Greenwich Borough 3 Corinthian Casuals 4
Corinthian Casuals boss James Bracken feared a whole season’s worth of work had been thrown away when they went down to ten men against Greenwich Borough in their play-off semi-final on Tuesday night.
Coskum Ekim’s straight red for a high boot 20 minutes in, when the scores were already 1-1, looked to have ended Casuals’ hopes of leaving Ryman Division One South after 11 years.
But instead it inspired them and goals from Reyon Dillon and Mu Maan twice put them ahead with Shaun Okojie’s second of the game sealing victory and a play-off final against Dorking Wanderers on Saturday.
“At the time, after the bobble goal and that sending off, I felt it killed us,” said Bracken.
12th MAN: Corinthian Casuals fans celebrate
“I felt it killed our whole season’s worth of hard work, because you can see things maybe going the wrong way at that point, but we galvanised and ultimately it didn’t cost us the night, which was the most important thing.
“Our preparation leading into these play-off games, for me, has been spot on.
“We carried no injuries and had a fully fit squad of 19 to choose from.
“I’ve rotated the last two games, so I knew we’d come in fresh, which we needed to be to play that amount of time with ten men.
“If we had been carrying leggy players within the squad, we’d have come undone.”
NO STOPPING US: Reyon Dillon celebrates putting Casuals 2-1 up
Casuals conceded early after Mohamed Eisa’s shot struck a huge divot which looped the ball over Danny Bracken.
Okojie levelled from the spot after 18 minutes when Maan was brought down by Glenn Wilson, before Ekim’s a high challenge a couple of minutes later on Lewwis Spence threatened to derail Casuals.
But Dillon soon put them ahead when he scored from a tight angle lead before Peter Sweeney tied the game 2-2 with a curling free kick from 30 yards before half time.
Maan scored his own free kick on the hour mark, with a little help from the Borough wall, before Okojie grabbed his second from 10 yards out to give them daylight.
MAIN MAAN: Mu Maan finds the target with a free-kick
Wilson’s volley came too late for Borough as the Casuals were able to hold on, and Bracken praised the travelling fans for their contribution in helping his side achieve the best away record in the league.
He said: “We’ve got the best group of fans.
“Whether we’re winning or losing, they don’t stop, and I feel like we’re one.
PARTY TIME: Shaun Okojie steers home the eventual winner
“I feel like they’re behind us and I often talk about them in the dressing room and say no other Ryman South club has that support.
“I’ve been to every club in the league now and no-one has that noise behind the goal and that passion for what we’re doing.”
Casuals play Dorking Wanderers – who finished the regular season on 105 points and only missed out on the title on goal difference – on Saturday at Westhumble Playing Fields for promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division.
All images courtesy of Stuart Tree, with thanks