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Erith Town 1-1 Corinthian (4-2 pens)
Erith Town 1-1 Corinthian (4-2 pens)

Penalties separated Erith Town and Corinthian in the Southern Counties East Football League play-off decider with the Dockers winning promotion to the Isthmian League South East division.

Yet again, the hosts had to come from behind in a big game, and for the second time this season it took a penalty shoot-out for them to defeat Corinthian.

There was a difference between the two sides’ playing styles with Erith looking to play on the front foot and the Hoops defending well and looking threatening on the break.

George Goodwin had an early effort for the Dockers with a shot that took a deflection before being claimed by Corinthian goalkeeper Nathan Boahmah. Erith were then forced into making a substitution when Jack Holland sustained an injury and was replaced by captain Ryan Mahal.

Midway through the first half the visitors went ahead. Charlie Clover made the most of a defensive slip to break down the wing.  He slid it square to Michael Hagan who slotted it home confidently.

James Dyer almost equalised inadvertently when a clearance struck him and rebounded just past the post before Boahmah could only palm out an inswinging Dyer corner and Goodwin’s hooked effort was blocked away.

Whilst the first half was fairly uneventful, the second period was far more absorbing. Harrison Carnegie broke through for Erith and Boahmah did exceptionally well to hold the winger’s powerful close range strike. Hagan then shot high and wide at the other end after Clover laid it back for him.

Another Dyer corner caused problems but Goodwin did not get enough on his flicked header to divert it on goal. James Miles then had a free kick blocked for the Dockers before Jerome Jayaguru defended brilliantly when hooking away as Clover looked to be clear.

Once more, the visitors broke quickly and substitute Festos Kamara almost sent Clover through but MacKenzie Foley was out quickly to clean up. Kamara then set up Oscar Housego whose shot crashed out of the post before Foley did well to cling on to a shot by Ahmed Salim Futa.  

In the final fifteen minutes, the Dockers upped the tempo as the visitors started to tire. Two Erith substitutes almost combined to good effect when the lively Bradley Ryan crossed but Ollie Milton was unable to turn it home. Dyer then had a shot deflected over for a corner. Miles delivered but Milton was just too high with his header. 

When Erith were unable to force it home after a goal line clearance led to a massive scramble in the Corinthian six yard box it looked as though time was running out for them, however, they didn’t lose heart and levelled with four minutes remaining. Jayaguru’s deep diagonal high cross picked out Harry Taylor and he glanced his header home his thirty-fifth goal of the campaign.

Neither side created a further opportunity so it was on to penalties. Both clubs had already experienced joy and despair in shoot-outs this season so neither had the psychological advantage. Goalkeeper Foley took the first one himself and put the Dockers ahead. Jamie Billings levelled before Dyer put Erith back ahead.

Foley then gave the hosts the advantage by saving from Housego. Goodwin and Miles both converted for Erith either side of Futa’s success for the visitors meaning that when Sam Bewick stepped up, he had to score. He struck it well enough but Foley guessed correctly to pull off an outstanding side.

As a result, Adam Woodward became the first Erith manager, and the players became the first ever Dockers team, to win promotion to the Isthmian League. Corinthian came close to an immediate bounce back and they will be amongst the promotion favourites next season.

Erith Town: Foley, Holland (Mahal 16), Goodwin, Jayaguru, McGeehan (Clarke 84), Ash, Dyer, Miles, Melconian (Milton 63), Taylor, Carnegie (Ryan 63).

Sub not used: Jeffrey.

Goalscorers: Taylor (86)

Yellow cards: None

Corinthian: Boamah, A. Billings, Naylor, T. Fitzgerald, J. Billings, S. Fitzgerald, Futa, Davey, Clover (Adams 75), Housego, Hagan (Kamara 51 (Bewick 90+2)).

Subs not used: Unwin, Bewick, Ihiedi. 

Goal scorers: Hagan (22)

Yellow cards: J. Billings

Referee: Stefan Cox

Assistants: Mitchell Bush and Steven Tunnicliffe

Fourth Assistant: Stuart Beadle

Attendance: 671

Pictures supplied by Dave Budden.