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Phoenix Sports 3-0 Ashford United - Frost should have gone, admits Phoenix boss Scott Saunders PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Kent Invicta League
Saturday 4th February 2012
Stephen McCartney reports from Mayplace Road East

PHOENIX SPORTS manager Scott Saunders says the bond surrounding his players will play a key part if they are to claim the inaugural Kent Invicta League title.

Full marks must go to groundsman Alan Pearson for getting the playing surface at the Bexleyheath based club in good condition as every single game that was played in Kent at League Two, Conference, FA Trophy, Ryman League and Kent League was all frozen off.

This was just one of two Kent Invicta League games to beat the big freeze – the other one was over the road at Oakwood, which saw Sutton Athletic come away from Erith & Dartford Town with a 3-0 win.

There were just six games played in the Haart of Kent County League at Tudor Sports (based in New Eltham), AFC Sevenoaks (Darenth), Saga Sports & Social (Hythe), AFC Mottingham (New Eltham), Guru Nanak (Gravesend) and Phoenix Academy, as Kent suffered.

Phoenix Sports took full advantage of the visit of Ashford United as a crowd of 141 ensured it was a lucrative day both on and off the pitch as Saunders’ men leapfrogged over Hollands & Blair into third place and are now seven points adrift of leaders Bly Spartans with ten games to play, with a game in hand over Matt Hume’s side.

Saunders, who extended his winning run to three games over Ashford United this season, said: “I thought we were the better side first half to be honest.  We went 1-0 up.  They put on a bit of pressure at the end of the first half through corners and stuff but I thought we defended well.

“We knew it was going to be difficult, they’re a decent side.  I think they’ve lost once or twice in the last four months.

“I thought we weathered the storm but I just thought we’d nick one on the break.  They kept leaving two-on-two at the back. 

“I’m delighted with the win, absolutely delighted.”

Ashford United boss Paul Chambers added: ”I’ve got no disrespect for Phoenix.  They’re a good side, they play football, they want to play.  I’ve got no qualms with losing 3-0.”

On a bitterly cold day, Ashford United, who featured some familiar faces from a higher level of football, wasted periods of dominance and missed good chances and ended up suffering their eighth league defeat in 20 outings and remain in seventh place, thirteen points adrift of top spot.

Roy Guiver used his aerial strength early on to nod James Dryden’s long throw wide of the near post from four-yards, before Phoenix diminutive striker, Sam Prett, who has experience of the Kent and Ryman League, nipped in front of visiting keeper Billy Rice and headed over Billy Lawson’s cross from the left.

But Phoenix stunned the large travelling contingent when they opened the scoring in the tenth minute during a good spell of pressure.

Gary Phillimore laid the ball off to Harris, who from the corner of the box, 22-yards from goal, unleashed a low left-footed drive across the diving Rice and the ball nestled into the bottom far corner of the net.

Saunders, who thought all three goals were “excellent,” added: “I thought Alfie took his first one, a bit opportunist.  It came to him and he hit it.  Second one was a brilliant run and strike from Adam and then a great ball in from Dom to Alfie, he’s took one touch and swivelled and half volleyed it in - great goal.”

Phoenix Sports should have doubled their lead just 110 seconds later.

Harris’ initial shot was charged down by Ashford defender Matt Bower and Prett played the ball inside to Harris, whose left-footed shot was straight at the Ashford keeper.

Ashford’s first real chance came in the 20th minute, when a fantastic save from Stuart Harvey kept the home side in the lead.

Dan Scorer cut a right-wing corner back towards Sam Conlon, whose dummy allowed the ball go through his legs and into Richard Quigley’s path and the Ashford left-back (who made a run from deep) cracked a left-footed drive from 25-yards and Harvey dived low to his right to push the ball around his post for a corner.

Phoenix Sports squandered an excellent chance to double their lead within four minutes.

Danny Frost threw the ball in from the right and a flick on from Harris at the near post found Prett completely unmarked but he hooked a half-volley over the bar from ten-yards.

Saunders said: “The two centre halves (Ben Jordan and Lee Coburn) got sucked in to Alfie and he hit it, half-volley he said.  Well, I think it’s in Crayford now, the ball, but there you go!”

Ashford, however, stepped up a gear after that and pressed for an equaliser that their play deserved.

Dan Scorer’s quickly taken free-kick bounced into Coburn’s feet and the former Erith Town defender cracked a rasping right-footed drive from 35-yards, which was destined to sail into the top right-hand corner, but Harvey dived high to his left and pushed the ball away.

Harvey made another smart save within two minutes, after Dryden played in his strike partner Peter Williams in behind the Phoenix back four but the former Herne Bay striker’s low left-footed volley was saved by Harvey, diving low to his left.

But the resilience of Phoenix Sports’ two central defenders, Rob McMahon and Luke Cuthbert ensured their slender lead was intact going into the break.

Phoenix, who were the better side during last week’s goal-less draw at leaders Bly Spartans and Saunders said: “I told the boys that last week we deserved to win.  We deserved to beat Bly but I told the boys before today it’s a six-pointer today.  I think whoever won today has got a very good chance of going on and winning the league. 

“They’re are on a run, we’ve got ourselves back on track after a couple of dodgy results so yes, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Ashford, who won the corner count 13-4, threw bodies forward in an attempt to get back into an entertaining game.

Dan Scorer’s speculative left-footed effort from 25-yards was caught by Harvey, before Dryden sliced his left-footed volley over the crossbar after Harvey had used his left hand to palm away Guiver’s hooked shot.

But Guiver squandered Ashford’s best chance to equalise in the 58th minute.  Conlon slipped the versatile Guiver in behind the Phoenix defence but he lacked composure and blasted a right-footed shot straight at Harvey (instead of either corner) with only the keeper to beat.

Chambers said: “It’s the way it goes.  It’s football.  We had a great chance to get back into it but we didn’t and fair play to Phoenix, they won, that’s all there is to it.”

Saunders was full of praise for keeper Harvey.

He said: “He made some good saves today.  We’ve just voted him man-of-the-match in the changing room.  He played decent today.

“Roy went through, he’s made a good save, he’s come out quickly, stood up and he’s made a decent save and that was the platform to go on and to win the game.”

There was a controversial flashpoint halfway through the second half and just why referee Mr Ian Miller didn’t produce at least one red card remains a mystery.

Liam Whiting slid in and connected with Frost with a challenge that could have seen the Ashford midfielder pick up a red-card, but Frost bounced straight up and it appeared that the Phoenix midfielder (brother of Welling United assistant manager Dean) threw a punch at Whiting.

Whiting was booked for the challenge and Frost, who had just been booked for a foul, escaped without further punishment.

The challenge clearly upset Ashford manager Chambers, who made some controversial comments about the referee’s performance.

He fumed: “I thought the referee was absolutely diabolical!  I thought he was an absolute joke and so was his linesman!

“I feel we could’ve had a penalty (in another incident) - and the linesman immediately seen a player throw a punch and hasn’t done anything about it so I think they’re absolutely pathetic. An absolute joke!

“How the referee and the linesman can walk off the pitch and think they’ve done well and they’ve had an absolute nightmare and they haven’t got the audacity to say sorry!  They’re just unbelievable!  They’re a disgrace and things like that need to be looked at.”

When asked whether he was talking about Frost’s actions, Chambers replied, “Everybody in the ground knows it’s a good tackle.  It was a one footed tackle.  I’ve even spoken to their manager, who said they (the officials’) were terrible.”

Chambers claimed: “I’ve even spoken to the lad who threw the punch and he’s admitted throwing a punch.

“Everyone in the whole ground has seen it apart from the three people who are supposed to see it, so it’s just terrible!”

Saunders admitted Frost was lucky to stay on the field.

He said: “I can see why Danny’s reacted.  Chambo said to me after the game he should’ve gone, you’re probably right!

“If he’s raised his hands, he’s already been booked, he probably should have gone.

“As for the challenge, I mean I couldn’t see it but he’s come in quickly and he’s hit him, Danny said he’s hit him hard.

“He’s (the referee) given him (Whiting) a yellow card for that, maybe Danny should have gone, yes, probably right but these things happen.  I’ll take it, today!”

Conlon’s speculative half-volley from 25-yards looped up and Harvey made a comfortable save above his head from underneath his crossbar, but Phoenix weathered the Ashford storm and hit their visitors’ on the break to double their lead in the 80th minute, with a quality goal from Adam Cuthbert.

He picked up the loose ball, cut inside, danced past a couple of yellow shirted defenders and produced a quality finish, stroking a low shot to beat a stranded Rice at his near post.

Phoenix scored their third good goal just four minutes later to complete a treble of wins over the Homelands outfit this season.

Skipper Dom Websdale – who scored the first ever Kent Invicta League goal during their 4-0 win over Erith & Dartford Town at Oakwood on opening night – clipped the ball into the penalty box and Harris took a touch, turned at the near post and struck a sweet left-footed volley past Rice.

Phoenix left-back Lawson was booked for a challenge on Guiver on the very edge of the box but Scorer’s driven left-footed free-kick looped off the wall and into Harvey’s gloves underneath his own crossbar at the death.

Phoenix’s excellent performance was marred when once inside the dressing room their players appeared to have banged on the dressing room walls and shouted “who the f*** are Ashford, who the f*** are Ashford, la la la!”

There is a way of winning and losing a football match, but to taunt an opposing side in such an amateurish manner marred an otherwise good day for the club.

Saunders added: “When I spoke to you at the start of the season, I think we’ve got a decent squad to go on and challenge and win this league and I still firmly believe that.

“They’re a good group of lads, they’re all mates, they play together.  We’ve obviously brought a few boys in but they’ve known each other for a while now.  I don’t think you can beat the bond in a side when they’re mates.  They seem to roll up their sleeves and put a little bit of percentage in to win the game.

“Ten games to go and they’re all difficult games.  I think there’s quite a few twists and turns to go in this league.”

Chambers said: “At the end of the day they’ve won.  The referee has helped them win.  I’ve got no disrespect to Phoenix.  They’ve beaten us 3-0 and good luck to them.  I hope they go on, do well for the rest of the season.”

When asked whether this defeat puts the artist formerly known as Ryman League Division One South Ashford Town out of the running for promotion into the Kent League, Chambers said: “Listen, we’ve never been in it.  We always knew from the start.  We’re a new club. We always knew it was going to be an uphill battle.  We’ve always said we’ve never, never get involved in the title race or anything like that.  We’ll just take each game as it comes and that’s what we’ll do for the next ten games.”

Chambers added: “We’ve got a lot of young lads. Seven or eight of the players are under 21.  We’ll just see.  We’ll take this year as a stepping stone and go onto next year.

“We’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs.  It’s the first season and we’re still trying to find our feet as Ashford United Football Club and at the moment we’re getting there but it’s slowly but surely but we always knew it’ll be tough first season.  We’ll have to see what happens next season.”

Phoenix Sports:  Stuart Harvey, Tom Dennington, Billy Lawson, Rob McMahon, Luke Cuthbert, Adam Cuthbert, Gary Phillimore (Callum O’Sullivan 81), Danny Frost (Chris Whitehouse 90), Alfie Harris, Dom Websdale, Sam Prett (Michael Daramola 86).

Goals:  Alfie Harris 10, 84, Adam Cuthbert 80

Booked:  Danny Frost 65, Billy Lawson 90

Ashford United:  Billy Rice, Matt Bower, Richard Quigley (Aaron Firth 52), Ben Jordan, Lee Coburn, Roy Guiver, Liam Whiting, Sam Conlon, James Dryden, Peter Williams (Tom Scorer 66), Dan Scorer.
Subs: Liam Walsh, Mitch Mannell, Dan Noden

Booked:  Liam Whiting 69, Aaron Firth 81

Attendance: 141
Referee:  Mr Ian Miller (Keston)
Assistants: Mr Steve Martin (Chelsfield) & Mr Joe Kasper (Dartford)
Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 February 2012 )
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