Ryman Div One North
Thamesmead Town 3 v 2 Aveley
By Scott Hatley
A LATE smash and grab from Thamesmead saw Aveley suffer their third straight league defeat which also sees them drop out of the play-off positions.
A 92nd minute Malachi Hudson goal made it a miserable start to 2013 for Justin Gardner and his players. The second half substitute deflecting in an Addae Baff shot to give the home side all three points.
It had looked like the Millers were heading for a repeat of the league cup score-line between the two sides from last month, which finished 2-2, after goals from Petrit Elbi and Junior Appiah had twice levelled the match either side of a brace from Ashley Probets.
It wasn’t to be Aveley’s day, though, as they had a two penalty appeals turned down with the late goal from Hudson compounding the Millers’ misery.
With the recent postponements this was to be Aveley’s first competitive outing since December 15th. But with a moral boosting friendly win over Ryman Premier League side, East Thurrock United, on Saturday the Millers were looking to pick up their first win since they beat struggling Ilford exactly one month ago, on December 1st.
Speaking after the East Thurrock win, Gardner was full of praise for today’s hosts, describing them as the best team the Millers had played so far this season, but it was the away side who came out of the traps the quickest and should have found themselves up within two minutes.
After some hard work from Petrit Elbi to win the ball back, Junior Appiah found himself in a shooting position inside the box, but his side foot effort went narrowly wide.
Captain, Billy Holland – returning to competitive action for the first time in seven weeks – will also feel that he should have done better, when after nine minutes he had a free header from eight yards out which he headed harmlessly wide.
After weathering the early storm, Thamesmead started to get a stranglehold on the match. Although they were not creating any clear opportunities on Andre Foster’s goal, the hosts were having a large chunk of the possession.
Their pressure eventually told as they were awarded a penalty after Ellis Sands was adjudged to have brought down Addae Baff inside the area with Baff trying to get a strike away. The penalty was stroked home confidently by Ashley Probets, sending Foster the wrong way, to give the home side the advantage after 26 minutes.
On the balance of play in the opening half hour, the lead for the home side was arguably deserved, but the Millers set about restoring parity straight away, passing the ball round on the deck much more confidently and carving out a couple of decent chances
Elbi was looking a constant menace playing the lone striker role, and his effort from 25 yards right on the half hour mark went narrowly wide. Two minutes later and Appiah was played in by a cute pass from Elbi, but the winger couldn’t retrieve the ball from under him before stabbing a harmless effort wide.
With 37 minutes played, Elbi got his reward for all his hard work as he put the Millers level with a beautifully worked team goal.
Quick, sharp passing from Paul Burnett, Teddy Nesbitt and Danny Hopkins resulted in the ball being switched from left to right, where it fell to the feet of Sands. The Aveley right back settled himself before swinging in a perfectly flighted cross which was smashed home on the volley by Elbi to make it 1-1 and send the two sides at the break level.
As the players and coaching staff came out for the second half there was an air of doubt that the match was going to be completed as one of the floodlights at Bayliss Avenue wasn’t working. The referee said that he would give it 10 minutes and would abandon the match if the light failed to start working.
With that in mind both sets of players went hell for leather trying to get themselves into the lead and in turn give the referee a headache over whether to call the match off.
In the first half Aveley had a great opportunity to take the lead within two minutes, which they squandered. Within two minutes of the second half they should have awarded the chance to take the lead from the spot and Jack Hopkins will consider himself very lucky to still be on the pitch.
A corner from Sheldon Sellears from the left was whipped in towards the far post where Jay Leader headed the ball back across goal. Sands threw his head at it, but got minimal contact, before Burnett smashed the ball towards goal from close range which was blocked by a posse of Thamesmead players on the line. The ball deflected to Elbi who took a swing himself, but his effort was blocked by Hopkins’ arm as he sat on the line before it was eventually cleared for a corner.
The Aveley players, as well as Gardner from the stands, were all screaming for a spot-kick which would also have seen Hopkins sent off, but it was to no-avail with the corner coming to nothing as well.
With the 10 minute deadline edging closer and no sign of the floodlight coming on there was a sense of inevitability that the match would not reach its conclusion.
The Aveley players had a sense of injustice after the handball shout, which was then compounded when Thamesmead retook the lead through Probets’ second of the game.
A free kick was awarded in a central position, about 25 yards from goal. Probets stepped up and curled a left footed effort towards goal which appeared to dip over Fosters head. The Millers’ goalkeeper – making his full debut after signing from Canvey Island – may feel he could have done better but it 2-1 to the home side and the referee had a decision to make.
With Thamesmead now holding a lead the referee continued with the match as normal, with clear skies above, no doubt, helping the situation, and just past the hour mark Thamesmead could have killed the game off when Stuart Zanone held his run to perfection to be one-on-one with Foster. The Mead striker rounded Foster but inexplicably skied his shot high and wide with the goal gaping.
It was the shot in the arm that the away side needed to get back into the match and the Millers created a string of chances before they eventually levelled the match for a second time.
Burnett was unfortunate to see his effort deflect off the face of the bar after good work from the winger down the left, and Burnett again had a chance just moments later when he sliced wide after an Elbi pull back.
Where Burnett had failed, Appiah succeeded, to the delight of Gardner as he grabbed an equaliser with quarter of an hour of the game still to play.
A Nesbitt corner from the right was played to the far post which was headed towards the six yard box by Luke Wilson. Appiah, with his back to goal, flicked his right heel at the ball to send it past Robert Budd and in to make it 2-2 with 74 minutes played and still plenty of time for either side to find a winner.
The match had gone past the point where an abandonment would have forced a replay and Aveley were pushing forward, looking the most likely to steal all three points, and Elbi came oh, so close with two minutes of normal time remaining, forcing Budd into a save low to his right.
With that save it looked all the more likely that the two promotion chasing sides were going to share the points and battle out a second 2-2 draw of the season, but the Mead had other ideas as with two minutes of added on time played they snatched it and took away all three points.
A free kick slightly to the right of centre was to be swung in by Probets, but his effort was poor and went in hard and low, and was cleared. The clearance, though, fell straight to Baff who smashed his shot towards goal through a crowded penalty box only for the ball to fall at the feet of Malachi Hudson, who had come on in the second half for Robert Carter. The substitute stuck a foot out to get that all important deflection which wrong footed Foster and went in for the winner.
After the match a dejected Justin Gardner said “I’m heartbroken. 92nd minute – what do you say? Work hard all game to lose it in the last minute like that. That’s football I suppose.”
Speaking of the performance as a whole, Gardner said “I can’t fault us. Anyone who was a neutral watching that game would say we was by far the best footballing team, but it’s not about being the best footballing team, it’s about getting the three points.”
When it was mentioned about the Hopkins handball early in the second half, as well another penalty shout after a tackle on Elbi also in the second half, Gardner said “It’s the same every week.”
He continued by saying “we don’t get the rub of the green. I can’t remember the last time we had a penalty, but if you come and watch us every week you’ll see that there could be one every game. Where other teams go over if they’re touched we don’t go over, so maybe we’re too honest?”
Aveley: Andre Foster, Ellis Sands, Teddy Nesbitt, Jay Leader, Luke Wilson, Danny Hopkins, Sheldon Sellears (Jack Stevenson 62’), Billy Holland (c) (Junior Dadson 70’), Petrit Elbi, Paul Burnett (Rashid Kamara 81’), Junior Appiah