If any further proof was needed that Croydon Athletic is one of the sides best in the division, then take a look at Tuesday night’s result.
Playing away at Southern Counties East – Premier Division title contenders Ashford United, the Rams took all three points in a seven-goal thriller. In a topsy-turvy game, Croydon were 2-0 down when awarded a penalty on 57 minutes. The Rams penalty-taker is striker Raheem Sterling-Parker, or, as Croydon fans usually sing, “Only one Raheem Sterling-Parker“.
With a great chance to get us back into the match, Sterling-Parker missed.
However, goals from Daniel Cumber and Jack Higgins in the space of four minutes just after the hour mark saw Athletic restored parity. Then Sterling-Parker atoned for his missed penalty by scoring for the Rams to take the lead on 72 minutes, his 17th in 34 games. Still matters were far from over, though, as Ashford managed to get an equaliser. So it was 3-3 and little more than 10 minutes to play.And when the referee awarded Croydon their second penalty of the night, on 80min, Sterling-Parker, despite his previous miss, stepped up to score and claim a memorable victory for Croydon Athletic. Quite a night.
And it was only a couple of days since the side had played on derby day.
On Saturday, I’d met up with a friend at The Horsehoe pub on Thornton Heath Ponds to watch the Tottenham v Arsenal game, and afterwards we walked down Silverleigh Road to the Mayfield Stadium to watch Croydon Athletic take on Croydon FC. It was my first Croydon derby. A fixture between these two clubs is a rarity. Not only have the clubs been in different divisions, they’ve been in different leagues over previous seasons.
Once through the turnstiles, I was surprised by the number of supporters behind the away team’s goal – the preferred location for Croydon Athletic’s “Rams Army”. It seemed like a number of occasional attendees had made a special effort for the Rams v the Trams. I’ve been going to Mayfield since the 2006-2007 season, and it was about as populated as it has ever been behind the goal.
I usually bring a drum with me, which in recent matches has been played by young James, who comes with his mum and dad. James was keen to have the drum again!
A quick scan of the terraces and stands indicated that the Trams had not bought many fans with them.
After the first Croydon Athletic attack, James started the familiar “Da-Da… Da-Da-Da…Da-Da-Da-Da” drum beat which finishes with the supporters chanting “Croydon!” As if in auto-response mode, I chanted “Croydon!” with only a handful of others, only to see chief chorister Mick look over at us and say, “Think about it…”.
It was easily done. One late-comer arrived at the turnstiles and asked what the score was. “One-nil to Croydon,” he was told, and so was none the wiser.
Banter with the Trams ‘keeper, Francis Ameyaw, started early, with a rendition of the saxaphone solo from the Pink Panther theme. Well, what do you expect if you turn up to play in bright pink?
There ought to be a fierce rivalry between the Rams and the Trams but I have never got a sense that has been the case. Tackles weren’t really flying on Saturday. There was one moment, shortly after the start of the second half, when a couple of players confronted each other – but that happens in every game nowadays.
Croydon FC have hovered around the foot of the division for most of the season, whereas Croydon Athletic continue to float around the top half – we’re sixth after Tuesday night’s win, with eight games remaining.If the league table is supposed to reflect the comparative standard of each team then it was wholly accurate with regards to this fixture.
The Rams took the lead in the 11th minute through a cool finish from striker Lee Jansen. In the 28th minute, Sterling-Parker was upended by Ameyaw, resulting in a penalty. Sterling-Parker scored from the spot. Athletic pushed for a third goal but never seemed to get into a high gear. At the other end of the pitch, the Rams keeper was largely untroubled.
With the Rams in control of the game, my attention turned to the crowd, a significant proportion of which were politicos. I always have a good catch up on local, regional and national affairs at Mayfield Stadium.
There among the 91 of use last Saturday, by my reckoning, were:
Don Madgwick – Socialist Alliance candidate in Croydon North in 2001
John Eden – Communist Party of Britain, who has stood in various Croydon council elections
Paul Smith – the former Labour councillor
Andrew Pelling – the one-time Conservative MP for Croydon Central, now a Labour councillor for Waddon ward
Martyn Post – Green Party officer and candidate in Addiscombe
Martin Cousins – Green Party candidate for New Addington
And there was me, a Green Party candidate in several national and local elections.
In the second half, Athletic continued to control the game but found it difficult to add to their lead. I got the sense that the Rams were coasting to the finish line when out of the blue Lauris Chin pulled a goal back for the Trams after a defensive mishap.Croydon Athletics’s manager, Anthony Williams, went ballistic and screamed and shouted at the defence. Any complacency which had set in was duly erased and the Rams held on for a 2-1 victory.
With neither team in serious danger of relegation, or promotion, there’s just a chance that we will be able to enjoy another couple of derby days next season, too.
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