John O'Hara Cup Third Round
Alderbrook Recreation Ground, Crowborough
Admission including Programme: £6.00
Match Rating: 4
Just a week after my last visit to the Alderbrook, I set off this evening hoping it would be a case of third time lucky for Crowborough Athletic this evening. Tonight would the third consecutive Tuesday evening that Crowborough were at home in a cup competition, but had lost both previous games 0-3, firstly to Littlehampton Town in the Sussex RUR Cup, and then last week to Division Two outfit Little Common in the Sussex Senior Cup, when I witnessed a desperately poor performance by Crowborough.
After a very positive opening to their season, there have been worrying signs for Crowborough recently, which culminated in the shock parting of ways of manager Graeme Mintrim last week as he could not commit to continue managing the club if they were to be asked to move to the Southern Counties East League next season. A 1-3 win at bottom of the table Worthing United on Saturday was a positive step forward for the caretaker managers, and Crowborough were in sixth place in the twenty team league with 20 points from 11 games, just four points off second place. In the previous round of this competition, Crowborough beat Chichester City on penalties after a 3-3 draw at home. After a reasonable start to their season, Arundel have been in bad form. Before progressing in the Sussex Senior Cup at home against Hailsham Town, they had lost their previous six league and cup games, a run which included losing 3-0 to Crowborough at the Alderbrook at the end of last month in the league. In the previous round of this competition, Arundel beat Westfield 4-3 at home after being 1-3 down after 51 minutes.
On the first chilly evening of the season, Crowborough started the game full of intent, and were awarded a penalty on twelve minutes for handball - perhaps a generous award as it did seem ball to hand rather than hand to ball. Sam Carrington drove the ball down the middle to give the home side the lead. They kept applying pressure and were awarded a second penalty on the half hour when Carrington drove towards goal before being tripped as he entered the penalty area. Carrington himself again converted the penalty down the middle. Crowborough really made their superiority count on 33 minutes when Carrington completed his hat-trick, shooting on the turn from close range. Arundel certainly didn't throw in the towel at this stage, and on the stroke of half time pulled a goal back, Bradley Lewis curling a free kick into the top left corner.
That certainly seemed to inspire the visitors, with the second half a much more even affair. On 64 minutes, Arundel scored a second goal when Russell Bardwell got on the end of a flick-on from a goal kick and lobbed the onrushing keeper from a slight angle just outside the penalty area. The game really could have swung either way at this point, but it was Crowborough who restored their two goal lead on 66 minuted. Elliott Wood sprinted down the wing and to the byline, passed low across goal to Carrington, but he couldn't get a meaningful touch on the ball. Eventually the ball fell to Callum Ridley who fired home from a very tight angle. The comfort of a two goal lead only lasted a couple of minutes, when Scott Tipper showed a good touch to beat a couple of defenders in three box before firing home across the keeper. Both teams attached at will for the remainder of the game, but no further goals were scored and so it was Crowborough who progressed and will play Pagham away in the next round. Credit to both teams for producing a very entertaining game of football, particularly to Arundel who kept on going even after falling 0-3 behind, and they could easily have pulled off a remarkable comeback.