Crowborough Athletic 2-0 AFC Uckfield Town - I'm proud of the players' that they did it for me today, says Crowborough Athletic boss Sean Muggeridge

Tuesday 27th December 2022
Crowborough Athletic 2 – 0 AFC Uckfield Town
Location Crowborough Community Stadium, Fermor Road, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 3BU
Kickoff 27/12/2022 15:00

Southern Combination League Premier Division
Bank Holiday Tuesday 27 December 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Alderbrook

CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC manager Sean Muggeridge says he was proud of his players after beating their local rivals AFC Uckfield Town.

A crowd of 678 flocked through the turnstiles to see Crowborough Athletic claim a comfortable 2-0 victory over Jonny Elwood’s youngsters.

Central midfielder Ollie Hyland scored his fifth goal of the season before he was hooked at half-time, before hard working striker Lucas Murrain tapped in his tenth goal of the season on a counter-attack only 25 seconds into the second half.

The home side had holding midfielder John Sinclair sent off with nine minutes remaining, having picked up two yellow cards from referee Daniel Cooper.

The Crows have leapfrogged over Midhurst & Easebourne into tenth-place in the Southern Combination League Premier Division table with 30 points on the board from their 19 league games, while AFC Uckfield Town remain in fifteenth-place with 20 points from 18 games after losing the first league meeting between these two neighbouring clubs.

“I don’t think we played very well today, that’s one thing,” admitted Muggeridge, whose side are now four games unbeaten.

“I think being out for so long and I don’t think that helped, they’ve got the same problem but they looked a bit fitter and stronger in the first half, sort of 20-25 minutes but I’m really happy. It’s good to get the points really, that’s the main thing today.”

The Crows last took to the field on Saturday 3 December, coming away from Eastbourne United with a point in a 1-1 draw.

“We haven’t really done a lot. We’ve got the 3G pitch that we train on at the school and we’re only training once a week at the moment because we’ve given up the Tuesday because on the Thursday we have the whole pitch.

“I expect the players to keep fit. We haven’t done a lot of training, we’ve probably done two or three training sessions since the 3rd December.

“I had some bad news before the game, which they all knew about. I had a death in the family so that didn’t help the players because they saw that I was upset so I’m really, really happy with the result. The performance wasn’t the best.”

AFC Uckfield Town started the game on the front foot, but lacked quality when it mattered in the final third.

Left-winger Hayden Beaconsfield cut the ball on the outside of Hyland in the ninth minute before drilling a right-footed drive high and wide from 35-yards, an example why Muggeridge hooked Hyland at the interval.

Hyland lost possession inside his own half to a pressing Ellison Wright, who drove forward some 10-yards before riding Tom Boddy’s sliding tackle before unleashing a right-footed drive sailing harmlessly over the crossbar from 30-yards.

Centre-half Boddy was making his 501st appearance for his home-town club today and Muggeridge paid tribute to his captain, keeping a clean-sheet beside Harrison Mayhew at the heart of defence.

“He played for me in 2008, it’s a long time. He’s been here as a youth player as well.  He could’ve gone to any club he wanted to and he stuck by it and stayed here. He’s my captain, he’s my friend and he’s everything really to this club.

“He’s had so many offers when he was younger and he’s getting offers now but he’s a true professional and he’s brilliant for the youth and the older players as well. He’s just Tom Boddy.  He will be remembered for this club for ever.  He looks after himself, he’s going to go on until he’s 40 – if his missus lets him!”

AFC Uckfield Town finally got a shot on target in the 21st minute when Ellison Wright’s first-time right-footed angled drive from 30-yards was comfortably held by Cameron Hall, smothering the ball low to his right to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner.

“I think we got caught in midfield a little bit, t hat’s why Ollie Hyland came off at half-time,” revealed Muggeridge.

“He’s been ill over Christmas, we needed him for his aerial and his physicality so we took a gamble on him and it didn’t work really.  We were a little bit light in midfield against their midfield, I think they were quite good, so we needed to be 100% and Ollie wasn’t.”

Crowborough Athletic started to get their way back into this hard-fought local derby, creating their first opening at the halfway point.

The outstanding Murrain flicked a pass inside to Harry Forster, who played a first time ball to release Murrain charging down the left.  He played the ball inside to Harvey Killick, who laid the ball inside back to Forster, who swept his first time shot towards the bottom far corner from 10-yards, which was comfortably saved by debutant visiting goalkeeper Conor Manderson.

“People always look at strikers at how many goals they score, which is right but Lucas is absolutely tremendous with all those other things as well,” Muggeridge said of his hard-working number nine.

“He’s doing so much work for the team, sometimes he doesn’t get in those positions to score because he’s working so hard, which we like.  I thought he was man-of-the-match today. We had to bring him off at the end because he done so much work. He was just awesome all game.”

Winger Leon Wright swung in the away side’s second corner of the game which was cleared out to Ellison Wright and the attacking midfielder’s right-footed drive from 25-yards deflected past the far post.

Crowborough Athletic’s right-winger Killick should have done better with a chance at the other end at the half-hour mark.

AFC Uckfield Town’s centre-half Ben Hack gave the ball away some 30-yards from his goal to Forster who swept the ball over to the former K Sports winger, who shifted the ball on to his left-foot but his weak rolling shot from 18-yards was comfortably collected by Manderson.

Muggeridge warned their Sussex league rivals, “I keep saying it, we are creating chances and we’re not putting them away but when it does start clicking, we are going to give someone a thrashing one day!  I think if you’re not creating them, managers are pretty worried, we’re creating them so we need to score more goals.”

However, Killick played a part in Crowborough Athletic grabbing the lead with 34 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Right-back Leo Vowles’ long ball down the line was flicked on by the jumping Murrain close to the half-way line and this released Killick charging into the box but a brilliant last-man sliding tackle from holding midfielder George Cook ensured the ball went behind for the home side’s second corner rather than Killick pulling the trigger 12-yards from goal.

Tom Pearson swung the resulting corner in from the right and Hyland found a pocket of space inside the box and his shot on the turn took a deflection off Ellison Wright, who was standing in front of his unsighted goalkeeper and the ball trickled over the line.

Muggeridge said: “I know Cookie, that was an outstanding tackle by the way. The amount of ground he covered to tackle and I thought we might rue that.

“We probably didn’t deserve to be leading at half-time with the performance but we’ve had so many games where we’ve dominated and we’ve been 1-0 down ourselves, so I’ll take that.

“It looked like it went through the goalkeeper’s legs as well.  I think it took a deflection, it’s one of those horrible goals, hopefully you’re on the right end off.”

Sinclair cracked a volley upfield, which was intended for Murrain but visiting centre-half Evan Tinsley headed the ball away.  Forster played the ball out to Pearson, who twisted and turned left-back Ryan Murphy before dragging his shot across the keeper and trickling past the far post inside the final couple of minutes.

Vowles’ throw-in was flicked on by Murrain in the air and released Forster and he suffered similar fate in a similar position.

Pearson’s set-piece was on the money when he swung the ball in from the left with his right-foot and Killick found a pocket of space at the near post and his downward header from six-yards was comfortably caught at head height by Manderson before the referee blew the half-time whistle.

Muggeridge said: “I say we didn’t play that well but we still created quite a few chances.  We had a couple that went across the box that could’ve been tapped in.

“We’ve got high regards to these players and we expect them to do maybe more than what they should be doing because we think highly of the players we’ve got here so maybe we’re expecting too much.

“I think if we score those chances, we’ll be winning more comfortably than we are.

“I’ve said it a lot of times, it’s a sign of a good side that doesn’t play well and goes in 1-0.  I wasn’t happy, I told the players (at half-time) that I wasn’t happy but then again sometimes we’ve played really well and been 1-0 down or 0-0 at half-time.  Sometimes you’ve got to get the result and that’s exactly what we did at the end.

“We weren’t winning any second balls at all so we emphasised a lot on that and we won a lot more in the second half, so they did listen at half-time, which is good.”

AFC Uckfield Town threw caution to the wind straight at kick-off with Leon Wright and Lloyd Francis trying to score and Boddy was there to protect his goal like he has done so over many years.

Crowborough Athletic immediately broke down the left and sealed the victory after only 25 seconds.

Pearson was released down the left and he easily charged past last-defender Hack and reached the channel before putting it on a plate with a low cross towards the near post for Murrain to place his first-time shot into the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards.

“The next goal was going to be vital, obviously.  We did emphasise at half-time, it was going to be vital who got the next goal,” said Muggeridge.

“We’ve been very tight at the back all season (scoring 26, conceding 23 league goals including today).

“We did ask Tom to run at them, which he did do and Lucas was in the right place.  We’ve been doing it in training so many times, crosses and tap-ins. This time we got a good cross in, we’ve tapped in, which we’ve been doing in training but we haven’t really been doing it (during games) but it’s come off this time.

“Lucas has scored 10 goals this season and I’m complaining he doesn’t score enough but he does sacrifice goals sometimes for his work-rate. He’s such an honest player as well. He works his socks off for the team and they all love him because of it.  Our players around him always benefit from him, the way he plays. He is our top goalscorer and that’s why I wanted to keep him in the summer, which I did but it was hard work!”

Both sides then cancelled each other out for a good 20 minute period before Crowborough produced a well-worked move involving Murrain and substitute left-winger Harry London but Murrain poked his shot straight at the keeper.

AFC Uckfield Town immediately went up the other end and almost grabbed a goal just 46 seconds later when Lloyd Francis passed to Cook but his deflected shot was held by Hall low to his left.

When asked about the boring part of the second half, the Crowborough boss replied: “I ask my players to manage the game, which we don’t sometimes do, but when games go dead like that, it’s normally down to the managers.  At 2-0, we don’t need to score and we can’t concede so we do slow things down.  People might think it’s boring but we just wanted the points today – every team does it – it went a bit dead because we wanted it to really.”

Referee Daniel Cooper had no option than to pull out a second yellow and then a red card after Sinclair fouled AFC Uckfield Town’s right-back Alfie Dennis inside the centre-circle with 81 minutes on the clock.

“I wasn’t happy with the two tackles before it.  I think Sincs’ has taken one there for the team because they probably would’ve been on our back four. He’s an honest person. He wouldn’t mean to tackle like that. He just miss-timed it. I’ve got no qualms about it, it’s a second yellow,” admitted Muggeridge.

Crowborough Athletic had a couple of late chances, sandwiched by an effort from the away side, who lacked quality in front of goal and suffered their third successive defeat in league and cup.

Murrain was just outside the penalty area and split open Dennis with a fine 20-yard pass to play London in but the substitute stroked his left-footed shot past the foot of the near post from 10-yards inside the final six minutes.

Crowborough Athletic switched off from a throw-in and allowed Cook time and space to unleash a speculative right-footed drive from 35-yards, which Hall was happy to see flash past his upright.

Muggeridge revealed Hall suffered an injury to his quad, having received treatment on two occasions during the game.

Hall has kept five clean sheets in his 18 starts this season, while Martin Grant has also kept five clean sheets but has started seven fewer games.

“Cameron’s looks like he might be out, we’re going to asses it in the morning. It looks like he’s pulled his quad. We’ve hopefully got Martin back.”

AFC Uckfield Town goalkeeper Manderson was called into action at the death, using both of his outstretched arms to push over Charlie Watkins’ 30-yard screaming half-volley after the ball was worked to the substitute central midfielder from the left by-line by London.

“He can do that. He hasn’t played since the Cup Final last year so he’s been out injured so I was really pleased for him coming on,” said Muggeridge, who consented to have his personal situation published within this match report.

“I’m proud of the players that they did it for me today because they knew (about my bereavement).

“Sometimes it can go the other way, sometimes they can feel flat but I didn’t want that to happen. I tried to hide it from them but they all knew.  I thank the lads for giving me that result today.”

Set your alarms early for Monday 2 January 2023 as Crowborough Athletic’s game at league leaders Crawley Down Gatwick kicks off at 11 o’clock in the morning.

Their opponents have won 16 and lost four of their 20 league games this season and are four points clear of Broadbridge Heath.

“I’m disappointed with tenth-place at the moment because we’ve drawn quite a lot (six) but we’ve only lost five, which the team who are top have only lost four, so we’re only one behind that.  It’s the draws.

“I think if we can get, I said top four would be brilliant for us this season. If we can get in that area, top four, top five, it would be a brilliant season for us after losing those players and being in a different league.

“But it’s going to be hard work, you’ve got so many good sides in it at the top now battling to win it, so it’s going to be tough.

“We’ve played Crawley Down Gatwick twice. We unfortunately lost in the FA Cup and then we did beat them in the league, we had nine men in the end so it’s going to be very tough. They’ve improved and they’ve also strengthened so it’s going to be a different team to the one we played in August.

“It wasn’t very pretty for the fans (today) but we got the job done.  I think this team can do anything, I think we can beat anyone but it’s quite a young side as well, so we’re learning all of the time.”

Muggeridge, meanwhile, thanked the Crowborough fans who turned out in force for this Christmas fixture, the most lucrative period of the non-league calendar.

“The fans are absolutely tremendous, even if we lose or win they just clap us off and they support us and I think it’s just as important to clap teams off when they lose than after a win.

“The fans’ are the most important, that’s all we do it for. We do it for the fans and the volunteers that are behind the scenes that do everything. I am a fans’ person.  I think they’ve been superb and may they keep coming, get more from Crowborough behind the turnstiles.”

Crowborough Athletic: Cameron Hall, Leo Vowles, Calum Gallie, John Sinclair, Tom Boddy, Harrison Mayhew, Tom Pearson (Harry London 55), Ollie Hyland (Charlie Watkins 46), Lucas Murrain (Alex Joy 89), Harry Forster (Dominic Welsh 69), Harvey Killick.
Sub: William Puffette

Goals: Ollie Hyland 35, Lucas Murrain 46

Booked: John Sinclair 6

Sent off: John Sinclair 81

AFC Uckfield Town: Conor Manderson, Alfie Dennis, Ryan Murphy, George Cook, Ben Hack, Evan Tinsley (Toby Crampton 90), Hayden Beaconsfield (Jack Funnell 48), Lloyd Francis, Zead Massood (Alfie Lambden 77), Ellison Wright, Leon Wright (Richmond Chika Obiora Ejiasi 48).
Sub: Tommy Sceal

Booked: Ellison Wright 4, Ben Hack 83

Attendance: 678
Referee: Mr Daniel Cooper
Assistants: Mr Garry Lucas & Mr Irvine Woodward