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End of match pile-on as Dockers celebrate promotion

Match Report – Erith Town vs. Corinthian SCEFL Premier Division Play-Off Final

The Crowd, Main Stand, Stanmore Stadium

Bayliss Avenue was the setting. 671 fans had packed their way into the South-East Colosseum which is the Stanmore Stadium and Erith Town and Corinthian FC were the two gladiatorial forces who were to fight to the end to secure promotion after vanquishing Glebe FC and Faversham Town, respectively. Coming into this SCEFL Premier Division Play-Off Final, Corinthian had hit The Dockers with two devastating blows in the league fixtures, beating Adam Woodward’s men both home and away in dramatic style, but The Dockers had inflicted their own blow on the Fawkham outfit by defeating them on penalties in the SCEFL Challenge Cup final back in March. Going into this game, both nerves and confidence were shared by both sides, and this really could have gone either way.

The players gather in the tunnel prior to kick-off

Entering the pitch to huge roars from The Dockers faithful and visiting Hoops’ fans alike, both sides knew that victory would result in the prestige of Tier Four, a level that Corinthian were looking to return to after a season’s absence but a big step up for Erith Town who have never before graced that step of the pyramid.

The opening half was a cagey affair with both sides cancelling each other out and neither side really testing the goalkeepers. There were concerns pre-game that the ground may not have been able to withstand the apocalyptic rain we had experienced only a few hours before, but the outstanding work of The Dockers’ volunteers to get the surface in near-pristine condition resulted in a pitch that encouraged fast paced football, and this led to an atmosphere where both sides had to be at their very best as any mistake could be exploited – and it was a mistake from the usual solid back line of Erith Town which led to the opener.

Erith Town Goalkeeper, Mackenzie Foley

In the 22nd minute, the Corinthian attack pounced on an unfortunate error from the Erith Town defence and bombed down the right wing before squaring it to Michael Hagan. There were multiple appeals for offside, as Hagan seemed to be in front of the ball when it was passed to him, but the assistant judged it differently, and Hagan slotted neatly into the bottom corner of Mackenzie Foley’s goal. The away support erupted, and it was a cruel way for The Dockers to concede a goal considering how strong defensively they have been this season. The half-time whistle signalled the end of a frustrating opening 45 minutes, and it was Corinthian who were firmly in the driving seat.

Due to the cagey and stifled opening, and seemingly picking up on the frustrations of the crowd, Erith Town were the brighter and sharper of the two sides for the vast majority of the second half.  Repeated chances were being desperately blocked by Corinthians’ defence, and the likes of James Dyer, George Goodwin, Harry Taylor and Ladic Melconian all had chances to bring the home team back into it, and after both a strong penalty shout and a huge appeal for a goal when the ball seemed to cross the line after a botched catch from the Corinthian keeper were waved away by the match officials, you’d be justified in thinking that this was not going to be Erith Town’s day – but nobody seemed to tell this to Harry Taylor.

With the minutes ticking away, and following the adjudged goal line clearance, the ball fell to the outstanding Jerome Jayaguru who hit a sublime long ball up towards Taylor in the Corinthian penalty area. Reading the flight of the ball quicker than everyone else, Taylor managed to get his head onto it, hitting his 35th goal of the season and showing just why he is so deadly with his aerial presence, gliding the ball into the back of the net on the 86th minute to bring Erith Town back level. Startled to be brought back into the game, The Hoops had one final attack that rattled the woodwork, before the referee blew for full-time… and penalties.

Harry Taylor heads home

Any nerves pre-game now escalated to atomic levels, as both sides stood in their respective huddles to determine who would take which penalty. Stepping up first, as in the SCEFL Challenge Cup Final between the two sides, was Mackenzie Foley who coolly dispatched into the back of the net. Corinthian brought it level, before our very own Zoolander, James Dyer, mirrored the opener by Foley and put past the visiting keeper in front of The Dockers faithful. Corinthian stepped up for their second penalty and looked to bring it back level, but Foley guessed the right way and kept the ball out to make it 2-1 to Erith. George Goodwin, arguably Man of the Match this afternoon, showed his mettle by stepping up to take The Dockers’ third spot kick and left the Corinthian ‘keeper grabbing for air to make it 3-1. Foley was unfortunate with Corinthian’s next kick, getting a solid hand on it before it crept under him and into the net, then James Miles took his turn, making it look easy as he put The Dockers ahead 4-2.

Mackenzie Foley saves the day

This was it. The moment that will live in the history and annals of Erith Town Football Club forever. The whistle sounded, the spot kick was hit. Mackenzie Foley  guessed correctly and dived strongly, low and to his right, but the ball went high. No problem, as Foley’s reacted instantly with a high hand to keep the ball out and confirm Erith Town’s place as winners of the SCEFL Premier Division Play-Off Final and confirm promotion to the Fourth Tier of the Non-League pyramid for the first time in their history.  A season which has seen hard work, determination and plenty of potential has resulted in promotion and two cup victories.  Many wrote The Dockers off at times, but we don’t know when we are beaten and we tear up scripts that others have already written.

Dockers manager, Adam 'Woody' Woodward.

Adam Woodward said after the game that this was his greatest moment in his football career, and do you know what, gaffer?  Plenty of others will be saying the same too.