Beckenham Town 1-3 Crowborough Athletic - I think it's going to go to the wire, says title-chasing Crowborough Athletic boss Sean Muggeridge

Wednesday 08th March 2017
Beckenham Town 1 – 3 Crowborough Athletic
Location Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3JL
Kickoff 08/03/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Eden Park Avenue

CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC manager Sean Muggeridge insists his side will not hand the league title to Ashford United during this exciting two horse title race.

The Crows remain in second-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 69 points and have 11 games left to play. They are just one point behind Danny Lye’s side but with a game in hand and both sides lock horns at Homelands Stadium on 1 April where the winner should go on and win the title.

Beckenham Town belied their position in the bottom two with 19 points from 28 games as coach Billy Walton has stamped his attractive brand of football on the club but they remain two points adrift of Lordswood inside the relegation zone with only nine games left to avoid the club’s first ever relegation.

Crowborough opened the scoring halfway through the first half through a headed goal from Jason Barton, who played on the left-hand side of a three-man central defence.

Former Lewes man, right wing-back Sam Crabb then went on to score a goal in each half to give Crowborough a commanding 3-0 lead, joining Barton on four goals for the campaign.

Crowborough Athletic keeper Dan Ellis produced a string of excellent saves during the game and he was beaten by a deflected drive from Beckenham substitute striker Luwayne Greenwood, who scored his first goal for the club, at the end.

“A massive win for us because when we came down here I knew it was going to be difficult for us because they really shouldn’t be where they are really in the league,” said Muggeridge following his side’s 22nd league win of the season.

“They’ve had a lot of turmoil down here but the side that they put out was decent and they matched us first half and I thought it was end-to-end.  It was a really good match actually, a really good football match and we’re both footballing sides, which you get but I knew it would be difficult tonight.

“I’ve been down here for three years’ now playing this side and they play so much good football. Sometimes you just have to hand it to them.  They did have a couple of chances and they might’ve scored on another day but you’re going to get that when you’re at the top of the league, you’re going to get teams coming at you. They’re fighting for their lives down there but I’m sure they’ll be fine with the amount of quality that they’ve got in their side.”

Beckenham Town coach Billy Walton said he was bitterly disappointed that a good performance from his side ended fruitless and keeps them in the relegation zone tonight.

“I’m so flat and disappointed, football’s such an unjust game.  You can’t put in that much effort and have that much goal threat and ability on the ball and not get nothing out of the game,” said Walton after Beckenham suffered their 20th league defeat of the season.

“We’ve played supposedly the best team in this league and given them a hell of a game and I don’t think there’s one person in this stadium that didn’t think we deserved something out of the game.

“I feel really, really sorry for the players. They’ve put in a shift and a half.  The only thing I said to them in there, if we put that sort of work-rate in on Saturday we would’ve beaten Sevenoaks.”

A crowd of 102 were treated to a game of high quality football at Eden Park Avenue.

Beckenham Town keeper Aiden Prall almost gifted Crowborough the lead after only 138 seconds when his clearance was charged down by Dan Perry, but the on-loan keeper from Charlton Athletic scrambled back to collect the ball as it bounced behind him.

Beckenham Town were to be denied the lead inside the opening 12 minutes.

Left-winger Chan Quan played the ball into striker Hassan Jalloh, who played left wing-back Damien Ramsamy on the overlap. He cut into the penalty area and his shot looped off Ellis and was sailing towards the near corner of the goal, only for Jack Turner to get back on his line to head the ball behind for a corner.

“I thought we created some good chances against a side that are solid all over the pitch,” said Walton.

“We cut them open a few times and had some great opportunities to score and that was one of them to go 1-0 up.”

Prall produced a quality diving full-length save to his left to prevent Crowborough’s left wing-back Henry Muggeridge to score with a right-footed angled drive from 15-yards.

Walton said: “He’s on loan with us until the rest of the season and then we’ve got an option to see what happens with him at Charlton. We can take him if they release him.

“I’ve spoken to the lad and he wants to come here. It’s been a bit difficult for him really because he’s been brought up in an environment where they want to play, play and play. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the lad because he’ll want to play out from the back but unfortunately, we’re not in a position where we can play out from the back.

“He’s new to the team. He’s dropped from a professional outfit into a non-league side, a struggling one on paper, it’s difficult for him.  His natural instinct is to try and play and then all off a sudden, the ball’s come to him and he’s looking for someone to pass it to but he’s got to launch it up the pitch so it’s difficult for him but I’m pleased with him, he’s made some very good saves.”

Muggeridge added: “I believe they brought him in from Charlton, technically he’s very good but he’s made two or three worldies tonight and that’s probably why he’s at Charlton’s Academy.

“The one that you’re talking about was a fantastic save because I was right behind it.  That sort of took the pressure of us a bit because it was 0-0 at the time.”

Beckenham Town were playing well and central midfielder Hassan Oshilaja played a one-two with Quan but Oshilaja’s right-footed drive from 22-yards was held by Ellis, low to his left.

Walton said: “He made some saves throughout the game, the big fella in goal for them, what a presence he is in goal for them.  So he done his job, that’s why he’s in goal for, to save chances like that and fair play to the lad.  He pulled off some good saves tonight and I thought he was a very good goalkeeper.”

Crowborough Athletic grabbed the lead, the goal timed at 21 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

Lee Carey swept in a free-kick from the right-channel, the ball was headed on at the near post by Zac Attwood, the ball sailed over to Barton at the far post and he guided his downward header past Prall to beat him at his near post.

“We’ve been working quite a lot on set-pieces in training and that was one that came off,” said Muggeridge.

“You’re not going to win the league or any leagues, you’re not going to do anything, unless you take them seriously because they win our lose you games.

“Jason Barton is very, very good in the final third, although he’s a defender, he does that all the time.”

Walton added:  “I’m not going to tell you what it is, but there was something I wanted to work on. Unfortunately, we haven’t got the time to work on, which would have nullified that, quite simple.

“One of our players said to me in the changing room that he wasn’t comfortable doing it so I said if you’re not comfortable, we’re not going to do it.  If we would have done what I asked them to do, they wouldn’t have scored that goal. I’m really annoyed about that!

“It was a real kick in the teeth when you’re playing really well, the effort and the work-rate and the ball retention.”

Jalloh was a constant threat to Crowborough’s back three all night but his attempt in the 24th minute was ridiculous – trying to thrash a shot past Ellis from an acute angle after cutting in towards the by-line from the right.

Despite featuring for Bromley’s Academy earlier in the day, Beckenham’s right-back Michak Stanic-Stewart still had bundles of energy and lasted the entire 90 minutes.

He ran with the ball for some 30-yards before threading the ball through to striker Jamie Humphris, but his right-footed shot struck Stanic-Stewart and this produced another brilliant stop from Ellis, diving low to his left to make a superb block, despite going the other way at first.

“There again, a good bit of football, a good save by the keeper,” added Walton.

Tom Boddy launched a throw in from the right, Beckenham failed to clear their lines inside the box and Perry’s shot on the turn was saved by Prall, diving to his right as both goalkeeper’s excelled on the night.

Beckenham Town should have been level in the 27th minute.

Humphris slipped the ball through the heart of Crowborough’s defence and Alex Arif latched onto the pass and his right-footed shot from 12-yards trickled agonisingly past the foot of the right-hand post with the big keeper to beat.

Walton said: “That bit of football is what people pay to come through the door at this level, fantastic pass, great run, we split them open, goalkeeper to beat. He’s got to score! He knows he’s got to score and it just trickled the wrong side of the post for us.  Totally, totally different game then (had he scored), you’ve hit back straight away and then game on.”

Muggeridge said: “When you’re a player going in on goal and you’ve got Dan Ellis in front of you who’s six foot six, I don’t know what he is, six foot six, six foot seven, it’s always hard to score but again we’ve had two chances, they’ve had two chances first half. It could have been two-all.  He probably should’ve scored but when you’ve got Dan’s presence that he’s got, I think he just put him off a little bit.”

The people in the crowd were asking just how Beckenham Town are involved in a relegation dog-fight – they put in a good performance against a quality team of players who should still be playing at least two levels higher than this one.

“For me, it’s pleasing because in a way they’re listening to me. I’m putting my points over, we all are. We’re getting our views and points across and they’re taking to them,” said Walton.

“I asked the lads to respond to me and give me 100% effort, which they do, which they have done.  If I get that out of them for the remaining nine game’s there’s no way on this earth this team will go down.  If, ifs a big word, it’s a small word but it means a lot. If we can do that against sides who are not as good as Crowborough, we’ll get results all day long.”

Crowborough were to be denied a second when Carey swept in another free-kick and Barton planted his header towards goal from six-yards, forcing Prall into making another great save, beating the ball away instinctively to his left.

Charlton Athletic will make a mistake in letting this goalkeeper go in the summer and it would be a criminal for him to be playing in the ninth tier of English football next season.

Walton said: “That’s what he’s good at, the lad in goal. People tell me he’s a very good shot-stopper and he done that on Saturday (during our 3-1 defeat at Sevenoaks Town) as well. He pulled off some good point blank saves.”

When asked how Prall is coping with the drop down to the ninth tier of English football, Walton replied: “I haven’t really asked him.  I only ever met him on Saturday.  A part of his development, he’s only 18, is to play against men in men’s football. What a good baptism for him tonight, playing a team that’s quite direct and put him under a lot of pressure and I think he coped with it quite well.”

Muggeridge added: “Another fantastic save that was! He headed it so hard any other time it would’ve been a goal! The keepers made a worldie there. It’s come at him so quick and he’s just tipped it out, a brilliant save.”

But Prall could do nothing about Crowborough Athletics’ second goal that arrived following a poor piece of defending, 24 seconds into injury time.

Oshilaja lost possession in Beckenham’s defensive third to Muggeridge, who played a sublime crossfield pass to Crabb in space on the other side of the pitch.  Crabb took a touch before stroking his right-footed shot from 15-yards across the keeper to nestle inside the bottom far corner of the net.

Muggeridge said: “We asked them to press and they did and everyone pressed and Henry just tackled the centre half, he got the ball off him and because they had the ball their left wing-back was out of position and we could see it all open up and Henry played a fantastic ball to Sam and he’s put it away.

“Sam’s been scoring goals as well but Henry’s been assisting. They’ve been playing so well together, even though they’re on different flanks, they do find each other.”

Walton felt Oshilaja should have cleared his lines instead of playing his part in Crowborough’s second.

He said: “The throw-in was down by our dug-out and I asked the ref how long to go and he said ‘a minute to go,’ so we have a throw and we throw it inside to Hassan, who passed it to the other Hassan, we’re 35-yards out and he tries to dribble it around three people, losses it and then one pass, we’ve committed people forward, our wing-back has gone forward. We’ve lost it in a dangerous area and one pass he’s in the penalty area. One pass, goal and that’s what that’s what I’ve got to stop us doing.”

Both camps were asked their thoughts at the break.

Walton said: “If we come in at 1-0, I’m happy. It killed is. Bang! That’s it finished, finished, finished and all I said to them in there, now we show a real bit of character. Let’s go out there, not roll over, not get beat four or five nil, which most teams would get beat. Let’s show a real bit of character and what character did they show in the second half!

“They were extremely disappointed. I said to them how you feel in here, you know how well you’ve been playing and you’ve been caught by a mistake and it seems when you’re down the bottom every single mistake you make, you get punished and we’re not punishing other teams when we get the opportunities. I said take that hurt how you feel and go and produce that in the second half.”

The Crowborough manager said: “I just think we just had to be a bit more disciplined. We didn’t need to go out and win four or five nil, we just needed to be more disciplined because I knew exactly what they would be like on the attack.

“I’ve got to give them so much credit because even at 3-0 down they still came and I like their coach (Walton) as well. I think he’s got them working really well and I think the players’ play for him out there.  At 3-0 down they could’ve just crumbled, but they didn’t.”

Beckenham created the first chance of the second half inside the opening five minutes when Jalloh pinged a right-footed drive from 30-yards, which dipped in front of the diving keeper, who did well to dive to his left to hold onto the shot to prevent it nestling inside the bottom right-hand corner.

Muggeridge said: “I’ve known Hassan for a long time. He could grace a lot of league’s higher, no doubt about it. He’s a handful. He knows himself when he’s on it he’s more or less unplayable, but I thought we done really well to restricting him what we gave him.”

Beckenham Town’s next attempt saw Ellis produce a piece of world-class goalkeeping.

Jalloh’s out-swinging corner came out to Ramsamy, who whipped his left-footed drive from 25-yards towards the top left-hand corner, but somehow Ellis dived high to his right to reach the shot with a strong right hand to tip the ball towards safety.

Walton asked: “Oh, how has he saved that? How has he flung himself and saved that?!  You can’t do nothing but clap – what a save!

“You were down here when we played against Lordswood, same sort of thing. Ryan Dolby bent one in the far corner and it’s in all the way but (Ryan Chandler) gets up and tips it around.

“I was really, really down to be honest with you.  We’re putting in so much effort and you’re thinking just break for us and then you think to yourself it’s never going to happen.”

Muggeridge said: “It was a fantastic strike and it was a fantastic save! This is what you want to see in football really. You want to see keeper’s save like that and you also want to see shots like that.

“I normally get really stressed in games as well. I’ve got to make the right decisions but today, both teams played football.”

Muggeridge and Crabb were excellent going forward for Crowborough and Sam Carrington drove his shot past the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Crowborough Athletic killed the game off with their third goal in the 63rd minute although Walton pointed the finger of blame at substitute Andrew Whorms for starting his game on the back foot.

Whormes was out of position and allowed Crows half-time sub Connor Pring to get in behind him to reach the final third before he pulled the ball back for Crabb to toe-poke his right-footed shot in off the foot of the far post and into the back of the net to score from 12-yards.

Muggeridge said: “Again, Sam Crabb, he’s got a new lease of life. I think Connor Pring coming on at half-time for the injured Vickers….”

When asked about Vickers’ injury, Muggeridge remained tight lipped, saying, “He’s done his, it looks like it’s quite bad. It’s another injury. We played Whitstable at the weekend and we got kicked. That’s football and it just adds to another list.”

Walton added: “We were chasing the game. We changed formation to 4-3-3. The bloke at left-back goes on (Whorms), how can I say it? Not ready to play so to speak. He goes on. They attack down his channel. I thought he was too far up the pitch. He got caught and toe poke of a goal. It hits the post and goes in. It don’t rebound to your keeper does it?!”

Beckenham Town never gave up tonight and on this performance should be a side that’s challenging for promotion – not trying to avoid playing Forest Hill Park in the First Division next season.

Their best outfield player, Jalloh, cracked a right-footed angled drive, which was gobbled up by Ellis at his near post, before Humphris hit a left-footed drive over the crossbar from 25-yards.

The scouts will also be looking at Ellis after his excellent heroic performance here tonight and he produced another world-class stop in the 71st minute.

Humphris pinged a subline diagonal, which was excellently brought under control by Jalloh, who powered a low drive, which Ellis got down quickly and low to his left and used a strong left hand to stop the shot before collecting.

A frustrated Walton said: “You’ve already mentioned four or five saves that he’s made – that just proves just how well we played here tonight. I’m so, so disappointed with the result, we didn’t deserve that.”

“I mean when you’re say the keeper’s played well, it looks like you’ve been under the cosh a lot,” said Muggeridge.

“I just think their keeper made some fantastic saves as well.  I just think it was a very good game to watch.  Obviously not as a manager but it was good. Dan’s been doing it for us all season and it’s exactly why we brought him in.”

Crowborough substitute Tom Pearson cut inside and played the ball out to an unmarked Crabb out on the right. He floated over a cross towards the far post and Muggeridge’s downward header produced from six-yards saw Prall produce another great save.

“Henry’s very good in the air attacking the ball for a little guy over the years and the keeper’s made another good save again,” added the Crowborough boss.

Walton described Crowborough, “They’re a well-oiled machine. Basically, they’ve played at a higher level, they know exactly where to be, where he’s going to put it so they’re already making the runs to get in there.

“How bad have we played when we’ve given them a game and a half with a group of lads who I’ve brought in tonight because we’ve been let down by people that I pulled in tonight and they’ve gone and played like that! It’s incredible.”

Prall then dived to his left to parry away Carey’s angled drive after Muggeridge played a short corner to the Crowborough midfielder.

Beckenham Town deserved their goal, which was timed with 44:40 on the clock and full marks must go to Stanic-Stewart for showing desire to get over the halfway line and into the final third.

He fed the ball to Greenwood and it took his deflected right-footed drive from 30-yards to finally defeat the immense Ellis, the shot deceiving a flat-footed keeper and nestling into the bottom right-hand corner.

Walton said: “Finally beats him with a deflection! Every time we have a shot just let it beat someone and deflects into the other corner.

“I’m pleased with the lad. He’s scored a lot of goals at a lower level. Hopefully that’s the goal that might ignite him. Hopefully it does. If we can put performances like that against teams not as good as Crowborough, not as well drilled as them, we’ll definitely get results.”

Muggeridge said: “I was too busy screaming because we’re such a good footballing side, we try to still and play and we just need to put it into areas.  I think we lost the ball and it’s just one of those unlucky things. It’s a shame really because Dan deserved a clean sheet tonight.”

Ashford United travel to Bearsted on Saturday, while Crowborough Athletic host Deal Town.

“Ashford are not going to slip up and hopefully we’re not going to slip up so I think it’s going to go to the wire,” predicted Muggeridge.

“I don’t think Sevenoaks are out of it (seven points adrift of Crowborough in third). If they put a run together but I just think it’s who keeps their cool and who gets a bit of luck.

“I think that game on April 1st is going to be a cracker. I hope it’s a really good game. Ashford have got good players.”

Muggeridge dismissed the claim that whoever wins at Ashford on April 1st will go on to win the league crown.

He said: “I sort of disagree with you.  I think it’s going to be whoever beats the teams around them because you really want to play the middle-of-the-table-teams who can’t go up or can’t go down.

“Tonight you’ve seen a team scrapping for their lives and that’s what you get and combined with playing top sides, you get a really hard game.

“Ashford are not going to give it to us and we’re not going to give it to them.  I don’t think you can get over the white line until the end. I think it’s going to go right to the wire, it might even go to the last game.   Ashford look strong, we look strong and it’s a great advert for the league really, two teams still going for it.

Beckenham Town travel to Whitstable Town on Saturday and Walton says his side must win four of their last nine games to ensure Premier Division safety.

He said: “No it won’t go down, without a shadow of a doubt, we won’t go down,” insisted Walton.

“Everyone in this ground tonight will see that team who played like that will not go down. There’s teams that we’ve got left to play, if we play like that, we’ll beat them.

“I look at it and people in this league will agree there’s worse teams than us in this league. We just have to get above them and then we’ll be alright.

“I think we need four more wins out of nine games, possibly three and pick up the odd draw, but I think there’s teams in this league, I’m not going to say who they are, there’s teams in the bottom six who possibly won’t win another game, maybe one.

“Pressure?  No! It’s enjoyable. That’s why I do it. I love it. I don’t feel no pressure at all. I love being involved in football. I wish I had their pressure being at the other end and challenging for things.

“I said to the lads in there we’re not playing for silly midtable games. This is great every week. I’m excited every week and I’m looking forward to games every week.”

Beckenham Town: Aiden Prall, Michak Stanic-Stewart, Damien Ramsamy (Andrew Whorms 62), Hassan Oshilaja, Adam Allen, Jack Hope, Alex Arif (Luwayne Greenwood 62), Nathan Ferguson, Hassan Jalloh, Jamie Humphris (Lekan Bakare 80), Chan Quan.
Subs: Victor Barode, Adam Wadmore

Goal: Luwayne Greenwood 90

Booked: Luwayne Greenwood 76

Crowborough Athletic: Dan Ellis, Sam Crabb, Henry Muggeridge, Jason Barton, Jack Turner, Tom Boddy, Lee Carey, Tom Vickers (Connor Pring 46), Zac Attwood, Dan Perry, Sam Carrington (Tom Pearson 80).
Subs: Jack Walder, Dan Smith

Goals: Jason Barton 22, Sam Crabb 45, 63

Booked: Tom Vickers 39, Connor Pring 66

Attendance: 102
Referee: Mr Wally James (Sidcup)
Assistants: Kevin Greenhead (Bexleyheath) & Mr Ashley Barnes (Bromley)

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