Sussex League Division One
Alderbrook Recreation Ground, Crowborough
Admission including Programme: £6.00
Match Rating: 3
My sixth visit of the season to the Alderbrook would be for a local derby, between two teams very much in form, and so everything pointed towards an intriguing, feisty encounter. The match certainly did not disappoint.
Crowborough's young team have continued their very promising campaign despite having a change in management recently. A victory against Horsham YMCA at the weekend hauled Crowborough up into third place, with 26 points from 14 games. East Grinstead had dropped just two points from their previous six games and went into this game in ninth place with 22 points from 13 games. An interesting aspect of this evening's game was that the assistant referees were father and daughter, Jason and Jessica Storrie - they would go on to perform very well and were hardly noticed, as should be the case.
On a cold, crisp evening, the game had an explosive start, with Crowborough taking the lead with just over a minute on the clock. Callum Ridley made an excellent run down the left to the edge of the six yard box before sliding a ball low across the goal, to gift debutant Jeffrey Mahodoo a tap in. It was an electric opening to the game for the home side, as a strangely lethargic East Grinstead team struggled to cope with Crowborough's energy. Indeed, Crowborough doubled their lead on six minutes, with a very similar goal to their first, again set up by Ridley's run down the left ending with a list cross to Mahadoo, who this time drove home powerfully from a slight angle. Gradually East Grinstead awoke from their slumber and started creating some presentable chances, but just as it was looking like Crowborough would retain their two goal lead, East Grinstead were awarded a penalty when George Hillier-Jones' sideways run into the box was ended by a foul by Jack Turner. Matt Geard struck the ball powerfully into the top left of the goal, to set up an intriguing second half.
Into the second half and it became ever clearer that the momentum was swinging towards the visitors. On 50 minutes, East Grinstead had a shot cleared off the line when the Crowborough keeper came to the edge of his area, didn't claim the ball and Chris Gregson hooked the ball goalwards. On 67 minutes, East Grinstead were awarded a second penalty, again Jack Turner was the guilty man pulling Sam Schaaf down in the area, and he was shown a second yellow card and then a red to reduce Crowborough to ten men. To continue the feeling of deja-vu, Geard hit the ball emphatically again into the top left hand side of the net. Seven minutes later and the turnaround was complete with East Grinstead taking the lead. A driving run from the right by Michael Belli finished with a low cross into the box and Geard tapped the ball home from close range to complete his hat-trick. Some of the Crowborough players seemed to really lose their composure and discipline at this stage, with one hefty tackle resulting in Geard having to be carried off, and a wild high lunge by Wayne Clarke on Hillier-Jones resulted in a straight red card for Clarke to reduce Crowborough to nine men, and the East Grinstead coach was also sent from the dugout. Yet another ugly late tackle by Crowborough substitute Elliott Wood could easily have resulted in a third red card for the home side, this time however the referee settled for a yellow card. The result was beyond little doubt now as East Grinstead held on comfortably for the remaining minutes to claim a valuable away win which sees them rise to fifth place. Full credit to East Grinstead for reacting extremely well to falling behind to two early goals, whilst Crowborough will wonder how they let a game slip away that they started so strongly, but perhaps this evening just proved that their young team has some more maturing to do before it can provide a consistent challenge at the top of the division.