NON-LEAGUE NEWS: Personal tragedies for players, three-goal leads squandered, the return of women’s football and continuing encouraging turn-outs at Croydon Arena, as ANDREW SINCLAIR reports
Goals galore for the both Croydon clubs and a personal tragedy at Whyteleafe – it has been an eventful month for the area’s three non-league clubs.
Croydon’s 3-2 win over Lydd Town on Saturday was not only their second successive victory but it was also their fifth straight game featuring four or more goals.
That clash at the Arena, which saw star striker Andy Somo extend his tally of goals for the season to seven, marked a real contrast to their first game of the month, when they lost 3-1 at home to Lewisham Borough.
While that result was obviously frustrating for Liam Giles’ side, the Trams were left heartbroken the following weekend as they conceded an injury-time equaliser to draw 4-4 away to Gravesend club Greenways. Charlie Gee grabbed a hat-trick in that game and the influential No10 scored two more as Croydon got back to winning ways with a thumping 6-2 victory away to Bridon Ropes. Gee has now scored six this season.
On a warm Wednesday night in Charlton, the Trams initially fell behind but a quick double from Somo and a goal for winger Richard Pingling gave them a 3-2 half-time lead, which they added to with Gee’s pair of free-kicks and a late strike from centre-back Ollie Spedding.
They followed that up with the win over Lydd, with Pingling on the scoresheet once again, and as a result, Giles’ side are now third in the SCEFL Division One, seven points behind leaders Elmstead with two games in hand.
One disappointing note for the Trams, who continue to attract crowds to the Arena of more than 100 this season, came in the FA Vase defeat to Colliers Wood United, despite taking an early lead through Conrad Cespedes.
Southern Counties East Football League
Although their dreams of a trip to Wembley may be over for another season, the Trams do now have a date for the annual Croydon Clasico. They will travel to Croydon Athletic on October 15 in the first round of the SCEFL Challenge Cup, with the winners hosting Elmstead in the next round.
It was also announced that Croydon’s home league game with Meridian VP, originally scheduled for January, was being brought forward to coincide with Non-League Day on October 12. Croydon Athletic are away on that day against K Sports.
Croydon Women’s under-18s side has started its season – with a 3-2 win over Mole Valley Girls – making it the first women’s game played in Croydon colours since 2000, and an encouraging boost for the women’s game, which has so much heritage and significance in the local area.
Over at the Mayfield Stadium in Thornton Heath, it has been a difficult few weeks for Croydon Athletic, who crashed out of the FA Cup, the FA Vase and failed to win either of their league games, including squandering a three-goal lead against Hollands and Blair.
That draw with Hollands was the club’s ninth game since the start of August but manager Kevin Rayner said after the game that he preferred a busy schedule, arguing that it actually helped his players, many of whom have picked up knocks already this season, get their match sharpness up.
“I think, realistically, we want to be up as high as we can. I mean we’ve got a good squad, good players. I think in this league everyone can beat everyone on their day,” Rayner said.
“There’s three or four clubs spending fortunes and I think we can compete with them. We haven’t got their budget but player-wise we’ve got some good players. We’ve attracted some players, some who’ve played at a high-level and are happy to play here and have a go.”
That philosophy of everyone being able to beat everyone was left somewhat undone though when the Rams returned from a two-week break, as they were well-beaten 6-0 by Sheppey.
Sheppey’s win took them up to eighth in the SCEFL Premier Division table, while the Rams slip to 14th, with eight points from their first six games.
Southern Counties East Football League
It has been a rather different story over in Whyteleafe, where the death of a first-team player’s mother has had a profound effect on the club and their fixture schedule.
Harry Hudson’s lost their unbeaten record in the league to Hastings at the end of August but they responded well to knock Merstham out of the FA Cup.
The Leafe were due to play Ashford United the following Saturday but the game was cancelled after a player’s mother was taken ill. Their midweek league game with Burgess Hill Town was also postponed as a mark of respect after her death.
A somewhat emotional Whyteleafe team did return to action this past weekend though, a double from top-scorer Ronald Sobowale the difference as they beat Portsmouth-based club Moneyfields 2-0 to progress to the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, where they will travel to Abbey Rangers.
Tomorrow: Kent FA Senior Trophy v Hollands & Blair (A)
Sat Oct 5: SCEFL Div 1 v Kent (A)
Sat Oct 12: SCEFL Div 1 v Meridian (H)
Tue Oct 15: SCEFL Challenge Cup v Croydon Athletic (A)
Sat Oct 19: SCEFL Div 1 v Forest Hill (A)
Tomorrow: Kent FA Senior Trophy v Punjab United (H)
Tue Oct 1: London Senior Cup v Dulwich Hamlet (A)
Sat Oct 5: SCEFL Premier Div v Welling (H)
Tue Oct 8: SCEFL Premier Div v Beckenham T (H)
Sat Oct 12: SCEFL Premier Div v K Sports (A)
Tue Oct 15: SCEFL Challenge Cup v Croydon (H)
Sat Oct 19: SCEFL Premier Div v Crowborough (A)
Tue Oct 22: SCEFL Premier Div v Tunbridge Wells (A)
Tomorrow: Velocity Trophy v South Park (A)
Tue Oct 1: Velocity Trophy v Tooting & Mitcham (A)
Sat Oct 5: FA Cup 3rd Q Rd v Abbey Rangers (A)
Sat Oct 12: FA Trophy Prelim Rd v Tooting & Mitcham (H)
Tue Oct 15: Velocity Trophy v Chertsey Town (H)
Sat Oct 19: Isthmian SE Div v Whitehawk (A)
Tue Oct 22: Isthmian SE Div v Cray Valley (A)
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