NON-LEAGUE NEWS: One side has been leaking too many goals while another has been scoring too few. Ahead of tomorrow night’s ‘derby’ at the Arena, ANDREW SINCLAIR reports on the local clubs’ opening games to the season
As football stadiums around the country shut their gates for an unprecedented break following the death of the Queen, the borough’s non-league clubs were able to take stock of their seasons so far.
Before a ball was kicked in August, Croydon Athletic manager Kevin Rayner was promising that his men would be more competitive than they were last season when they finished 18th in the Combined Counties Premier Division South. So far, Athletic are 15th in the table, with just four points from six games, including a single win and four defeats away from home, including a 6-1 thumping at Tadley Calleva.
Things had started well enough on the opening weekend of the campaign, as they twice led at Peacehaven and Telscombe in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, but lapses in defence and conceding an injury-time penalty for a draw set the tone for the coming weeks.
The Rams lost the replay 3-0, and their league form since has been concerning, with the second worst defensive record in the division.
But Nahum Green, Athletic’s record appearance-maker, remains confident. “It was a real blow losing to Peacehaven. The team pulled together for the majority but it was a draw that pretty much felt like a loss.
“We’ve had good and bad times like every other club. It’s early days yet, we’re still in the majority of the cups and we’re aiming to be battling in the top half of the league.”
Athletic’s squad has got a different look this year, with a blend of experience from international ‘keeper Nic Taylor and current top-scorer Tyrone Pink, alongside exciting youngsters like Shaylo Johnson-McNally and Will Grieveson.
It’s already had some changes though, with young striker Bradley Ayoola getting a trial in Italy, Jermaine Green, brother of Nahum, moving to Raynes Park Vale and Kay Conteh, the man expected to anchor the Rams defence this year, leaving.
Green, who got his senior football breakthrough with Met Police, said that he was sad to see his brother go. “My brother was one of the main reasons that I stayed on with Croydon Athletic this season – there is honestly no better feeling than playing with my younger brother week in, week out.
“I passed a lot on to him and I want to do that with other players in the squad. Football should be taught as a life lesson on and off the pitch as a guide to how you handle things and yourself in different situations.”
Green and his teammates rallied to support the local community affected by the gas explosion on Galpins Road. The club supplied food and drink to those displaced by the blast, while Rams captain Junior Kaffo made a sizable clothing donation.
On the pitch, meanwhile, it looks as though Green, who in the opening weeks of the season has taken his goal tally for the club to 51, will need to remain a significant figure to help improve results.
Next up for the Rams is a trip to Fleet Town, who have had similar defensive frailties to Athletic and are yet to win at home.
After that, the Rams will be looking to secure further progress in the FA Vase as they face AFC Whyteleafe for the first time at the Mayfield Stadium. Victory for Kevin Rayner’s men will see them advance to the Vase’s first round and net £975 in prize money.
Croydon Athletic’s ground share partners Balham have endured a tricky start to the season, exiting the FA Cup and winning just one of their first seven league games. Currently 13th in the table, The Blazers had figured to be potential title contenders this season but it now looks as though they’ll find the going a bit tougher this season.
Croydon FC have been going quietly about their business so far this season. If it all clicks, they could be genuine promotion contenders this time round.
The Trams are currently seventh in the Southern Counties Eastern Football League Division One, having recorded three wins in their opening six games.
Manager Tyler Chambers described it as a “solid start”, telling Inside Croydon, “Keeping three clean sheets in our first three games showed that we’ve got a solid foundation to build on as the season progresses. We made hard work of the wins over Lewisham and Bermondsey, but it was great to get back-to-back wins and get the confidence up.”
The Trams are likely to lose some ground on the leading pack soon though, albeit through no fault of their own.
Kent Football United, who the Trams beat 2-0 on the opening day, have since folded and it seems that the league’s most likely course of action will be to erase their four results from the table rather than awarding walkover wins for the 30 games that they won’t now play.
Two of the Trams’ clean sheets came in goalless draws. Chambers has moved to address the goal drought by bringing in impressive reinforcements, Ashley-Paul Robinson and Lauris Chin.
Robinson is a powerful striker who played six times for Crystal Palace under Neil Warnock. Chin, meanwhile, achieved cult hero status in his previous spell with the Trams and looked very much a cut above when coming off the bench in the game against Bermondsey.
“Ashley and Lauris are going to be massive for us,” Chambers said.
“I’m hoping they’ll be long-term additions.
“For the most part, we are a new side and a young side. Against Lydd Town, for example, we only had two players over the age of 23 in the matchday 16. Ashley and Lauris have experience at Step 4 and 5 and I see them being guiding influences for our younger players, giving them advice and powering us through games where we’re not performing as well as we should be.”
Croydon’s next game is tomorrow night at the Arena, and a first-ever meeting with AFC Whyteleafe, the phoenix club which was formed less than two years ago and has been quickly propelled up the league ladder.
Chambers knows there’s a level of expectation going into that one. “The Whyteleafe game is huge. While Croydon remain in Step 6 and don’t have a derby with Croydon Athletic to play, this one becomes massive.
“I’m very glad it’s a Wednesday night under the lights, I’m hoping we get a bumper crowd.
“I think it’ll be a good contest. We’re a young side, they’re a young side and we’re both teams with big ambitions to get back to Step 5 and levels we were at before. I’m excited and so are the lads – it’s a big game.”
The clubs have also been drawn against each other in the SCEFL Challenge Cup.
The Trams will also enter the FA Vase, taking on Redhill.
Croydon’s women’s team is also playing at Croydon Arena this season, off the back of going unbeaten to win the Greater London Women’s Football League Div 2 South title last term. Now playing in the South East Counties Women’s Football League Surrey Prem, they were due to kick-off on Sunday at home against Ashmount Leigh. They will now start away to Woking Development on September 18 before facing the same opposition at the Arena the following Sunday.
Sat Sep 17, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Fleet T (A)
Sat Sep 24, FA Vase v Whyteleafe (H)
Sat Oct 1, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Guildford C (H)
Sat Oct 8, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Cobham (A)
Sat Oct 15, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Farnham T (H)
Wed Sept 14, SCEFL Div 1 v Whyteleafe (H)
Sat Sep 17, SCEFL Div 1 v Bridon Ropes (H)
Sat Sep 24, FA Vase v Redhill (H)
Sat Oct 1, SCEFL Div 1 v Larkfield and New Hythe (A)
Sat Sep 17, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Farnham T (H)
Sat Sep 24, FA Vase v Colliers Wood Utd (H)
Sat Oct 1, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Camberley T (A)
Sat Oct 8, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Knaphill (H)
Sat Oct 15, Combined Counties Prem Div S v Jersey Bulls (A)
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