Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Crowborough Athletic 4 v 2 Westfield (aet)

Tuesday 2nd December 2014
Sussex RUR Charity Cup Quarter Final
Alderbrook Ground, Crowborough
Admission including Programme: £6.00
Attendance: 38
Match Rating: 3

For this evening's game, I decided to make my first midweek visit of the season to the Alderbrook, a ground I attended for most midweek games up to the end of last season before moving away from the area.

This would be an interesting looking game, with not only a cup semi-final berth at stake, but it would also be an opportunity for Crowborough Athletic, who were transferred to the Southern Counties East League in the close-season, to take on a club from the league they left, the Sussex County League. Crowborough have settled comfortably into the new league imposed on them this season, in eleventh place in the 20 team division, with a record of seven wins and one draw from their 18 games. Westfield play at a step below Crowborough, in Division Two of the Sussex League, but find themselves fourth from bottom, with three wins and five draws from their 14 league games. Tonight would be Crowborough's third consecutive home tie in this competition this season, having dispatched Steyning Town 4-2 after extra time, and Littlehampton Town 2-1. This would also be Westfield's third consecutive away tie in this competition this season, having impressively dispatched Sussex League Division One outfits Eastbourne United 1-2 and reigning Division One champions East Preston, also by 1-2.

On a rather unpleasant evening weatherwise, with misty rain of varying intensity in a strong chilly wind, and on a slippery surface which was actually in very good condition considering the recent prolonged wet weather, the first half was surprisingly very even, with Westfield giving a very good account of themselves despite playing into the wind, and they deservedly went into half-time still on level terms with their higher level hosts.

Within two minutes of the restart though, Crowborough were given the chance to break the deadlock when they were awarded a penalty for a pull as the ball as a corner was played in. However, captain Jason Barton's powerful kick was well saved low to keeper Connor Holland's left. As the second half wore on, it was Westfield who carved out the better chances, despite losing their 14 goal striker David Pugh to injury. It was a game, though, that never really caught fire until ten minutes from time, when Crowborough took the lead, Scott Treleaven sliding in to poke the ball home from close range to convert a low cross from the left by Alex Rich. They doubled their lead within two minutes. After the Westfield keeper conceded a corner when a tame, low long range shot brushed off his boot and rolled wide of the post, something of a scramble ensued in the resultant corner, but Barton dribbled the ball away from and across goal before thumping the ball home. That appeared to have sealed Crowborough's passage into the semi-final, but on 83 minutes, Westfield pulled a goal back. Steve Ringwood played a long high ball from the right to the back post, and Andy Hales volleyed the ball into the opposite corner of the net. Then, quite amazingly, Westfield levelled the tie five minutes from time, when Sam Willett headed home at the far post.

And so, the tie went to extra-time, in itself a good achievement by the visiting underdogs, and they remained level at half-time blew in extra time. Slowly Crowborough turned the screw though, and after coming close to regaining the lead a couple of times, they did on 110 minutes. Sam Carrington did excellently to dribble the ball along the byline despite the attentions of a couple of defenders, and his pull back found its way to Paul Butler, who took a touch before firing home. Crowborough made the game safe two minutes from the end of extra time when substitute Wayne Clarke, played in by Treleaven, showed good skills to kink around defenders and eventually the goalkeeper, before tapping into an empty net. And so, in the end, it was Crowborough who progressed to set up an away tie at Sussex League Division One outfit Loxwood in the semi-final, while Westfield could be very proud of a performance when they matched their higher ranked opposition, and with a little more luck, could have earned their third giantkilling act on the road in this competition.

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