NON-LEAGUE NEWS: With the Croydon “Wanderers” about to set up a new home at Crystal Palace, ANDREW SINCLAIR reports on an impressive unbeaten run, and how the Rams have managed to end their losing streak as one of their stalwarts sets a club record
The end of Croydon FC’s enforced nomadic existence cannot come a moment too soon for Trams’ boss Liam Giles, as he starts a three-match touchline ban after sharing his thoughts on his side’s latest match a little too forcibly with one of the officials.
Forced out of their Croydon Arena home because of coronavirus and the council’s cash crisis, Croydon FC are looking forward to setting up a home base at Crystal Palace NSC next month, as some of the efforts the club has had to go to behind the scenes to get their season underway.
Croydon’s only defeat of the season so far came in the FA Vase, notionally a “home” game against Sheppey United. The Trams hired Glebe FC’s Foxbury Avenue ground in Chislehurst for the day, where they were unlucky to lose against a quality side from the division above. But they did themselves proud and they had chances to force penalties.
Croydon’s first seven Southern Counties East Football League fixtures, meanwhile, have all been scheduled away, and in the first four they have remained unbeaten as they look to keep pace early with the division’s promotion candidates.
They followed up their win over Rusthall with a 5-4 victory over rivals Stansfeld in an ill-tempered game, captain Martin Smith getting the winner 15 minutes from time to complete his hat-trick.
“Stansfeld is always a tough place to go, they have a style that works well for them, playing off a big centre forward and putting themselves about,” Giles said. “They are very hard-working with so I’m really pleased we came away with the three points, albeit with a couple of injuries to our squad.”
Croydon were backed by a number of supporters for their lengthy away trip to Lydd Town but they could only take a point home with them after Dale Horton’s 84th-minute penalty secured the Kent seasiders a 2-2 draw.
Andy Somo scored his sixth of the season after a poor backpass from a Lydd defender and Dan Vaughan powered home an excellent header to put the Trams ahead, but with Lydd down to 10 men for much of the second half, Croydon squandered other chances, including a missed penalty from Smith. Horton punished them.
“I’m disappointed to only come away with a point from Lydd, especially as we had a man advantage for 40 minutes or so,” Giles said.
“We totally dominated the game and created bundles of chances but we just couldn’t get the third goal to see them off. Ultimately we were not good enough in the final third and we must be more ruthless in our attack.
“I am even more disappointed in the manner Lydd scored the equaliser, as the alleged foul was outside the box but a penalty was given. If you don’t punish teams you leave yourself open for this sort of thing to happen.”
Lydd’s sending off came for a deliberate elbow by their captain, and Giles was also given a red card after the final whistle following an altercation with one of the linesmen. He’ll be banned from the touchline for the club’s next three games, starting tomorrow at bottom-of-the-table Bridon Ropes.
Croydon’s under-18s have seen their hopes of replicating last season’s impressive FA Youth Cup-run come to an end after they were beaten 4-1 on penalties by Dulwich Hamlet. As things stand, none of the team from last season’s run have featured for the Croydon first team, with several promising youngsters getting snapped up by Whyteleafe, whose boss Harry Hudson runs the Kinetic Foundation that trains the Croydon youngsters.
Things are beginning to look up for Croydon Athletic in the SCEFL Premier Division, where they finally ended their winless run after a sorry sequence of 17 games with a 3-0 win over Canterbury City at the Mayfield Stadium.
Kevin Rayner’s men then ran early league pacesetters Tunbridge Wells close in a 1-0 defeat before holding both K Sports and Beckenham Town to draws to start October.
Following the draw with Beckenham, Rayner said: “It’s always important to get points on the board and to pick up a home win was great. I said to you before, as soon as players return we will have no issues as our squad will be strong enough.
“I was disappointed not to get all three points at K Sports but the gradual return of players is leading to an improvement in our results. We should have beaten Beckenham. We had Nahum Green, Ibbis Khallon and Hermes Mengi return, so the squad now is much stronger than at the start of the season.”
Rayner continues to seek a winning formula. “We have now only conceded twice in our last four games so clearly things are improving as I would have expected. We’re close to getting most of the squad available so we will see what happens over the next few weeks.”
It was a special moment for Green, who made his 147th appearance for the Rams – a club record.
Rayner paid tribute: “Nahum has been good for the club and has shown loyalty. He’s always getting good offers from the bigger clubs at our level but respects the club and my management team.
“I get on well with Nahum and his family and aside from football, he’s a great lad and someone I will always have time for. It’s great to see him set the record and he did himself and the club proud with a very good performance.”
Athletic’s tenants Balham have continued their good start to life in the SCEFL Premier Division, recording victories over both Erith sides and a draw with Deal Town to put them seventh in the table.
Isthmian League club Whyteleafe have also continued their bright start to the season in both league and cup.
The club did say goodbye to assistant manager Callum Macfarlane recently, as he joined Manchester City as their new under-15s boss.
Hudson’s men will host Vanarama South outfit Concord Rangers in the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup after following up their initial wins in the competition against Glebe and Peacehaven and Telscombe with triumphs over Binfield and Burnham. This run has already netted the club more than £10,000 in prize money. Should they see off Concord, that’ll net them at least another £6,875 – big money in the world of non-league football.
Sat Oct 10: SCEFL Premier Div v Bearsted (H)
Sat Oct 17: SCEFL Premier Div v Chatham T (A)
Tue Oct 20: SCEFL Premier Div v Fisher (H)
Sat Oct 24: SCEFL Premier Div v Corinthian (H)
Sat Oct 10: SCEFL Div 1 v Bridon Ropes (A)
Sat Oct 17: SCEFL Div 1 v Thamesmead (A)
Sat Oct 24: SCEFL Div 1 v Kennington (A)
Sat Oct 10: Isthmian South East v Cray Valley (H)
Sat Oct 17: FA Trophy v Cray Valley (H)
Sat Oct 24: Isthmian South East v Sittingbourne (A)
Tue Oct 27: Isthmian South East v Burgess Hill T (H)
Sat Oct 31: Isthmian South East v Ramsgate (H)
For previous non-league round-ups from Andrew Sinclair, click here
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Bridon Ropes look like they’re on the ropes already.