NON-LEAGUE NEWS: Fixture congestion, cup knock-outs, floodlight failures, losing streaks, ANDREW SINCLAIR reports on a tough February for the local clubs.
Croydon FC pictures: PAUL DAVIS
Croydon’s non-league clubs have had a tough month, as one saw their promotion hopes badly dented and the other saw themselves dragged into a relegation dogfight.
A combination of scheduling and the wet weather saw Croydon FC play just three league games in the past month, and while they were able to get a morale-boosting 5-0 win over Kent Football United, with Martin Smith nabbing a hat-trick, defeats to fellow promotion contenders Elmstead and Kennington have been a knock-back.
The Trams’ home game against top-of-the-table Kennington at Croydon Arena tomorrow afternoon is crucial if they are to return to the Southern Counties East League Premier Division at the first time of asking.
Although they have games in hand, Croydon go into that fixture just 10th in the table with 10 games remaining, and 12 points off the four promotion spots. Although it is still mathematically possible for Liam Giles’ side to go back up, they need to go on a winning streak which would make Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool envious, and still have those sides above them drop points in the run-in.
The club did keep hopes of end-of-season silverware alive after they came from behind to beat Phoenix Sports Reserves 2-1 in their Hospitals Charity Cup quarter-final, an 87th minute Jack King own-goal sealing the result. They will meet Stansfeld in the last four.
Silverware is definitely not on the cards for Croydon Athletic, as they endured a February to forget, losing four of their five games in the league and suffer elimination from two cup competitions.
The Rams led their SCEFL Challenge Cup tie with Chatham Town 2-0 before their opponents pulled it back to 2-2. With the game set to enter extra time, the floodlights at the Mayfield Stadium failed.
After multiple attempts to get them working again, the game was abandoned.
Kevin Rayner’s men played the game the following week, going down 2-0 away to the Premier Division promotion contenders.
Abandonment at the Mayfield back in January for a frozen pitch had also forced the Rams into another away trip and although they drew level after falling behind against Guildford City, they exited the Surrey Senior Cup on penalties.
A 1-1 draw with Canterbury City in the middle of the month was the only decent result for the ailing Rams, who scored three and conceded 15 in their four defeats against Tunbridge Wells, Hollands and Blair, Crowborough Athletic and Erith Town.
Of those losses, the 3-0 home reverse against Crowborough, who are currently bottom of the Premier Division, stung the most. Athletic, who face two of the top three in the division in the next week, are five points off the bottom of the table but they have two games in hand on the sides below them.
Whyteleafe, by contrast, had an excellent February as they won four on the spin in league and cup to maintain their push for promotion from the Isthmian League South East Division.
Being beaten 4-0 at home by Cray Valley at the start of the month probably set a few alarm bells ringing for manager Harry Hudson but they responded in the best way possible with league triumphs against Sevenoaks Town, Faversham and Ramsgate and a routine 3-0 win in the Surrey Senior Cup against Badshot Lea.
The Leafe are now into the quarter-finals of the cup, where they’ll travel to take on Chipstead. Leatherhead and Dorking Wanderers are already through to the semi-finals after beating South Park and Woking respectively.
Croydon Athletic conquerors Guildford City will face the winner of the last 16 tie between Banstead Athletic and either Frimley Green and Egham Town in the last eight.
In the league, Whyteleafe are currently sixth, three points outside the play-offs, but they do have a game in hand on Herne Bay, the side immediately above them in the standings.
Sat Feb 29: SCEFL Div 1 v Kennington (H)
Sat Mar 7: SCEFL Div 1 v Meridian (A)
Sat Mar 14: SCEFL Div 1 v Lewisham (A)
Wed Mar 18: SCEFL Div 1 v Bridon Ropes (H)
Sat Mar 21: SCEFL Div 1 v Rochester (A)
Sat Feb 29: SCEFL Premier Div v Sheppey Utd (H)
Tue Mar 3: SCEFL Premier Div v Beckenham T (A)
Sat Mar 7: SCEFL Premier Div v Lordswood (A)
Sat Mar 14: SCEFL Premier Div v Deal T (H)
Sat Mar 21: SCEFL Premier Div v Glebe (H)
Sat Feb 29: Isthmian SE Div v Phoenix Sports (A)
Sat Mar 7: Isthmian SE Div v Hythe T (H)
Sat Mar 14: Isthmian SE Div v East Grinstead T (A)
Tue Mar 17: Surrey Senior Cup v Chipstead (A)
Sat Mar 21: Isthmian SE Div v Ashford Utd (A)
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