Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Crowborough Athletic 1 v 2 Tunbridge Wells

Monday 25th August 2014
Southern Counties East League
Alderbrook Stadium, Crowborough
Admission including Programme: £6.00
Attendance: 253
Match Rating: 3

Following my morning match at AFC Uckfield Town, I headed eight miles northwards to visit a club that I visited frequently up to last season, when they were my local club before moving away from the area. The match promised to be quite an interesting game, between two local clubs separated by just seven miles but who have hardly played each other in recent years, several former Tunbridge Wells players would be lining up for Crowborough today, and Tunbridge Wells would no doubt bring with them their usual large and vocal support that they have gained since the club reached the FA Vase final at Wembley a couple of seasons ago.

There have been a couple of ground improvements at the Alderbrook since last season, in order to meet the requirements of the Isthmian League should the team do the business on the field in the near future. The bar that was previously immediately behind the goal has been relocated, leaving a more spacious area for persons buying refreshments, and is now housed in a separate brick building behind one corner. Dubbed the "Crow Arms", it even has a pub style sign hanging outside, a nice touch. The programme is similar to editions produced in previous years - professionally produced, contains the essential stats with other interesting articles to digest.

Today would be the first ever league meeting between the two, after the first ever competitive game occurred last season in the FA Vase, which Tunbridge Wells won 1-0 at home. Having previously competed in the Sussex League, finishing in fifth place last season, Crowborough won their first game in the Southern Counties East League, against Canterbury City, before losing at Greenwich Borough (3-0) and Sevenoaks (2-1), and sandwiched between those defeats was a 0-7 home defeat against Dorking Wanderers in an FA Cup replay. Once again one of the favourites for promotion, after disappointingly finishing in fourth place last season 15 points adrift of champions Whyteleafe, Tunbridge Wells duly kicked off this season with two wins, before losing at neighbours Sevenoaks and drawing at home against Woodstock Sports.

Rain continued to fall constantly throughout this game, but after enduring my first goalless game of the season this morning, I would only have to wait another 36 seconds for a goal here, with a dream start for the Crows. Mark Roberts fired in a perfect cross from the right, and Scott Treleaven headed home from close range. Although Crowborough were certainly on top for most of the first half, the game became increasingly physical, partly due to the tricky, slippery conditions and probably more so as that is how Tunbridge Wells play, and few clear cut goalscoring chances were created. Tunbridge Wells equalised four minutes before the break though, when a throw in was headed across goal by Perry Spackman, and with former Wells keeper Michal Czanner committed at his near post, Brendon Cass tapped into the empty net from close range.

With the rain continuing to fall heavily into and throughout the second half, the game continued to be disjointed, with the slippery surface combined with a physical style of play, but the Wells went into the lead on 56 minutes. Jake Beecroft swung over a perfect cross from the right, and Nick Davis bulletted the ball into the net with his head. On 63 minutes, it looked like Crowborough would have the chance of getting back on level terms. A powerful shot from a central position from the edge of the box by Mark Roberts was blocked on the line by Wells defender Jason Bourne. The linesman flagged for a penalty, but the referee overruled him and waved play on. It appears the referee might have called it correctly, that the ball struck Bourne’s chest rather than hand. That turned out to be Crowborough’s last real chance to get something out of the game, as Tunbridge Wells closed the game out quite comfortably and if anything looked the likelier to score. So, the Wells came out on top in this derby game where experience, physicality and a direct approach prevailed over a young team looking to play in a more patient, creative style. It is difficult to see Tunbridge Wells winning the title this season, as their style of play probably will not prevail against the stronger teams in this division, whilst Crowborough look on course for a steady, unspectacular season in mid-table, adjusting to life in a new league, but will hopefully lay the foundations to push for promotion in seasons to come.

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