Crowborough Athletic 4-2 Rusthall - Every game we've played at this level we've made steps forward, says Rusthall joint-boss Steven Ashmore

Thursday 07th September 2017
Crowborough Athletic 4 – 2 Rusthall
Location Gallagher Stadium, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ
Kickoff 07/09/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Thursday 7th September 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from The Gallagher Stadium

RUSTHALL joint-manager Steven Ashmore says his newly-promoted side are making steps forward after six games in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

The unpaid Rustics’ players gave Crowborough Athletic a scare as they were the better side for chunks of this entertaining local derby, before Crowborough Athletic ran out 4-2 winners to climb up to eighth-place in the table with 9 points from four league outings, four points behind Corinthian, with a couple of games in hand.

Crowborough Athletic have now won both of their home league games in Maidstone and they got off to a flying start through Henry Muggeridge’s strike after only 91 seconds.

With both sides playing three at the back, two wing-backs, three in midfield and two men up front, it made for an end-to-end, entertaining derby and Rusthall deservedly went in at the break level, courtesy of Daniel Mitchell’s thumping header.

Striker Tom Pearson gave Crowborough Athletic the lead, before they brought on Sam Carrington, who made an instant impact by scoring twice in the space of nine minutes, before Rusthall pulled a goal back through Mitchell, who has now scored five goals this term whilst playing on the right-hand side of a three-man defence.

“It was a massive result for us because it was a local derby,” said Crowborough Athletic manager Sean Muggeridge.

“They had a really strong side out tonight, probably one of the strongest they could’ve had out.  It was a very tough game, even though it was 4-2 to us in the end.

“I’ve got to take my hat off to the lads.  Because when they scored I thought Rusthall were a little bit on top, coming into half-time.  Our character in the second half was superb, we controlled the game in the second half.”

Ashmore added: “All four goals were our own undoing.  We had numerous chances when we could’ve cleared it and we’ve gifted them four soft goals from our point of view.  They finished then well.

“I thought we started very poorly, conceding a goal in two minutes, pushed us on the back foot but we reacted to it very well.  We came into it and we got our equaliser. I thought we were the stronger side in the first half. We kept it at a high tempo, we won it back and really pinned them back.  When you look at that side of the game that’s when we were on top and that’s when we need to start scoring. That’s the lesson that we’re certainly learning from this league.”

Crowborough Athletic set the tone by taking the lead with their first attempt.

The Crows play the wing-back system well and Marcus Goldsmith raced down the right before playing the ball inside to Tom Phipp, who played the ball inside to Henry Muggeridge, who took a touch before stroking his left-footed drive across the keeper to find the bottom far corner of the net from 10-yards.

“We haven’t really been starting brilliantly,” admitted the Crows boss.

“We’ve tried to change that, there’s no real remedy for it.  We’ve upped training a little bit to get them to start well but we haven’t really been starting that well.  The first 10 minutes we controlled it.  I thought we was good. We scored the goal, they came into it a little bit and we dropped off a little bit.

“But you’ve got to give them credit as well.  There were some good players for Rusthall tonight, some of them have played for me so I knew a lot of them but I was really impressed with them.”

Ashmore said: “Poor!  It’s come into our centre half (Gostlow), he’s probably got caught in two minds whether to take a touch and get rid of it, or get rid of it first time. He kind of had a half touch, which has dropped to their guy’s feet. Stewart’s reliable but mistakes happen in football. He got caught in a couple of minds. He didn’t quite do either. A minute and a half into the game he’s not quite there yet. It’s a very soft goal, they’ve not worked for it, they’ve not opened us up!”

Rusthall called goalkeeper Dan Ellis into plucking the ball from underneath his crossbar to deny Joe Fuller nodding in from eight-yards after the home side failed to clear their lines following Sam Murray’s corner from the right.

Rusthall were enjoying a good spell of football and were to be denied a deserved leveller in the 15th minute.

Left wing-back Callum Gallie teed-up striker Danny Powell, who unleashed a right-footed angled drive from 22-yards, which was destined for the bottom near corner, only for Ellis to dive to his right to tip around the post.

“The reaction from going one down was very positive from us and it's very pleasing to see,” said Ashmore.

“Every game that we’ve played at this level, we’ve made steps forward in each of them. Usually it’s our first half performance, it hasn’t been great.  We’ve come in and given more in the second half but the goal sometimes gives you a little bit of a kick up the backside to go and start playing.”

Muggeridge added: “They were getting at us a little bit but we were pushing forward as we do and they were finding space in front of our back three and although they were quite far out, they were causing a few problems, not a lot, but that was us not really being on it first half.”

Goalkeeper Joe Cullip, who was making his second appearance for Rusthall following his switch from First Division side K Sports, launched a big kick, which was flicked on by Stephen Harper but Powell’s angled drive lacked power and rolled into Ellis’ hands for a comfortable save.

Crowborough Athletic squandered an excellent chance to grab a second goal in the 21st minute.

Tom Phipp played a one-two along the deck with left wing-back Sam Crabb to cut the ball across from the left by-line towards the far post for Goldsmith to sky his shot over the crossbar from four-yards out.

“It’s a great move, if you’re watching that we do that quite a lot in this side.  The moves sometimes are just breathtaking but we’ve got to do it a little bit more often,” said Muggeridge.

“Marcus, bless him, I think he got under it, it’s gone over the bar. He probably should’ve scored but that would’ve taken a lot of pressure of us going 2-0 because I think we would’ve probably gone on and won it more convincingly than we did really.”

Rusthall then wasted a decent chance just 73 seconds later when Drew Crush, playing on the left hand side of their three-man defence, whipped in a great cross for targetman Harper, who glanced his header past the far post from eight-yards.

“Again, it’s another of these half-chances that we need to be putting away,” admitted Ashmore.

“It’s a good enough chance.  We’ve not worked the goalie, which is a little disappointing from that area.  Harper’s coming back from his full match fitness and his sharpness and he’s starting to look better every game he plays.”

A poor kick from Cullip went straight to Connor Pring, who fed the ball into Pearson, but his weak shot was gobbled up by the Rusthall keeper.

Rusthall’s leveller was deserved when it arrived with 30 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.

Defender Stewart Gostlow pumped a deep free-kick from midfield into the penalty area and Mitchell rose at the far post to plant his hanging header over the keeper and the ball dropped down and Powell attempted to slide in to poke the ball over the line.

Rusthall’s players ran over to celebrate with Mitchell and Ashmore confirmed that the defender was indeed credited with the goal.

When asked if Powell’s claiming the goal, Ashmore replied: “No!  Even Powell’s admitted that, that was Dan Mitchell’s goal!

“In fairness to Powell, most strikers are selfish and they’d claim anything but in fairness Powell’s said he didn’t get a touch, it went straight in.

“It was a great header. A great free-kick into a very dangerous area where the keeper probably can’t come out and Mitchell gets up well, gets up early and it’s a good, powerful header across. It really didn’t give anyone a chance.”

Muggeridge said: “I think it was poor all round from us to be honest with you.  I’m not taking anything away from Rusthall, but the header at the back post, ok he's won the header, which sometimes happens. It shouldn’t be going in like that! It’s just a little bit sloppy.”

Rusthall were probing and playing well, while Crowborough’s wing-backs were attacking further up the pitch, although Henry Muggeridge was dropping deep to collect the ball from his back three.

Harper popped a shot towards the Crowborough goal from the corner of the penalty area, which was comfortably saved by Ellis, as Rusthall were relishing playing against their local rivals.

Crowborough Athletic went close to scoring with a couple of efforts just before the interval.

Muggeridge sprayed the ball out wide to Goldsmith, who whipped in a cross towards the near post, which was hit by Pearson by an over-head kick, which flew just past the post from seven-yards.

Crabb floated in a free-kick into the Rusthall box, which was headed away by Mitchell but Phipp’s hooked right-footed volley from 25-yards screamed just past the right-hand post.

Muggeridge said: “It was a good strike. I thought it’s probably a bit harsh on my players saying they had the first half.  I think Tom Phipp has got an absolutely unbelievable strike on him, he just needs to get it on target.”

Ashmore admitted: “It would’ve been a horrible time to concede after probably being on top for most of that first half.

“We let them get into feet and turn far too many times.  If he’s got time to volley it, we’ve got a problem because we should be out to him making it difficult.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts as an open first half came to a close.

Muggeridge said: “I wasn’t very happy, I’ll be honest with you because the way the game panned out we went 1-0 up quite early.  If we had pushed on a little bit more, like we did and didn’t sit back and got sloppy then we probably wouldn’t have had any problems really.”

A buoyant Ashmore added: “Just to keep going. They put in the hard work and now they had to go out and show us they wanted to win the game.  We’ve been in 1-1 positions before and we needed to take it to them. Just more of the same. Keep the ball moving, keep the tempo high. We made a couple of adjustments when we were defending so we could get a bit tighter around the pitch and go out there and grab the opportunity.  They worked first half and they had to work even harder second half if they wanted to win the game.”

Rusthall’s holding midfielder John Sinclair lost the ball to Pring on the left and Crabb curled his shot around the far post from 22-yards inside the opening four minutes of the second half.

Rusthall were impressing and they were the better side at this stage of the game and they also went close to taking the lead on the hour-mark.

Right wing-back Sam Murray delivered their fifth corner from the left, the ball sailed out to Mitchell, who wrapped his left-foot around the ball to hook his volley on the turn agonisingly past the right-hand post from 15-yards.

“It was a great volley from Mitchell on his weaker left-foot.   Just a shame we didn’t see it go on,” added Ashmore.

Muggeridge added: “He’s scoring goals for them and he is a handful.  Our defence are really solid and really good in the air and he did cause us some problems and he scored both goals.”

But Crowborough Athletic grabbed hold of the game by the throat after the hour-mark as their quality shone through.

The otherwise quiet Ross Treleaven got his 28-yard free-kick to the left of Rusthall’s four-man wall, forcing Cullip to dive to his right to spill the ball before grabbing hold of it at the second attempt.

Muggeridge said: “Ross is superb from free-kicks and in those areas you expect him to hit the target all the time and he does. He scored a lot of goals last year from free-kicks so I expected it.   You get a bit of excitement when Ross gets on the ball for a free-kick because you know he’s going to deliver.”

Ashmore said of his goalkeeper: “Fair play to Joe, we lost our regular goalkeeper Callum Christie tonight to illness so that was his second game tonight. He’s been brilliant training, great attitude, he comes in after not playing and he’s been fantastic.

“Unfortunately at half-time he came in with a very bad back so his kicking second half was 20 yards short because his back wasn’t allowing him to follow through like he should do. He came in with a stiff and sore back. I’m sure getting out of bed in the morning will be tough!

A suicidal back-pass from Gostlow was intercepted by Crabb on the edge of the Rustics box but Cullip saved his mates bacon by smothering the ball at Treleaven’s feet after a poor touch from the striker inside the box.

After a break in play, Cullip’s resulting clearance went straight to Pring in midfield, who produced a sublime forward pass to put Pearson through and his left-footed angled drive was quality, drilling his low shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from the edge of the box, as Crowborough Athletic took the lead with 20 minutes and 7 seconds on the second half clock.

“Tom’s going to cause anyone any problems with his pace,” said Muggeridge.

“Connor Pring has waited for his chance here and he’s waited and waited and waited and he’s been very patient.  Now we’ve put him in the right game with the right surface because I think he’s a quality player on this (artificial) surface.

“I always tell people in football if you’re on the bench, you don’t want to be on the bench, keep patient and you get your breaks and he’s got it and he thrives on it.  He loves this surface and that was an unbelievable ball really and to the right person because Tom’s got electrifying pace and what a finish!”

Ashmore said: “Again we’ve created our own problem.  We’re too high and we’ve got done by a straight ball over the top from a guy in acres of space and it’s just dropped over. We shouldn’t be getting caught with goals like that!”

Rusthall almost levelled through a slice of luck.  Harper ran the right channel and his cross sailed over the keeper’s head and bounced off the crossbar above the far post.

“It would’ve been nice to see that one go in,” said Ashmore.  “You need a touch of luck or fortune in this game, which we probably would’ve deserved. It’s a cross, it’s taken a slight deflection and nudged its way towards goal.”

Sean Muggeridge brought on Carrington and he added class to Crowborough’s forward line and he instantly made an impact, taking 91 seconds to score.

Carrington played a one-two with Crabb before drilling his right-footed shot against the advancing Cullip, who couldn’t prevent the ball nestling into the back of his net.

Muggeridge said: “Carrington is hungry, he’s been on the bench, he’s been playing number 10 but we played him up front against Sevenoaks and it didn’t really work out for him and I said go and enjoy it and win us the game and he did!

“Sam Carrington, when he’s on it, there’s no-one better, there’s no doubt about it. He’s just unbelievable!  What a player to bring off the bench.  That’s how lucky I am really at this club to have players like that to bring on.”

Ashmore added: “Again, it’s another opportunity we could’ve cleared.  We’ve not cleared our lines, we took too long over the ball. We didn’t get a good enough connection, it’s dropped to them and it’s another goal we’ve given.

“It would be nice to have a part of Crowborough’s budget but we’re making good steps forward in each game we play and it’s pleasing that we’re competing with the likes of these teams.”

Crowborough Athletic were now a dominant force and Muggeridge played a one-two with Crabb and the manager’s son hit a low drive along the deck from 25-yards, forcing Cullip to dive low to his left to parry and gather at the second attempt.

Crabb and Pring linked up down the right and Carrington showed class by turning his man inside the penalty area and shooting on the turn and all Cullip could do was parry the shot, the ball trickling over the line, only just though, with 35 minutes and 51 seconds on the second half clock.

“It was the turn that done it, he does it all the time, he spins on a six-pence,” added Muggeridge.

“The keeper could’ve done better with the shot. When Sam came on he caused problems. He had another two shots on goal. I think it was 2-1 when he came on so I think we probably would’ve still won the game.

“What a headache I’m going to have now for (our trip to Croydon) on Saturday. All the strikers are fit, all of my players are fit. I’ve got to change it on Saturday because there’s some tired players out there.”

Ashmore added: “It’s another one we had chances to clear. We’ve taken the wrong option. It’s landed to their guy.  To be fair to them, they’ve finished all of their chances, which I would expect from a side like that and we’ve not taken ours at the right time.”

The scoreline was harsh on Rusthall, who on tonight’s impressive performance deserved more.

Powell and sub Cameron Milham linked up down the left and played the ball inside to Sinclair, who unleashed a swerving right-footed drive from 35-yards, which was tipped around the post by Ellis, full-stretch to his left.

Ashmore said: “It was a good hit. It looked like it moved all over the place from where we were.  It was a good shot. It deserved a goal. He has worked tirelessly for us in that role. He’s broken up play, he kept it moving, he deserves one or two of those to go in this season.

“John played for them when they went up to the Ryman.  Most of our players move between us, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough. A few of them have moved clubs over the years, which you tend to find.”

The Crows boss said: “They have got some quality players in their side and a lot of them I know. Sinclair’s one of them. He played for me when we won the Sussex County League in 2008 and also he played for me a couple of years ago.

“I look at that Rusthall side tonight, there’s loads of quality in that side.  I am confident winning every game that we go into but it was going to be a tough game for us with that side and it proved to be a little bit until the second half.”

Rusthall pulled a second goal back with 38:52 on the clock.

Milham played a short corner from the right to Ryan Waterman, who was given time and space to deliver a deep cross towards the far post and Mitchell showed more desire than his markers to plant his towering header into the top near corner from a couple of yards.

Ashmore said: “We probably caught them napping a little bit. It was a good deep cross from where I stood, it looked like Dan was the only one who got up, Crowborough defenders didn’t jump and he’s had a free header and he’s not going to miss from that range.  You could blame the goalie, he could’ve come out and claimed that.”

Muggeridge added: “I’m furious with them, all I can say really. I was furious with it because he’s so dangerous in the air. It was a quality cross, quality header. Can I have a go at them? I think I can have a go at them because they shouldn’t let it happen. We got lazy.  It was a good goal actually, whether it was poor marking, it was a good goal.”

Crowborough Athletic travel to third-placed Croydon (12 points from six games) on Saturday.

Muggeridge, who’s side have nine points from four games, said: “We’re better than what we was last year.  We’re not quite right still.  It’s just pleasing that we have three or four players that weren’t on that pitch to come in now and that is what happens when you’ve got some quality players.  When you leave quality players out they get hungry and that’s what happened to Sam Carrington when he came on.

“It’s still early days, I’m pleased. If we can get a result at Croydon, which is going to be really tough for us because they’ve got a good side.  They’ve changed all of their players and it’s going to be a difficult place for us to go.  I think the spirit of the side is very good and hopefully for us we can go and get something.”

Rusthall have a blank weekend and are currently in thirteenth-place in the table with five points from six games.

Ashmore said: “With no money, the boys are showing what we can do and they’re all pulling together and they all want to work for each other and they want to succeed.  They want to win games, they don’t want to be losing. They appreciate the fact that we’re still learning and sometimes we are going to get games like this, we’re in a tough league.

“The way we played football over the last three games has improved massively.  Now where we are it’s a massive step in the right direction. We’re only six games into a 38-game league season. The more these boys play together and if they’re going to progress at this speed we know we can compete.

Crowborough Athletic: Dan Ellis, Marcus Goldsmith, Sam Crabb, Jack Turner, Jason Barton, James White (Tom Boddy 86), Henry Muggeridge, Tom Phipp, Tom Pearson, Ross Treleaven (Sam Carrington 70), Connor Pring.
Subs: Zac Attwood, Dan Tear, Dan Smith

Goals: Henry Muggeridge 2, Tom Pearson 66, Sam Carrington 72, 81

Booked: Henry Muggeridge 30

Rusthall: Joe Cullip, Sam Murray (Michael Tubb 74), Callum Gallie, Stewart Gostlow, Daniel Mitchell, Drew Crush, Ryan Waterman, John Sinclair, Danny Powell, Stephen Harper (Andy Constable 78), Joe Fuller (Cameron Milham 73).
Subs: Luke Stratford, Paul Butler

Goals: Daniel Mitchell 31, 84

Booked: Ryan Waterman 30, Danny Powell 40

Attendance: 112
Referee: Mr Joseph Dann-Pye (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Michael Donnelly (Headcorn) & Mr Marcin Indyk (Maidstone)

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