Crowborough Athletic 5-0 Shoreham - We've just got to make sure we give it all we've got and see where it takes us, says promotion-chasing Crowborough Athletic boss Sean Muggeridge

Saturday 27th April 2024
Crowborough Athletic 5 – 0 Shoreham
Location Crowborough Community Stadium, Fermor Road, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 3BU
Kickoff 27/04/2024 15:00

Southern Combination League Premier Division
Saturday 27 April 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Alderbrook

CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC manager Sean Muggeridge says the club are ready to stage Isthmian League South East Division football next season should they get through their maiden play-off campaign.

The Crows completed their 38-match Southern Combination League Premier Division campaign in third-place (25 wins, six draws, seven defeats) after thrashing a poor Shoreham side by five-goals.

Crowborough Athletic reached the Peter Bentley Cup for the second season in a row after beating Chessington & Hook United 6-2 on Wednesday night and they will play Steyning Town (Community) or Haywards Heath Town in the Final on Saturday 11 May, at a venue to be confirmed by the League.

Steyning Town (Community) will be playing Isthmian League football for the very first time next season, after claiming the league title with 88 points.

Eastbourne Town (82 points), Crowborough Athletic (81), Newhaven (79) and Hassocks (78) have qualified for the play-offs, while Haywards Heath Town, who lost their eighth-tier status after losing a relegation play-off last season, miss out after collecting 75 points.

Crowborough Athletic left-winger Leo Vowles opened the floodgates inside the opening 10 minutes when assistant referee Jordan Burgess flagged to signal that the ball had crossed the line after hitting the underside of the crossbar.

Shoreham manager Paul Ettridge lost centre-half Tony Timms to a red-card for violent conduct in the aftermath to the goal.

Crowborough Athletic rattled in four second half goals with striker Stephen Smith heading in his eighth goal of the season; before winger Arron Hopkinson tapped in the third goal in the 68th minute.

Central midfielder Ollie Hyland smacked in his ninth goal of the season before striker Lucas Murrain came off the bench to clinically tuck in his seventeenth goal of the season at the end of a convincing, dominant and impressive performance from the home side.

Shoreham finished their campaign in fifteenth-place, having picked up 36 points (nine wins, nine draws and 20 defeats).

Muggeridge was serving a one-match stadium ban after picking up three yellow cards and watched the game via a live stream via the VEO system and his goalkeeper Martin Grant didn’t have a single save to make during this one-sided game.

“It was a good performance.  We should’ve been a few up and they went down to 10 men, but I thought it was a very, very good footballing performance,” said Muggeridge.

“I had everything written down for the coaches.  They’re capable coaches anyway, three of them are capable of making decisions.  I picked the team, picked the substitutes.  I told them to get all the subs on, which they did, in the order.  If we were winning quite convincingly, which we were, try to preserve the players. Some of the players who have had quite a lot of minutes.

“It’s good that we’re creating chances because we don’t score enough goals, I don’t think with the chances that we create.  We are creating so many chances and it would be horrible if we weren’t creating any and not scoring.

“We played against Crawley Down Gatwick and they had two shots on target and scored two goals and we lost 2-1.  We had eight, nine or even 10 on target.  It’s just making sure, like today, although we won 5-0, it could’ve been quite a lot more.”

Crowborough Athletic created their first of many chances inside the opening five minutes, following the second of their 13 corners.  Shoreham, meanwhile, took three corner kicks.

Marcus Goldsmith floated the ball in from the right towards the back post where holding midfielder John Sinclair headed the ball back into the danger area. The ball was cleared out to Harry Forster, who hit a right-footed half-volley sailing past the right-hand post from 25-yards.

Crowborough Athletic opened the scoring with nine minutes and 19 seconds on the clock, following a sweeping move inside the final third.

Sinclair played the ball into attacking midfielder Forster, who fed Vowles, who cut inside and onto his right-foot before drilling a shot against the underside of the crossbar from 15-yards.  The ball bounced down and assistant referee Jordan Burgess flagged frantically to signal that the ball did cross the goal-line.

Referee Joshua Plumb pulled out his red-card (10:37) and sent off Timms for an incident behind the goal-line which involved Smith, who tried to grab the ball from the back of the net.

“Well, I didn’t see the sending off, it wasn’t clear on the live feed.  It looked like it hit the bar and went in.  It’s a great finish,” said Muggeridge.

“Normally they hit the bar and go down and go out. It was a good strike. It was a good move actually.  It was a good start. They got a player sent off and I thought it was going to be two or three at half-time but obviously it wasn’t.”

Crowborough Athletic went close to doubling their lead in the 19th minute after Shoreham centre-half Levi Martin brought down Forster some 30-yards from goal.

Goalkeeper Ricardo Mendonca lined up a four-man wall and Smith bent his right-footed free-kick around the wall and the ball curled just past the foot of the left-hand post.

“I think it was going in. It looked like from the live feed that it was actually going in, but it hit Harry Forster and went wide.  I think Steve’s a bit unfortunate with that,” added Muggeridge.

Shoreham failed to press the Crowborough Athletic defence when it played out from the back and seemed disinterested in fighting their way back into the game.

The Crows were a threat out wide with right-back Marcus Goldsmith getting in behind emergency left-back Etienne Frimpong on many occasions and in the 22nd minute he floated in a cross towards the back post where Vowles’ free downward header was comfortably gobbled up by the busy Mendonca.

“I think he should’ve done better than that,” admitted Muggeridge.

“Leo’s a very, very talented player. His heading can improve. I think it was a great cross from Marcus. He’s not a natural winger at the moment. He’s played right-back and left-back and we’re just trying to turn him into a winger so those things might have to improve, the heading. I thought his all-round game was superb today.”

Goldsmith delivered another hanging cross from within the right-channel and the ball was headed away to Sinclair, who sliced his right-footed volley past the right-hand post from 22-yards, before the pace of the game died down in the rain.

Crowborough Athletic produced a well-worked move in the 32nd minute when Hyland fed Smith, who laid the ball off for Forster, whose left-footed drive from 22-yards forced Mendonca to dive full-length to his right to tip the ball around the post.

“Harry’s been back a few weeks now. He’s starting to get his feet in now and he’s fit as well.   Before he got injured he was banging them into the top corner, so hopefully he’s getting his bad ones out of the way for the play-offs,” added Muggeridge.

Goldsmith’s fourth and fifth corners of the game, both came in from the left, and both were met by headers from Crowborough centre-half William Puffette, and both just went the wrong side of the left upright.

Goldsmith linked up well with Hopkinson down the right before Smith laid the ball off to Hopkinson, who played in a low cross towards the near post where Vowles got in front of right-back Kilment Tanev and poked his shot which grazed the base of the near-post from a couple of yards out.

“I think he could’ve done better with that but we was well on top at that time,” highlighted Muggeridge.

“You’re just trying to wait and wait and wait when that goal is going to come.  You don’t really get the atmosphere too much on a live feed. It looked like he probably should’ve done better but that’s football.”

Forster’s quickly taken free-kick released Vowles in behind Tanev before the winger cut into the box and from a tight angle on the corner of the six-yard box, the impressive Mendonca narrowed the angle and smothered the shot at his near-post.

“That would’ve been nice to go 2-0 up. The keeper did alright actually first half. He did alright. We’re trying to ask the team to make the keeper work a little bit more with the chances we had,” added Muggeridge.

Muggeridge will not know what was said by his assistant manager Alan Murray during the half-time interval as Muggeridge’s stadium ban denied him dressing room access.

Muggeridge said: “I’m sure it will be exactly the same as I would’ve said if I was in there at half-time.  I probably would have been saying something like ‘just keep playing football, the chances will come’.

But whatever was said by the Scotsman had the desired affect as Crowborough Athletic came out with all guns blazing and Shoreham offered very little where only Mendonca can come out of the game with any credit.  The rest of his team were already on their holidays and downed tools.

Hyland fed Forster, who ran at Martin, who failed to press, and his shot from 20-yards cracked the crossbar, despite Mendonca flying to his left in an attempt to make the save.

“He hasn’t done that for the last few weeks because he’s just getting back fully fit from his ankle injury but it’s taken him a while but he normally puts them away,” added Muggeridge, who was probably punching the desk in frustration as another chance went begging.

Hopkinson whipped in a cross from the right and Shoreham centre-half Martin was relieved to see his attempted clearance loop narrowly over his own crossbar.

Crowborough Athletic doubled their lead with six minutes and 37 seconds on the clock, following a set-piece.

Goldsmith whipped in a precise free-kick with his right-foot from the left and Smith buried his free-header across and over the goalkeeper to find the top far corner from 15-yards.

“I mean, the right ball, Steve Smith is always going to score with his head. He’s an incredible player with his head and the right delivery, he’s going to score.  You just need to give him the right delivery,” said Muggeridge.

“He’s not 100% fit, I don’t think. A lack of football time and we’ve been trying to get him fit and he’ll get better and better.”

The impressive Forster stroked a right-footed drive towards the bottom far corner from 25-yards, which was pushed away by Mendonca, diving to his left to parry, and Smith pounced on the ball to whip in a cross, which flashed across the goal-line and Vowles failed to make contact beside the opposite post.

Muggeridge said:  “I think the goalie’s done well. He done really well first half as well.  Shoreham, they didn’t give up.  The manager wouldn’t let that happen because I like the manager.  There’s a few players missing for them today. I think it all built it up to and us playing well.  I think it resulted in that 5-0 and it could’ve been more.”

Smith released Vowles in behind, who dinked the ball over the advancing goalkeeper but his shot drifted past the foot of the far post and Hopkinson failed to tap the ball over the line as he ghosted in.

Hyland was the next Crowborough player to test Mendonca, who dived to his right to prevent the midfielder scoring with a right-footed curler towards the far corner from 25-yards in the 18th minute.

Hyland dinked the ball into Smith’s chest before Forster hit a right-footed volley straight into Mendonca’s midriff, as another chance went begging for the dominant home side.

Crowborough Athletic’s third goal finally arrived with 22 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

Smith’s reverse pass sent Vowles on his way down the right.  Forster and Goldsmith then linked up well before Forster’s back-heal played Vowles in behind Frimpong, before he put it on the plate for Hopkinson to tap the ball over the line from close range at the back post.

“Arran’s been superb. He hasn’t played for a long time before he came to us,” said Muggeridge.

“Arran’s been a bit unlucky really because he hasn’t been getting the goals that he should.  He scored a header; it was an own goal. He hit the ball and it just clipped Tom Pearson in the week and it went in, and it would’ve gone in anyway. He’s a good experienced player and he’s good for us.”

With the rain now lashing down – the final day of the season used to be basked in sunshine back in the day -  the 69th minute introduction of right-winger Tom Pearson ensured Crowborough Athletic continued their dominance, as he was a threat.

Muggeridge explained why Pearson was benched, after scoring a hat-trick in their Semi-Final midweek win.

“He’s a very, very good player, Tom Pearson. He scored a hat-trick in the week and he just had this little niggly injury that we just didn’t think it was worth chancing him, coming up to the play-offs.  This game, although it was important to win it, it wasn’t the fact that we were going to go out of the play-offs if we didn’t, so it was a risk we needed to take to save him for the bench.”

Pearson threw the ball to Smith, whose right-footed shot on the turn from 20-yards sailed over the top of the near-post.

Pearson played the ball out to fellow substitute Harry London, who played the ball back to Pearson, who swept his first-time shot across the keeper and past the far post from 20-yards as the game entered the final 16 minutes.

Sinclair fed Pearson on the right and he whipped in a cross towards the near-post where Murrain found space to steer his header over the top of the near-post.

Shoreham tried to break away through Mohamed Diallo – who played behind the front two – but he was tackled in midfield by Goldsmith, who released Pearson on the counter-attack and he cut inside and his left-footed rasping drive cracked the crossbar.  The ball dropped to Murrain, whose low shot was comfortably saved by the Shoreham goalkeeper.

“We hit the bar twice. That’s a normal occurrence for us. We always hit the bar or post at least once in a game,” admitted Muggeridge.

Hyland fed Murrain, whose right-footed shot was scooped away by Mendonca, who’s heroics prevented this one-sided game being won by double-figures.

Mendonca’s resilience was broken when Crowborough Athletic notched their fourth goal of the game, with 39 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock.

Murrain played the ball out to Pearson, who whipped in a cross from the right and Hyland cracked a right-footed first-time volley, a rasping drive from 20-yards, which was helped into the top right-hand corner by a flying, two-handed attempted save from Mendonca, who must have felt he was facing some shooting-practice as his team-mates severely let him down.

“I think the power beat him. Ollie can do that. He’s a very athletic, strong player and on the live feed it looked like it was a very hard shot. I think it was the power that beat the goalkeeper,” added Muggeridge.

With Crowborough Athletic goalkeeper Grant just a rain drenched spectator, Crowborough Athletic scored their fifth goal of the game with 45 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Some woeful defending from Martin saw his poor attempt of a back pass back to Mendonca gobbled up by Murrain, who clinically slotted his right-footed shot across the keeper to find the back of the net in a one-v-one situation.

“Lucas is another player, we’ve got so many players that should be starting every week but we can’t start every one every week,” said Muggeridge.

“His confidence is getting back a little bit. He’s come back from quite a long injury as well, so we’re getting players back. He’ll probably say he’s not but he’s nearly 100% now, he’s 95%, so it was good to see him finish like that.”

Newhaven return here on Tuesday night for a Play-Off Semi-Final knowing that they have not lost to Crowborough Athletic in five matches since the start of last season.

6 April 2024 – Crowborough Athletic 1-1 Newhaven – League
16 Jan 2024 – Newhaven 1-1 Crowborough Athletic – League
1 May 2023 – Newhaven 2-1 Crowborough Athletic – Peter Bentley Cup Final at Hassocks FC
4 March 2023 – Newhaven 3-2 Crowborough Athletic – League
1 October 2022 – Crowborough Athletic 1-1 Newhaven - League

“I said all along play-offs would be great and we got in the play-offs.  Looking at the season gone, there’s been a few frustrating times when I think we could’ve pushed Steyning all the way,” said Muggeridge.

“I sometimes look at the games where we should’ve won, more than the games that we did win.  We were very good away at Steyning, when we beat them 3-1. It could’ve been anything.

“On the whole, I’m very pleased with the season – but it’s not over yet!

“Newhaven are a bit of a bogey side for me to be fair.  I’m not too sure if we’ve beaten them yet. I think we’ve drawn with them three times.  This year we haven’t beaten them; they haven’t beaten us.

“I do believe they’ve just been beaten 5-1 (at Hassocks). That is a bit of a worry for me because I know they’re going to come out and try to put that right.  I’m not too sure what we’re going to get with Newhaven, they’re a very good side.

“They were competing all the way with us and Steyning and I think it’s going to be a very, very tough game again. There’s a lot of pressure on it.

“We’re already in a Cup Final, so you’ve got that to look forward to. Everything is a bonus now. If we can get through Tuesday and try to get home here, we need Eastbourne Town to lose to Hassocks to get a home tie in the Final – if we get through Newhaven – but it’s a very tough time. It’s going to be a very tight game. I think it’s going to be who wants it more.

“I think play-offs are like cup ties and we’re quite good in cup ties, so hopefully that will influence the game.  I’ve never managed in play-offs, it’s new for me. It will be nervous; it will be everything.

“We’ve just got to make sure we give it all we’ve got and see where it takes us because you can play well and still lose. I think its who really wants it on the night.”

Crowborough Athletic finished rock bottom in their previous one season in the Isthmian League back in 2008-09 but Muggeridge insists the club are ready to play in the eighth tier.

“I think previously we haven’t been ready.  We were sixth last year. We probably could’ve pushed (promoted champions) Broadbridge Heath a little bit more last year.  

“We had a couple of really disappointing financial years, as you know about and we recovered and we’ve got this team now and we’ve had this team for three or four years now give and take a couple of players, We’re ready. We are ready for it.

“I think the players I’ve got are ready and I don’t think we’re going to win the Isthmian League if we go up, that’s for sure but I’m pretty sure these players can stay in it. I’m not worried by going up.”

When asked what it would mean to beat Newhaven then Eastbourne Town or Hassocks in Saturday’s Play-Off Final (the venue at the club who finishes the highest in the table), Muggeridge replied: “Probably the best, I think.  I was involved when we got promoted before. I was involved with title winning sides from Division Three and Division Two (of the then Sussex County League) and this would be the pinnacle.

“I mean if you ask if I wanted to go up or win the Cup Final, then I want to go up because I think we as a club and we as a team, I think we deserve to go up because the way we conduct ourselves now.

“We had a difficult time with the money side of it but the club has been working so hard behind the scenes to get us the small budget that we have got.  We haven’t got a big budget and they work tirelessly and hopefully we can get the rewards on the pitch.”

When asked about facing the winner of Steyning Town (Community) or Haywards Heath Town in the Peter Bentley Cup Final, Muggeridge replied: “I mean it will be nice to have any of those teams.  Two bloody good sides. Steyning are a good side and so are Haywards Heath.   They really were one of the best teams we’ve played this season, so either, it doesn’t matter. It’s a cup final so anything can happen.  Either team, I fancy.”

Crowborough Athletic: Martin Grant, Marcus Goldsmith, Mohamed Zabadne (Rory Salter 65), John Sinclair, William Puffette, Tom Boddy, Leo Vowles (Tom Pearson 69), Ollie Hyland, Stephen Smith (Lucas Murrain 76), Harry Forster (Harry London 74), Arron Hopkinson (Dilan Nlendi 84).

Goals: Leo Vowles 10, Stephen Smith 52, Arron Hopkinson 68, Ollie Hyland 85, Lucas Murrain 90

Booked: Leo Vowles 45, Mohamed Zabadne 59

Shoreham: Ricardo Mendonca, Kilment Tanev, Etienne Frimpong, Tony Timms, Levi Martin, Billy Green, Tom Howard-Bold, Alfie Mitchell (Samory Dougnaglo 46), Lewis Beebee, Tariq Richards (Michael Howard-Bold 52), Mohamed Diallo.
Sub: Zack Cherkaoui

Booked: Alfie Mitchell 32, Billy Green 66

Attendance: 455
Referee: Mr Joshua Plumb
Assistants: Mr Jordan Burgess & Mr Dave Smith