Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Crowborough Athletic 0 v 1 East Preston

Monday 5th May 2014
John O'Hara Cup Final
Middle Road, Shoreham-by-Sea
Admission and programme: £6.00
Attendance: 215
Match Rating: 2

Having been to almost all of Crowborough's midweek games this season, I was never going to miss watching them in a league cup final today. This would also be the first of a rare footballing treble today in West Sussex.

This year's Sussex League cup final was hosted at Shoreham home ground, which is about a twenty minute walk from Shoreham by Sea train station. It is not particularly easy on the eye, with stone slatted fencing around the perimeter, a corrugated iron all-seater stand which has seen better days straddling the half way line, with a small covered area of terracing behind one of the goals. The clubhouse is situated in one corner, with tables and chairs placed on wrecking area between the clubhouse and the seated stand. The programme was a very reasonable effort, covering both this and the Division Two cup final being played later today, and the 44 pages divided between the two games. It contained introductions to both teams, who they got to the final, and plenty of other interesting background information for the game.

East Preston would certainly start the game as red hot favourites to complete a league and cup double, having won the title by 17 points, with 96 points from 38 games, having lost just two league games all season. To reach today's final, East Preston had a bye in the first round before Midhurst and Eastbourne failed to raise a team in round two. They then dispatched Selsey on penalties after a 1-1 draw and St Francis Rangers 3-0, both at home, before coming from behind to beat Littlehampton Town 2-1 in the semi-final on neutral territory. Crowborough finished their league season in fifth place, with 70 points from their 38 games, after a second placed finish looking a possibility before a disappointing last month of the season, losing three of their last four games, which included throwing away a three goal lead to lose 3-4 on Saturday to mid table St Francis Rangers. To reach today's final, Crowborough beat Chichester City on penalties after a 3-3 draw and then Arundel 4-3, both games at home, before receiving a bye thanks to their intended opponents, Pagham, being thrown out of the competition after fielding an ineligible player in the previous round. They then beat Ringmer in the semi-final. When today's teams met previously this season, East Preston triumphed 0-3 in Crowborough in the first game of the season, with a 1-1 draw the result in the return fixture in January. They also met in the FA Cup, East Preston eventually proceeding after extra time in a replay at Crowborough.

On a sunny morning that had a cool breeze cutting through humid air, this was a typical cup final - full of commitment, but with few goalscoring chances, although those that did tended to fall to East Preston. On 17 minutes, a corner was headed powerfully into the net, but the referee decided that the keeper had been fouled in the process. Crowborough's best chance came on 38 minutes, when a defender got in a tangle trying to pass the ball back to the keeper and although Crowborough's Chris Ransome got to the ball first, he could only lift the ball over the keeper but just wide of the far post.

Into the second half and chances were still at a premium, until East Preston took the lead on 55 minutes, Joe Shelley powering a header into the roof of the net from a corner, despite the keeper getting faint hands behind the ball. One had the feeling that that might be game over as Crowborough rarely threatened, their task becoming all the harder on 72 minutes when Paul Butler was sent off for a tackle from behind. They did manage to attack the East Preston goal a couple of times in the last few minutes, and although East Preston having a player themselves sent off on 87 minutes, Shaheen Sadough for a second yellow card, East Preston comfortably secured the win to see them lift the trophy after the final whistle. It was a fair result on the day, but Crowborough's young team will take great heart from a cup final appearance to go with a fifth placed league finish. East Preston still have another cup final to contest, the Sussex RUR charity cup to potentially claim a clean sweep of Sussex League trophies.

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