NON-LEAGUE NEWS: The 2019 el Croydon Clásico between Croydon Athletic and Croydon FC at Mayfield Road on Tuesday night turned out to be less-than-a-classic, and ended with accusations surrounding a deliberate dive to get a rival player sent off. ANDREW SINCLAIR reports.
Match photography: PAUL DAVIS
A goal for Croydon Athletic from Joe Nwoko after 22 minutes was all that separated the sides at the end of a sometimes ill-tempered derby at Mayfield Road on Tuesday night in the first round of the SCEFL Challenge Cup.
But Croydon FC, who ended the match reduced to 10 men, had cause to complain following the sending off of striker Andy Somo after 75 minutes for a second yellow, with coach Liam Giles questioning whether the Athletic player had gone down in an attempt to get a player sent off.
“Andy didn’t seem to make contact,” was the view of Croydon manager Liam Giles. It was also suggested after the game that the Athletic player admitted that he had gone to ground to influence referee Kuba Bogucki.
Croydon FC had cause to complain about the refereeing decisions in the first-half, too, when Athletic striker Umaro Alpha probably should have been sent off for what looked a blatant elbow, yet he avoided any sanction.
For Athletic – the Rams – it was an important victory, ending a six-game losing streak.
Their Croydon rivals – the Trams – started the derby the brighter, but Athletic exploited the weakness of the visitors with the Nwoko goal after his initial effort from a corner was saved.
The opening 25 minutes set the tone for the entire game – the away side probably played the better football but Kevin Rayner’s Athletic side always posed a threat from set-pieces. Pumping long balls and crosses into the area seemed to be Rayner’s game plan.
Somo and Leo Medrado forced good saves from Rams keeper Nic Knight in the second half, with Charlie Gee – possibly in his last game for Croydon FC – firing wide when given a great chance to equalise late on, though the Rams also had chances to extend their lead in the last 10 minutes through Bankole Koroma and Jack Rose.
Athletic will now face Division 1 leaders FC Elmstead in the Challenge Cup second round on a date yet to be confirmed.
With Croydon FC playing in the division below Athletic, for this season at least, a cup upset was narrowly avoided. “I’m disappointed but proud of my players’ effort, especially when going down to 10 men and playing for a period with nine,” Giles said.
“I believe we were the better side tonight. We played the better football but conceded a poor goal in the same manner we’ve conceded a few goals this year which is disappointing.
“Just wasn’t our night.”
Athletic’s manager Rayner attributes his side’s recent poor form to lapses in concentration and defensive errors. The derby win came after the Rams had been eliminated from both the Kent Senior Trophy and London Senior Cup and suffered 6-1, 3-1 and 1-0 league defeats against Beckenham, K Sports and Welling.
Southern Counties East Football League
Now 16th in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division – the ninth tier of the English football pyramid – Athletic have an important away game against 18th-placed Crowborough Athletic on Saturday before they travel to Tunbridge Wells on Tuesday.
The derby defeat was a first loss in four games for Croydon FC, who have continued their positive start to the season with four points from their last two league games and a win in the London Senior Trophy.
After the Tuesday’s game, Giles said that although he was pleased overall with his side’s start to the season, he is concerned about their home form, saying that the team almost seem to be struck down by a “curse” while playing at the Croydon Arena, losing twice there in the league already.
And Giles will now have to find a way to replace Charlie Gee for the rest of the season, after the influential, goal-scoring midfielder announced after Tuesday’s game that he has signed to play for Reigate-based South Park, two leagues higher in the Isthmian League South. Gee has scored seven goals so far this season for Croydon.
According to a source at Croydon Arena, Gee’s move is a kind of sale or return deal. “If it works at South Park, he’ll stay there, if not, he’ll come back,” they said. “It’s a move that Charlie thoroughly deserves, and it does show that young players turning out for the club will be seen and get a chance to advance.” Giles will look to promote from within his existing squad.
On Non-League Day, when Premier League and Championship clubs were out of action for the latest international break last weekend, the Trams – playing in front of one of their best crowds of the season so far, despite the day’s heavy rain – needed an injury time equaliser from Medrado to draw 2-2 with strugglers Meridian. Levi Shango scored Croydon’s first goal.
That result came on the back of successive away wins against Kent United and Tooting Bec.
Generally speaking, it has been a busy few weeks for Croydon, who have launched a Youtube channel, called Trams TV, to give the club greater visibility on social media.
Meanwhile, the Croydon youth side have progressed to play Sutton United in the FA Youth Cup Third Qualifying Round tomorrow night, after thumping Hackney Wick 8-0. The club’s revived women’s team – playing for the first time in two decades – beat Molesey Juniors 4-2 at the Arena earlier in the month.
Owing to a variety of factors, Harry Hudson’s Whyteleafe, in Isthmian League South East (tier eight of the pyramid), have not played a league game since August, although they are on the brink of making the FA Cup first round for the first time this century if they can win their tie this Saturday.
The Leafe will need to beat National League South side Chippenham Town, who reached this stage after winning their replay against Slough Town.
In the club’s other cup competitions, they won in the Velocity Trophy (a sort of Isthmian League Cup tournament) against South Park but lost 3-1 in the FA Trophy to Tooting and Mitcham.
After their FA Cup match, Whyteleafe have a pretty hectic schedule with three league games before the end of this month, including away trips to Cray Valley and Ramsgate.
Saturday: SCEFL Premier v Crowborough (A)
Tue Oct 22: SCEFL Premier v Tunbridge (A)
Sat Oct 26: SCEFL Premier v Corinthian (H)
Sat Nov 9: SCEFL Premier v Lordswood (H)
Sat Nov 16: SCEFL Premier v Punjab (H)
Saturday: SCEFL Div 1 v Forest Hill (A)
Sat Oct 26: SCEFL Div 1 v Elmstead (H)
Wed Oct 30: Hospitals Charity Cup v Thamesmead (H)
Sat Nov 9: SCEFL Div 1 v Rusthall (H)
Sat Nov 16: SCEFL Div 1 v Thamesmead (A)
Saturday: FA Cup 4th QR v Chippenham Town (H)
Tue Oct 22: Isthmian SE Div v Cray Valley (A)
Sat Oct 26: Isthmian SE Div v Ramsgate (A)
Tue Oct 29: Isthmian SE Div v Burgess Hill (H)
Sat Nov 2: Isthmian SE Div v Phoenix Sports (H)
Tue Nov 5: Velocity Trophy v Chipstead (H)
Sat Nov 9: Isthmian SE Div v Hythe Town (A)
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