We entertained AFC Croydon Athletic in the first round of the Combined Counties League Cup at the Reg Madgwick stadium on Tuesday 26th September. A crowd of just less than 50 watched what turned out to be an entertaining game with our visitors coming out better of the seven goals that were scored on the evening.
The Salts made several changes from the FA Vase loss on the previous Saturday with numerous absentees and the odd injury amongst those missing. Yet, we started the game very brightly and probably had our best opening spell of the season and after a good few chances took the lead in the 22nd minute from a penalty taken by Marlon Pinder whose kick sent the opposition keeper the wrong way. We continued to press after going ahead and 10 minutes later Sirak Negassi increased our lead after a slide rule pass to put him through as he slid the ball under the advancing Croydon goalkeeper. It should be noted that Sirak on the left wing and George Owusu on the right wing were giving the Croydon defence a torrid time.
So, 2-0 and looking comfortable we then began to get ‘jittery’ at the back even though the defence up to that point was being well marshalled by our back three of Nick Inwugwu, Recce Tierney and Oli Thompson our Captain on the evening. As soon as we started to look forward to our half time cup of tea, our opponents got a goal back so this made the score 2-1 at half time.
As soon as the second half started and with many supporters still sipping their hot drinks, we scored out third goal through the very impressive George Owusu with a great header. So back to a well-earned two goal cushion or so you would think. It was unfortunate that very soon after Reece Tierney had to go off with a slight injury which made us have to unsettle our back line and our opponents started to increase the pressure, they were putting upon us but not really creating many clear-cut chances. Until the 76th minute when the referee awarded our opponents what looked like a soft penalty which was dispatched to reduce the deficit. This proved to be a fillip that our opponents needed and soon after a particularly good move they were level. And then in the 88th minute they were ahead for the first time in the match when we failed to clear an attack, however there was a large hint of offside for this goal according to supporters who were closer to the incident. After 5 minutes of injury time in which we had a good opportunity from a free kick to equalise, but unfortunately the ball was blasted well over the bar the match then ended 4-3 and AFC Croydon now progress to the next round.
This was an unfortunate result especially after the way we had played for the first 75 minutes. We now move onto an away league match at Tadley Calleva on Saturday, and another league match next Tuesday at home to Balham with a 19:45 kick off.