Melksham Town 2-1 Crowborough Athletic - I'll be more determined now to get the players' up and win the title now or we've got to go up, says Crowborough Athletic boss Sean Muggeridge

Saturday 06th January 2018
Melksham Town 2 – 1 Crowborough Athletic
Location The Oakfield Stadium, Eastern Way, Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 7GU
Kickoff 06/01/2018 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase Fourth Round
Saturday 6 January 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from The Oakfield Stadium

CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC manager Sean Muggeridge says he’s got to get his players’ up after their shock FA Vase exit at the hands of clinical Melksham Town.

The Crows travelled to Wiltshire as the sole Southern Counties East Football League representatives, sitting in second-place in the Premier Division with 39 points from their 19 games, a couple of points adrift of Sevenoaks Town.

Kieran Baggs’ side, however, were in fourth-place in the Toolstation Western League Premier table with 41 points from their 21 games, 12 points adrift of leaders Street.

Melksham attracted their largest crowd of the season when 686 flocked through the turnstiles at The Oakfield Stadium as they reached the Last 16 for the first time in their history after grabbing a 2-1 win.

Crowborough Athletic were the better side during a dominant first half performance, making their hosts look ordinary despite the home side lining up with a 4-3-3 formation, while Crowborough Athletic deployed a formation that included four at the back and two holding midfielders.

Henry Muggeridge, the manager’s son, squandered a glorious chance to give Crowborough a deserved lead going into half-time but he blazed his penalty over the top of the right-hand post.

Melksham Town grabbed the lead against the run of play through Michael Perrott, who marked his 200th appearance for the club by scoring in off the post 16 minutes into the second half for his fourth goal of the season.

Sean Muggeridge told super-sub Dan Perry to come off the bench and score and he gave the Crows a lifeline by tucking home a penalty five minutes after coming on, scoring back-to-back goals following his last-gasp winner in their 2-1 home win over Tunbridge Wells last weekend.

But Melksham Town grabbed a victory just four minutes later through a deflected drive from outside the box from substitute Ryan Bole.

“I just think the game should’ve been over in the first half, chance after chance, they didn’t have anything, I don’t think they had a shot on target,” said a frustrated Crows boss Muggeridge.

“We can’t keep keeping teams in it! The second half, it was more even but again we got ourselves back in the game and then they get a set-piece and then we just didn’t defend properly. 

“It’s very frustrating and I’m disappointed and we’ve got to move on.”

Crowborough’s holding midfielder Jack Walder was keen to clip balls in behind the Melksham back-four on many occasions.

One ball saw him clip the ball in behind Melsham’s right-back Mark Cooper to release Henry Muggeridge down the left-channel and his cross-cum-shot was cut out by goalkeeper Rob Brown, low to his left, after only 67 seconds.

Melksham winger Luke Ballinger lasted only 30 minutes before being withdrawn through injury, and he cut inside Sam Crabb and Walder and his shot deflected around the far post from the edge of the box.

Crowborough striker Zac Attwood squandered a glorious chance to open the scoring inside seven minutes.

They built down the right as Muggeridge’s initial driven shot was blocked before he got a second bite of the cherry to slip the ball in behind for Attwood, who stroked his left-footed shot straight at Rob Brown from 15-yards on the right-hand side of the box.

“I don’t want to go on about my players and things like that but we should’ve finished there, there’s no doubt about it,” admitted Muggeridge.

“Zac’s been great for us all season so I can’t blame him for anything but we’ve got to finish teams off in games. Sometimes we do it and win 6-1, sometimes we struggle like we did last week and we get out of trouble.  It was a bit like that today, chance after chance, not punishing them and we get nervous from a free-kick or a corner and then we concede a goal.”

Crowborough started the game on the front foot and they created another good chance with 10:27 on the clock.

Walder’s sublime pass released Attwood down the right channel and he shrugged past Lee Davidson, before cutting the ball back to Walder, who played in a low cross across the face of the penalty box for Sam Carrington to curl his low right-footed shot just past the foot of the right-hand post from inside the D, a yard outside the box.

“It’s another chance but it’s a difficult chance on the edge of the box. He’s done well to curl it but again it’s another chance,” added his manager.

Winger Muggeridge’s crossfield cross was controlled by Tom Pearson’s chest before he brought the ball down and hit a right-footed speculative shot from 35-yards, which was gathered by the Melksham keeper at the second attempt.

Melksham offered little threat in the final third but their only first half chance arrived in the 15th minute.

Wide-striker Perrott collected a loose ball in the final third and he played the ball into Gary Higdon’s feet and he turned his man and stroked his right-footed shot towards the bottom near corner from 15-yards, which Ryan Burbridge held low to his right.

Muggeridge added: “All the time we’re not putting it in the other end, things like that are going to happen.”

Pearson was poor on the wing for Crowborough for the 66 minutes that he was suffering on a pristine playing surface.

Attwood and Muggeridge linked up and a poor touch from Pearson inside the box allowed Rob Brown to smother the ball at the wingers feet, low to his right.

Crowborough Athletic were miles better than their hosts during the first half.

Walder swung in a free-kick with his right-foot and Jack Turner came up from the back to glance his header across the keeper and past the far post from 10-yards.

Crowborough Athletic created another chance to deservedly open the scoring in the 32nd minute.

Phipp picked up the ball in midfield, sprinted down the right wing with the ball and reached the by-line before wrapping his foot around the ball to whip in a superb cross for Muggeridge to loop his header into Rob Brown’s hands from eight-yards.

Crowborough left-back Sam Crabb played a low pass into Carrington’s feet, who fired a low left-footed drive towards the bottom near corner from 25-yards, which was held by the Melksham keeper.

Phipp then stroked a low right-footed drive from similar distance which was initially spilt by keeper Brown, before he gathered at the second attempt.

Crowborough Athletic captain Henry Muggeridge squandered a glorious chance to keep their Wembley hopes alive, blasting a penalty into the grey Wiltshire sky with 38 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock.

Phipp’s diagonal pass released Carrington down the left-channel and he cut into the box. He rode Chris Allen’s challenge but was tripped by Cooper and referee Andy Bennett pointed to the spot.

Goalkeeper coach Alan Kibbey must have known what was coming as he turned his back and faced the main stand behind the dug-out as Muggeridge held both hands on his hips, before watching in despair as his right-footed penalty sailed over the top of the right-hand post.

“Again, it was our Achilles heel last year, penalties.  I’d go as far to say we might’ve won the league if we’d have finished our penalties,” claimed Muggeridge, who finished runners-up to promoted Ashford United in last season’s title race.

“Again, Henry’s done brilliantly for us. I don’t think he’s missed one.  It’s too much pressure on the players to blame individuals.”

Manager Muggeridge was right in his assessment that his side should have been 2-0 up at the break as the home side were made to look ordinary for the 47 minutes and 9 seconds played.

“Anyone watching that game, we were by far the better side, should’ve been two up – but we weren’t!

“It happens to sides. We can’t just keep having chances and teams that win stuff you would be 2-0 up at half-time and we’ve got to have a look at the squad now and see where we go with it because that’s a game that’s should’ve been won!

“There was a bit of everything,” Muggeridge revealed of his players’ mood at the interval. 

“There was a bit of frustration but seeing them we were very pleased with the fact that there’s was no way I’d ever thought we were going to lose that game but that’s football I suppose.”

The penalty miss seemed to knock the stuffing out of Crowborough Athletic as they put in a poor performance during the second half.

“I think people were sort of nervous. We still attacked and it was one of those games that it was probably going to happen.  Teams that have all the chances in the game and don’t put them away, you’re going to concede at the other end if you don’t punish them because it’s like them scoring a goal when we miss, especially the penalty. 

“If I was on the other side and they missed a penalty that would give me a lift and that’s what happened.”

Something clicked for Melksham just before the hour-mark, however.

Higdon ran down the right-channel, cut the ball back to substitute winger Bole, who floated in a deep cross towards the far post but a stretching Jake Brown failed to get his shot on target from a tight angle.

But Melksham Town grabbed the lead with 15 minutes and 41 seconds on the clock.

Central midfielder Allen fed the ball into Higdon’s feet, who slipped the ball through to an unmarked Perrott, who controlled the ball before stroking his left-footed drive across Burbridge, the ball kissing the foot of the far post before trickling along the line and kissing the inside of the opposite post.

“It was their day today and we didn’t make it,” said Muggeridge.

“What’s the right word? We really should’ve been out of sight really.  Saying it was their day you can’t keep saying that!  You can’t say it’s luck. It’s hit the post and trickled along and hit the other post and gone in but if you don’t punish teams sometimes that’s going to happen.”

Higdon curled in a cross-cum-shot from 22-yards on the right-hand side which forced Burbridge to flick the ball away, high to his right.

Jake Brown swung in their second corner of the game in the 68th minute towards the far post for Davidson to come up from the back to guide his downward header into Burbridge’s hands from inside the six-yard box.

Crowborough Athletic were given a lifeline when assistant referee Derrick Laing flagged to award a penalty after Walder was tripped by Ben Thomson on the by-line after playing a one-two with substitute wide-man Wayne Clarke down the right.

Perry stepped up and kept his composure by burying his right-footed penalty into the bottom left-hand corner past the diving keeper, with 33 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock.

When asked what he said to Perry before his arrival, Muggeridge replied: “Well he’s just come back from fitness. I just said ‘go and get a goal’, he did from the penalty spot!

“This is all about the player, he’s grabbed the ball to take that penalty under pressure and he’s put the ball in.  We’ll assess him, he might get a start on Tuesday.

“It looks a penalty, I will say that but I weren’t that close.  The linesman thought it was a penalty so it’s disappointing that we’ve had to get a penalty to score. All that play we had, it’s disappointing we had to get a penalty but on the balance of play, it was deserved.”

At this point the worst that could have happened to Crowborough Athletic was taking the game into extra-time as Melksham Town offered nothing and if they are to progress further in this competition then they must improve.

“There was only one winner, especially extra-time,” said Muggeridge who had former Hastings United man Sam Cole ready to come on and make his debut for the club.

“We had players on the bench as well. We had one player to come on who would’ve made a lot of difference, I think.  We didn’t make (our last) substitution because of that one because we thought it was going to go to extra-time or for us to win.”

Melksham Town grabbed the winning goal with 37 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock, inevitably from a set-piece.

Left-back Thomson took his time to trot across the pitch to take his flag-kick from the right.

He swung in the ball, which was headed away and Bole was given time and space to drill his right-footed shot through a crowd of players, deflecting into the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards, sparking wild celebrations both on and off-the-pitch.

“I think it took a deflection, that’s what I’m more frustrated about!  All that hard work the players do and they leave people on the edge of the box unmarked, that is down to us as well as coaches and management because the instructions were there and sometimes if you don’t do the instructions right then you’re going to get punished like that because there’s no way that will go in if we had someone on the edge of the box!

“We defended it not too bad to be honest with you. Maybe it’s just one of those days. It’s taken a deflection and gone in but fair play to them.”

Crowborough Athletic had one final chance to force extra-time when referee awarded them a free-kick from inside the D after Turner was brought down by substitute Bole.

Former Tonbridge Angels midfielder Phipp was given the task but he fluffed his moment, lashing his right-footed free-kick over the crossbar from 20-yards, much to the delight of the home fans, who booed the referee as he walked off the pitch after ending Crowborough’s Wembley hopes.

“Another good opportunity, we’ve had many of them today. If you don’t’ take them you’re not going to do anything!  He should’ve hit the target really but again I’m not here to slag the players off.  I think they gave it their all, it’s just managing the game really but it’s frustrating!”

This was a massive chance missed for much-fancied Crowborough Athletic and Muggeridge knows his side have fluffed it big time!

He said:  “It is frustrating and I will look at myself, whether I made the right decisions but at the end of the day we’ve got to get on and win the title now or we’ve got to go up, simple as that!

“I’ll be more determined now to do that.  I did say the League was more important than the Vase.  Going into today I’m very disappointed, very disappointed because I did believe that we could do something this year with the players we’ve got so it’s disappointing but in the Vase you do need a bit of luck.  I suppose we didn’t have any and you’ve got to earn your own luck.”

Muggeridge revealed he is going to make changes for the home game against AFC Croydon Athletic in the Challenge Cup Third Round on Tuesday (19:30).

“I will be playing a lot of players that haven’t had minutes in that game,” he said.

“It wasn’t our priority but to be fair we might need one now, we might need to stay in this cup now.  Had we won today it would’ve been a less priority, I think, but we haven’t so we’ve got to go again.”

Ten-man Sevenoaks Town came away from Tunbridge Wells with a 0-0 draw in the League today so Micky Collins’ side stay at the summit with 42 points from 17 games.

Beckenham Town are now level on points with the leaders but have played three more games after Jason Huntley’s men beat Rusthall 3-1 at Eden Park Avenue.

“People will get nervous, Sevenoaks drew with Tunbridge Wells today so we are chasing two teams again, we’ve gone third today but it’s all about the players if they want it? It’s there for them if they don’t then we will be in trouble so I’ve got to get the players up in there.

“They’re all disappointed, they don’t mean to lose the game like that but as long as we learn from it, it’s worth losing if you learn from it.

“Pressure? Well, I think they want to go up, yes.  Pressure is probably the wrong word.  We were close last year. The expectation is to go up this year with two going up but other teams have strengthened and got stronger so it’s going to be difficult.  It will be difficult to get the players up, I’ll be honest with you after today but I’ll do it, we’ll get there.”

Melksham Town: Rob Brown, Mark Cooper, Ben Thomson, Chris Allen, Warren Maidment, Lee Davidson, Luke Ballinger (Ryan Bole 30), Dave Thompson (Olly Webb 77), Gary Higdon, Michael Perrott, Jake Brown.
Subs: Dan Demkiv, Sayeed Ibrahim, Seth Wain

Goals: Michael Perrott 61, Ryan Bole 83

Booked: Chris Allen 25, Rob Brown 90, Jake Brown 90

Crowborough Athletic: Ryan Burbridge, Dan Tear, Sam Crabb, Jack Walder, Jack Turner, James White, Henry Muggeridge, Tom Phipp, Zac Attwood, Sam Carrington (Dan Perry 74), Tom Pearson (Wayne Clarke 66).
Subs: Tom Boddy, Sam Cole, Connor Pring

Goal: Dan Perry 79 (penalty)

Booked: Tom Pearson 9, Sam Carrington 65

Attendance: 686
Referee: Mr Andy Bennett (Woking, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Derrick Laing (Lightwater, Surrey) & Mr Alex Mathieson (Alton, Hampshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Graham Pearce (Melksham, Wiltshire)

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