NON-LEAGUE NEWS: As groundsharers Croydon Athletic and Balham get off to a slow start in their new league, ANDREW SINCLAIR reports on how their neighbours at the Arena are mounting a promotion challenge
Croydon boss Liam Giles was left fuming over the performance of the officials following last weekend’s Kent Senior Trophy defeat to SCEFL Premier Division high-fliers Chatham Town.
Chatham were 2-0 winners at Croydon Arena, Jon Pilbeam adding the second in the dying seconds after Andy Pugh, the former Cambridge United striker, had opened the scoring on 42 minutes.
There was controversy on the half-hour mark when Trams forward Richard Pingling was raked down in the box but the referee failed to award a penalty.
Click here to view a clip of the incident. You can make up your own mind, but the footage is pretty conclusive…
“It’s very frustrating when you’re on the end of such a poor refereeing display like we were at the weekend,” Giles said.
“I’ve not seen such a one-way display in a very long time.
“That being said, we had enough chances to win the game against a youthful Chatham who only had three or four first-teamers in their starting line-up. At 1-0 we did everything but score really and on another day we come away with the win.”
After 12 games of their league season, Croydon sit fourth in SCEFL Division 1 ahead of this weekend’s “tough test” away at fellow promotion contenders Sutton Athletic. Based in Hextable, Sutton have won just once in their last four but were perfect through the first five games of the season and pose a considerable threat.
When up against other clubs mixing it at the top of the table this season, the Trams have produced their best, most notably in early October when coming from behind to thrash big-spending Larkfield and New Hythe 4-1 at the Arena.
Yet four days after dismantling Larkfield, Croydon were undone by 14th-placed Forest Hill Park. If it were not for the efforts of Montserratian international Nic Taylor in goal, the final scoreline would have been much wider than the 2-1 it finished. Finding better consistency, in both their results and performances, is a priority for Giles.
“Overall it hasn’t been a bad start,” Giles said.
“We still have three big players sidelined through injury but hopefully we’ve come through the worst of it. There’s still lots of football to be played so I think the stretch to Christmas will be really important.”
Among the goals against Larkfield was midfielder Josh Owen, returning from a spell at Tier 8 side South Park, and former Carshalton Athletic striker Michael Campbell. Along with former Waltham Abbey captain Junior Baker, they have been brought in to bolster Giles’ options, although Campbell this week announced that he would not be taking any further part in the season.
Croydon progressed to the last 16 of the London Senior Trophy, with Richard Pingling scoring three in a barnstorming 6-1 win over Peckham Town. It was a moment of revenge for The Trams, who’d lost 3-0 to Peckham in the very same tournament back in April. They’ll fancy their chance of sealing further progression next month when they host Barking’s under-23s.
While back-to-back defeats to title-chasing Walton and Hersham and Beckenham were far from ideal for Croydon Athletic, the Rams are now unbeaten in four Combined Counties Premier Division South games and appear to have turned the corner after their poor start to the season.
Successive draws with Camberley, Sheerwater and Colliers Wood were followed last weekend by a 1-0 win over Farnham Town, Alfie Bloomfield scoring the second-half goal that secured Athletic their first away win of the campaign.
“We had our strongest squad since the opening two games against Farnham and we’re now in a position to play nine or 10 of the same players every week,” manager Kevin Rayner said.
“The biggest difference in the last few games is not having to change the back four every week. The back four that have played the last four games haven’t lost a game, so it’s a big help to have them fit. We’ve also brought in a new signing in Carl Obiltey, who is a very good forward, and we’re working hard.
“I was never concerned about the poor results. We’ve only lost to Beckenham and Walton and Hersham in the last seven games, just like most other teams in the league. We have plenty of games in November and December I would fully expect us to win.”
Athletic’s groundshare partners Balham were one of the stories of last season in the SCEFL Premier Division. This season, however, once again in a new division, has not been so bright.
With just eight points from their opening 11 fixtures, Balham sit 18th in the table, albeit only three behind Rayner’s men with two games in hand.
There was a bright note for the club though as they joined Croydon FC in making some cup progress, thumping Colliers Wood United 5-1 away from home to book their spot in the next round of the Surrey Senior Cup.
AFC Croydon Athletic
Today: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Cobham (A)
Sat 30th Oct: Premier Challenge Cup v Wokingham and Emmbrook (A)
Sat 6th Nov: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Fleet T (H)
Sat 13th Nov: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Raynes Park Vale (A)
Sat 20th Nov: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Molesey (A)
Today: SCEFL Div 1 v Sutton Ath (A)
Sat 30th Oct: SCEFL Div 1 v Faversham (H)
Sat 6th Nov: SCEFL Div 1 v Thamesmead (A)
Sat 13th Nov: London Senior Trophy v Barking Under-23s (H)
Sat 20th Nov: SCEFL Div 1 v Meridian (H)
Today: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Farnham T (A)
Sat 30th Oct: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Camberley T (H)
Tue 2nd Nov: Premier Challenge Cup v Langley (A)
Sat 6th Nov: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Guildford C (A)
Sat 13th Nov: Combined Counties Prem Div South v Colliers Wood Utd (H)
Sat 20th Nov; Combined Counties Prem Div South v Raynes Park Vale (H)
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