Crowborough Athletic 0-2 Steyning Town Community - It wouldn't be good if we don't make at least the play-offs, says promotion chasing Crowborough Athletic boss Sean Muggeridge

Saturday 10th February 2024
Crowborough Athletic 0 – 2 Steyning Town Community
Location Crowborough Community Stadium, Fermor Road, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 3BU
Kickoff 10/02/2024 15:00

Southern Combination League Premier Division
Saturday 10 February 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Alderbrook

CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC manager Sean Muggeridge says his side have to start taking their chances as they bid to secure promotion from the Southern Combination League Premier Division by whatever means at the end of the season.


Kevin Green’s Steyning Town Community side arrived at Alderbrook on an 11 match unbeaten run in all competitions and they made it six wins from their last six games to move three points clear of the fourth-placed Crows.

Attacking midfielder Joe Radley-Martin drove home his 14th goal of the season, before Crowborough Athletic struck the woodwork on two occasions before right-winger Mark Goldson came off the bench to sweep home his 15th goal of the season to win this promotion six-pointer, which was watched by a crowd of 277.

Muggeridge was without the services of Mohamed Zabadne (family commitments) and strike pair Lucas Murrain (hamstring) and Harry Forster (ankle), while centre-half Harrison Mayhew injured his back during the warm-up and had to take his place on the bench, with John Sinclair dropping back as an emergency replacement.

Crowborough Athletic have now lost three of their last five games since 13-goal Murrain has been out of the side, losing top spot to Newhaven in the process.

“I’m very, very proud of the boys. I thought we played really, really well,” said Muggeridge, after going down to their third home league defeat of the season.

“On another day we win games, we probably win most games playing like that, hitting the woodwork twice and it hit the defender and hit the bar, really they go in and then it hits Ollie (Hyland) and just goes wide.

“I think I can only count, they had three shots on target and they scored two goals, that’s ruthlessness. I don’t think we deserved to lose to be fair.

“We weren’t (clinical). We could’ve been better in front of goal but that’s the whole team.

“To be fair, the guys couldn’t put anything more into it.  If we had lost 2-0 and played absolutely rubbish then I would’ve been steaming after the game but I’ve just gone in there and given them lots of encouragement, playing a team like that today.  Steyning have got quality players in their team so to limit them to three shots on target, I think it was, or whatever it was, I’m really proud of the players.”

Steyning Town Community were clinical in front of goal, taking the lead after only 240 seconds on the clock.

Winger Lloyd Francis played the ball down the line for 18-goal striker Tom Chalaye, who shrugged past the attentions of Sinclair just outside the corner of the penalty area before cutting into the box and putting it on a plate for Radley-Martin, who placed his first time right-footed drive underneath keeper Martin Grant from 15 yards.

“It could’ve been a foul. I think it was a foul. I would probably say that. I think it was a foul and then it’s gone through the goalkeeper’s legs,” said Muggeridge.

“On a good day, it hits the goalkeeper and goes out for a corner or something, but they broke quick. I do think it was a foul, so I can’t really say was it a good goal or was it not a good goal.”

When asked about Sinclair’s performance in an unfamiliar role at the back beside Boddy, Muggeridge said: “We lost our centre-half (Harrison Mayhew) in the warm-up so we had to put John Sinclair at centre-back, who normally plays in midfield.  Harrison done his back in the warm-up, so we had to change Sincs to centre-back.

“I thought he did really well. I think on another day he gets a foul for the goal. He’s going to beat himself up about it, but it hasn’t gone straight in from that.  You’ve got to think who’s picking the player up who put it in and on another day you get away with that and normally you get a free-kick – but we didn’t.”

Nathan Cooper – who scored Whitehawk’s decisive goal against Beckenham Town in the Isthmian League South East Division play-off semi-final before helping the Whitehawk based outfit win promotion with another single goal victory, against Hythe Town in the Play-Off Final – was a dominant force at the heart of Steyning Town’s back four today.

Radley-Martin floated in a corner from the right towards the back post where Cooper towered over Boddy but his downward header was comfortably gathered by Grant at his near-post.

The start of the game was played at a frenetic pace – with Green’s side edging proceedings but their finishing was wayward with attempts on goal from outside the penalty area on a couple of occasions.

Mr Crowborough Athletic, Boddy, gave the ball away to Steyning Town winger Charlie Meehan, who cut inside before being fouled by the Crowborough captain.

Faced with a four-man wall, Radley-Martin drilled his right-footed free-kick over the top of the far post from 35-yards in the 26th minute.

Crowborough Athletic attacking midfielder Ollie Welbourne was a threat in behind lone striker Stephen Smith during the first half, while Crowborough’s right-back Jack Mayhew was the weak link in defence, with Francis often cutting inside him in the final third on the counter-attack.

Radley-Martin swung in the away side’s second corner in the 32nd minute, which was cleared away before the ball was recycled back into the Crowborough box by left-back Harry Shooman out on the right.

Chalaye initially had his back to goal and sent his diving header over the crossbar from six-yards, before Crowborough Athletic started to show belief in an attacking sense heading towards the interval.

“The nine (Chalaye), he’s scored 18 goals. To limit him to not let him score today, I thought was a good performance from the whole team defensively,” said Muggeridge.

“He’s a quality player. I think he’s been released from Aldershot (at the beginning of his career), and I think he’s played for Whitehawk and Haywards Heath in the Isthmian League as well.

“They’re full of quality. Jack Barnes is a good player, they’re all good players and that’s why I’m really proud of those boys in there because they didn’t really cut us open.  I just don’t think it was our day today.  I’m quite upbeat about it, the performance really.”

Lewis Unwin and Ollie Hyland sat in front of the Crowborough back four before Muggeridge put Hyland further forward into the midfield engine room and this tactic put the home side on the front foot for the first time in the game.

There was a five minute spell when Crowborough were hitting hopeless long balls that were overhit for Smith, who cut a frustrated figure up front on his own for large parts of the first half.

Crowborough Athletic created their first chance with 40:06 on the clock with a well-worked move.

Jack Mayhew threw the ball to winger Harvey Killick, who flicked the ball on for Smith, who poked the ball inside to Killick, who played the ball to Marcus Goldsmith in space just outside the corner of the penalty area.

Goldsmith played the ball inside to Welbourne, who took a touch before sweeping his left-footed angled drive across the keeper and flashing past the foot of the far post from 18-yards.

Muggeridge said: “I think Ollie Welbourne gave them a bit of a torrid time in the first half.  We’ve just got him back here. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t get something out of the game, which we would’ve done, we deserved at least a draw.”

Hyland slipped over on the wet grass but managed to hook the ball down the line to Goldsmith, who cut in from the left before unleashing a low right-footed angled drive which deflected off Steyning’s right-back Rob Clarke and was comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Lucas Szendela-Goetzke at his near-post.

Muggeridge has brought Goldsmith back to his home-town club following a successful time at Isthmian League South East Division side Hythe Town.

“We’re very lucky with Marcus. He was with me as a 17–18-year-old. We’re very lucky with him because he only left Hythe because of the travelling, so that’s the reason.  We got lucky with him that we can get him cheap because he’s local and he’s a quality player.  It’s just unfortunate that he wasn’t on the winning side today.”

Muggeridge was cursing his luck when his side struck the inside of the far post with 44:41 on the clock.

The now impressive Hyland played a first time ball forward up to Killick, who cut inside Shooman and onto his left-foot before curling a shot around the keeper from 18-yards, only for the ball to agonisingly clip the inside of the far post and bounce along the goal-line before being cleared away.

Muggeridge said: “Especially Harvey’s (shot) just before half-time. It hits the inside of the post and goes right along the line and goes out the other side.  I mean, sometimes you think ‘is it going to be your day?’

“They normally go in for him. He does curl them in like that but on another day, it’s going to go in and it’s one-all at half-time and a different second half.  I say a different second half, we still played well second half.”

Boddy then hit a diagonal pass out of defence for a deep Smith, before Welbourne released Killick down the right and once in behind Shooman he reached the by-line before cutting the ball back for the keeper to push away before referee Tazlim Ali blew his half-time whistle.

“I was really proud. I said we’ve just got to keep on playing, try and get the ball down and try and play.  The pitch was cutting up a little bit so it was quite difficult to play on, just do the same, just do what you did in the first half,” added Muggeridge.

“Last week against Bexhill we won 1-0 and I wasn’t happy and not just happy when we win. I’m happy sometimes when we lose and at half-time that’s exactly what I said, just go out there, I think we can go and win it and that’s what I did think. It didn’t happen for us but there’s loads of positives.”

Smith sprung into life and Crowborough Athletic struck the crossbar with only 180 seconds into the second half.

Jack Mayhew played the ball down the line and Hyland found himself within the right-channel before cutting the ball onto his right-foot before hanging over a cross.

Smith was close to goal inside the Steyning six-yard box but his towering header bounced off his marker and struck the crossbar.

“I turned away, I thought it was a goal,” said Muggeridge.

“He’s headed it and I think it’s hit someone on the shoulder and then hits the bar and it’s come down and gone straight to one of their players.  Now, whether we should’ve followed it up, or whatever, but as I say, on another day that will go in.”

Steyning Town swiftly broke upfield and just 16 seconds later Radley-Martin let fly with a right-footed drive from 35-yards, which zipped off the wet pitch and Grant did well to dive to his left to tip the ball behind for the away side’s third and final corner of the game.

“He’s a top striker. He will hit it first time. It sort of swerved. I was right behind it and it swerved all over the place and Martin’s done really well to get to it.  That was probably one of the only shots they had on target in the second half, apart from the goal,” added Muggeridge.

Steyning Town were guilty of a glaring miss on the hour-mark.

Green introduced Goldson (11:32) and he impressed down the right-wing with pace and skill and he played a key part in the move and was more of a threat than Francis, who disappeared out of the game after playing his part in the first goal.

Radley-Martin played the ball out Goldson, who easily cut inside Sinclair inside the box before skipping past Boody and unselfishly put it on a plate for an unmarked Meehan, who lashed his first time drive over the crossbar from a tight angle at the back stick.

“It looked like a bad miss, it wasn’t.  It was quite an acute angle and we had defenders on the line, so they gave him stick for missing it but we were pushing for the game.  We’ve just hit the bar and these things happen.  I  think it wasn’t as easier chance as people thought it was,” added Muggeridge.

Shooman’s long throw was cleared out to the impressive Radley-Martin, who found space in the middle and tried to score from 25-yards, his right-footed looping shot forced Grant to fling himself to his left but the ball bounced past the foot of the far post.

Crowborough Athletic should have grabbed an equaliser with 27:11 on the clock – only for Steyning Town to seal the victory just  46 seconds later.

Goldsmith clipped the ball long into the final third, the ball was flicked on by Killick and Hyland found space on the edge of the six-yard box in front of goal but his prodded right-footed shot trickled agonisingly past the foot of the right-hand post.

“Oh my god, yes.  Again, on another day, it goes in. He actually beat the defender to it and I think it was a mix-up between the defender and the goalkeeper,” said Muggeridge.

“Ollie just prodded it. It was slow motion, weren’t it? It was like is it going to go in, is it not going to go in? It just went past the post. On another day, that goes in.”

It proved to be a crucial miss as Steyning Town swiftly went up the other end to seal the deal (27:57), scoring their 82nd league goal of the season.  Crowborough, meanwhile, have scored 55 league goals.

Substitute central midfielder Jared Rance, who showed some good glimpses of skill in the middle of the park, split open Crowborough’s left-back Rory Salter with a diagonal through ball, which played in Goldson, who cut on to his left-foot before sweeping his shot past the advancing Grant to roll the ball into the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

Muggeridge said: “What happened was, I don’t want to make excuses but because we didn’t tackle very well for two challenges coming up to that but the guy just hit it and it sort of bobbled over Rory’s leg and of course he’s one-on-one and he’s finished it well.

“The finish, I’m not going to take anything away from their lad, who finished but I think I just think it’s one of those days…”

Muggeridge kept changing his formation but the four substitutes that came on failed to make an impact with Cooper outstanding at the heart of Steyning Town’s defence.

“We did everything! We went three at the back, we went 4-4-2, we went 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, we did everything we possibly could, brought subs on and that’s the quality we’ve got but we really need to be a bit more clinical,” admitted Muggeridge, who is missing two vital strikers in Murrain and Forster.

“We’ve got Lucas Murrain and Harry Forster out, that’s three quarters of your goals. They came back into training last week. I thought they might’ve been fit for today but they’re not. You miss players’ like that and I think we have missed them in the last few weeks.”

The home side had a 4-2-1-2 formation by the time that the impressive Goldson teed up fellow sub Rance who took a touch before drilling his shot into the base of the side netting, which would have been a flattering third goal for Steyning Town inside the final nine minutes.

Steyning Town finished the game with a 4-3-3 formation and visiting Brazilian born goalkeeper Szendela-Goetzke was hardly troubled by four attacking players that Muggeridge now had playing up front.

Killick whipped the ball in from the right some 35-yards out, which was comfortably caught in the keeper’s midriff (51:05).

Newhaven are at the summit of this ninth-tier division, having picked up 62 points from their 27 league games (losing just the one league game).

Hassocks (62 points from 28 games), Steyning Town Community (60 points from 28 games), Crowborough Athletic (57 points from 26 games) and Eastbourne United Association (52 points from 27 games) are in the play-off zone tonight.

Haywards Heath Town (51 points from 26 games), Eastbourne Town (51 points from 27 games), Peacehaven & Telscombe (45 points from 27 games), Midhurst & Easebourne (43 points from 26 games) and Lingfield (37 points from 26 games) make up the top 10 in what was called the Sussex County League in old money.

Crowborough Athletic make the 160 minute round-trip to Midhurst & Easebourne on Tuesday night.

“Another tough one. It’s like getting players down there for a start. It’s a two-hour drive for us, I think, or it might even be more,” said Muggeridge.

“We’ve just got to bounce back. If we play anything like that, we’ll do very, very well.  It’s another tough game. We’ve got to pick them guys up now.

“If it’s a 2-0 (defeat) and we haven’t played very well, you can probably be a little bit easier for me because I can make changes and things like that but it’s awkward for me because I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong today, apart from not putting the ball in the back of the net.  Everything else was good.

“I think we defended as well as a team, we cut them open a few times and I think hitting the bar and the post is that lucky or is it that unlucky? Is it a miss or is it unlucky? I think both of them were quite unlucky and on another day, they go in.  Midhurst is going to be a tough test for us.”

When asked whether Murrain and Forster will make the trip, Muggeridge replied: “They did train in the week hoping to get fit for today but they weren’t fit enough, so we’ll asses them.  They’ll probably won’t be fit for Tuesday either, so we’ll have a look for the following week.”

Muggeridge was asked about Crowborough Athletic’s aspirations for the season ahead and he wants to guide the club back into the Isthmian League for the first time since the club finished rock bottom of Division One South in season 2008-09, when the money ran out before Christmas.

“We’ve just got to keep going.  If you had said to me if I was in this position at the beginning of the season, I would’ve grabbed your hand off really.

“It’s going to be difficult because all of the teams behind us are strengthening their teams, their squads because that’s what happens.  The problem is with the play-offs, is you think you’ve got a better chance but sometimes you haven’t because teams don’t lose their budgets because they’re in sixth or seventh.  Normally they pull their budget and you know you’re pretty good against those teams but they’re not doing it at the moment because they know they can get into the play-offs.

“Now us, we are definitely the top five sides in the league. It wouldn’t be good if we don’t make at least the play-offs.

“Success for Crowborough?  Promotion, whatever ways we do it now.  We are a team that can go on a run. We have done it before. We just have to make sure that we punish teams at the right times because if anyone would have watched this game, they would thought we deserved at least a point, at least.

“We’ve just got to be better in front of goal really.  It’s hard for me because I don’t want to criticise any players but as a team we have to be better in front of goal and take the pressure off the back line as well.”

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk within Premier League circles about Sin-Bins, or Temporary Dismissals as they are officially known and this level of football has clamped down on dissent towards match officials since its introduction.

This website supports the idea of showing a different coloured card when the referee has put a player in the sin-bin for offences like showing dissent towards the three match officials, as without VAR, instant camera replays, sometimes it can be unclear to people watching the game what the offence is for.

A blue card may not be visible at this level of football as it could blend into the surroundings, like trees, matches being played in poor floodlighting.

Muggeridge was asked what kind of impact the introduction of sin-bins is having at Crowborough Athletic.

“I think Sin-Bins are a good idea – if they prevent people being abusive to the ref.  Now, I think it’s worked and the fact is there’s not so much abuse to the referee’s and to be fair we haven’t had a lot of sin-bins so I would say they’re working because no one is being sin-binned.”

Crowborough Athletic: Martin Grant, Jack Mayhew, Rory Salter (Tom Pearson 76), Lewis Unwin (Tommy Lawrence 83), Tom Boddy, John Sinclair, Marcus Goldsmith, Ollie Hyland, Stephen Smith (Jacob Feasey 72), Ollie Welbourne (Elliott Duncan 70), Harvey Killick.
Sub: Harrison Mayhew

Booked: Tom Boddy 25, Jacob Feasey 90

Steyning Town Community: Lucas Szendela-Goetzke, Rob Clarke, Harry Shooman, Jack Barnes, Nathan Cooper, Nathan Da Costa, Lloyd Francis (Mark Goldson 57), Charlie Weller (Billy-George Fuller 90), Tom Chalaye (Samuel Remfry 90), Joe Radley-Martin (Ross Edwards 77), Charlie Meehan (Jared Rance 67).

Goals: Joe Radley-Martin 5, Mark Goldson 73

Booked: Nathan Cooper 28, Harry Shooman 70, Charlie Weller 78

Attendance: 277
Referee: Mr Tazlim Ali
Assistants: Mr Harvey Howe & Mr Paul John