16 March 2019
Greenwich Borough 0 Horsham 2
Cannons blown away by Hornets, and Storm Hannah!
You’ve got to love the fixture calendar for mixing things up and keeping it interesting! Just a week after playing at the home of the runaway league leaders, the Hornets return to Kent on Saturday (or Southeast London, depending on your viewpoint) to do battle with a side that has very different reasons for needing the three points.
Formed between the two Wars, in 1928, the current incarnation of Greenwich Borough began life as the rather wordier Woolwich Borough Council Athletic Club and enjoyed instant success by winning the Woolwich and District League title in their first season of existence. However, after an unspectacular stint in the Kent County Amateur League in which they suffered more relegations than successes, the club dropped into the South London Alliance and enjoyed a huge upturn in fortunes, winning eight league titles in eleven years. A change in the London Borough boundaries was reflected in the club’s renaming as London Borough of Greenwich Football Club in 1965 and, in 1977, a change of leagues as they moved up to the London Spartan League where they remained until 1984. It was in 1980 that the club’s identity underwent its final switch and by the end of the decade Greenwich Borough had established themselves as one of the county’s premier sides, having by now transferred back to the Kent League. But despite winning back-to-back league titles, they were prevented from being promoted to the Southern League when the council refused permission for the necessary ground improvements to take place. With just a couple of exceptions, Borough were annual top-half finishers from the late 1990s through to the latter part of the noughties, until their championship success of 2016 earned them promotion to the Isthmian League.
In that same year the club agreed a thirty-year lease to share facilities at Cray Valley Paper Mills’ Badgers Sports Ground in Eltham, after its Harrow Meadow home was sold to property developers. And it was here that the Hornets provided the opposition for Borough’s first ever home fixture in the Isthmian (then Ryman) League, on August 16th 2016, in what was effectively a battle of the previous season’s champions, Horsham having taken the Southern Combination Premier League crown four months before. Although it was the first time the two teams had met in the league, Horsham had proven successful on their only previous meeting back in 1986 when narrowly coming out on top in an FA Vase second round tie at Queen Street. This, though, was to prove an entirely different matter with the Hornets’ singular highlight on a splendidly balmy summer’s evening coming from Charlie Pitcher’s one and only goal in our colours. That it occurred in the second minute of stoppage time, after Greenwich had earlier scored four goals of their own, meant the strike was to be of little consequence but our hosts had signalled their intent in the most emphatic manner. By the end of that debut season, during which they completed the league double over us with a 2-1 success at Gorings Mead, the goals of former Football League marksman Charlie MacDonald helped Borough to a third-placed finish and a place in the play-offs where they ultimately lost out to Corinthian-Casuals in the semi-final.
Honours were shared last season with both sides winning 2-0 on their opponents’ home turf and there was a certain parity with the previous campaign when, once more, Greenwich agonisingly lost out on promotion to the Premier Division at the hands of Corinthian-Casuals. However, this season is a different story. No longer bankrolled by Chairman Perry Skinner, who stepped down last February, and without the likes of MacDonald and former Leyton Orient, Millwall and Brentford striker Gary Alexander, the club has struggled to make an impression in the new Bostik League South East division. Just Ryan King-Elliott of the team that beat Horsham last February is still at the club while, even more surprisingly, only two of the players to have represented Borough on their unsuccessful visit to Culver Road in November were in the squad that lost at Three Bridges last Saturday. The upshot of this is that only the now-defunct Thamesmead Town are placed lower than the Cannons in the table but does that mean the promotion-chasing Hornets will enjoy an easier time of it than last weekend in Bromley? Not a bit of it, says boss Dom Di Paola.
“They are fighting for their lives and have improved under new management. They’ve got almost an entirely new squad from when we played them earlier in the season and have a lot of loanees who are young, fit and hungry, as well as bringing Jack Sammoutis back from Hythe this week. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get another one in before the weekend, either, so it’ll be another challenge. But it’s been a season of challenges and we’ve shown so far that we are capable of meeting them head on.”
Although Greenwich prop up the table, just two victories separate them from Herne Bay in fifteenth. Seven points from three recent matches with Hythe Town (2-0), Haywards Heath (0-0) and East Grinstead (2-0) keeps Borough in with a chance of avoiding the drop but with Cray and promotion-chasing Whyteleafe and Hastings United still to come, it could be the match against Guernsey on April 14th that proves pivotal with the islanders currently just a point and a place above them. Having put their faith in experienced and established players to take them to the brink of the Premier Division, Greenwich, under new bosses Steve Sallis and Steve O’Boyle, have turned to youth to help boost the club’s survival bid with Millwall’s Joe Wicks, Gillingham striker Ben Allen, and goalkeeper Ollie Webber, from Crystal Palace, recently coming in on loan.
Despite finishing on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline from last weekend’s visit to Cray Wanderers, Dom declared himself happy with the performance of his players. “They were the better team, you can’t argue that, but we weren’t a million miles off them. I think the boys probably took the instructions a bit too literally in the first twenty minutes because we sat off them a bit too much, but we had our chances and if Rob’s early shot had gone in instead of being saved, it might have put a different complexion on the game. We created some half-decent chances and should have had a penalty but I think we suffered from having to make an early substitution when Lewis came off. Brivs had been in and out of hospital so he wasn’t fully fit, Chris Smith had a dead leag, and when you add into that Dan’s sending-off then I don’t think there’s any disgrace in the result. I was disappointed with their second goal, the penalty, because it was sloppy from us but to be fair to Cray, once they went 2-0 up they managed the game really well and didn’t really have to do anything else. It was a bit of a flat game, to be honest. The lack of atmosphere and the windy conditions didn’t help but it’s gone now and we move on to Greenwich.”
Dan Pearse’s red card in that match means he now faces a three match ban but Dom revealed that he is hoping to get that decision overturned. “We’ve asked Cray if we could use their video as evidence because there’s no way that it was a red card offence. It’s difficult, though, because you don’t get much time to try and turn these things around but if we think it’s worth doing then we will certainly try.” If the appeal for leniency towards the Dorking loanee is unsuccessful, Dom has ruled out making any new signings with only eight matches remaining. “I can’t see it. You only want to bring players in if they can improve things and those sort of players are unlikely to be available at this stage of the season. We’ve got Dan (Hogan) and Dean (Lovegrove) who can come in to the midfield so we should be okay through to the end of the season.”
Lewis Hyde is expected to be out for a further week, after coming off at Hayes Lane with a groin problem, and there are hopes that Will Miles could be back in action in a week or two with his recovery from injury going well. One significant change for the Hornets comes in the dug-out where Dom and assistant Adam Westwood return after watching the last two matches from the sidelines. “It does give you a different perspective of the game” admitted Dom “but it’s very frustrating. Punts (coach Jimmy Punter) has been unbelievable for the last two games but he’s only twenty-two and at that age it’s hard when things aren’t going your way, especially if you’re up against experienced managers. It’s been difficult for me not to be able to get my point across when I see something that’s not working, like those first twenty at Cray, so I’ll be delighted to get back in it tomorrow.”
Greenwich’s GDS Marine Stadium is approximately one mile from Eltham or Mottingham rail stations, each reached by services out of London Victoria or London Bridge, or there is ample free parking at the ground for anyone driving to the match. Admisson is £10 adults, £5 concessions and free entry to accompanied U12s. If you’re unable to get there, you can keep abreast of developments through our social media channels
Pictured: Tyrell Richardson-Brown goes for goal during the Hornets’ 2-0 win over Greenwich Borough at Lancing in November.