack Hopkins, Danny Young, Ashley Probets, George Whitelock, Lee Bird, Jeff Duah-Kessie (Lauris Chin 87), James Dyer (Charlie Busby 57), Kenny Aileru (Jack Barry 67).
Subs: Gene Kennedy, Andrew Dythe

Goals: Danny Young 56, Jack Hopkins 59, Lee Bird 78

Booked: Henry Douglas 30, Lee Bird 63

Sent Off: Henry Douglas 64

Attendance: 228
Referee: Mr Simon Finnigan
Assistants: Mr Dan Blades & Mr Piotr Zachwieja