We made our way to The Mayfield Stadium, AFC Croydon’s ground on Saturday 16th March to play Balham FC, who currently groundshare with The Rams. Having played fairly recently at the same ground against AFC Croydon we all knew that the pitch was never going to be conducive to free flowing attacking football.  Therefore, the sparse crowd were not going to be richly entertained playing on that surface and it was probably safe to say that whoever scored first might go on to win the game (how true this would turn out to be).

We had to make various changes to the side that got us a valuable point away at Redhill the previous week. We were missing our central defensive partnership of last week in Reece Tierney and Callum Wilson and our main striker Carl Obiltey was out injured once again. In came from suspension Nick ‘Tricky’ Wilson and making his full debut Matt Macgillviray to take their places in centre defence and our goal scorer from last week in Zack Ingram-Wright led our forward line.

To say the that the first half was unforgettable would be an understatement as both teams tried to play football on the aforementioned pitch and chances for each team were very few and far between. The half ended 0-0.

The opening exchanges of the second half were in a similar vein to the first half with neither side really creating any clear cut chances. Then in the 66th minute our hosts took the lead after we did not clear our lines or close down the cross which left the opposition player with an empty net to side foot his pass into the goal to take the lead.

Did this spur us onto greater things?, well straight after their goal we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area by the referee who we must report had a poor game (this is not the first time we have said this about an official this season).  Anyway, the penalty area since football began has always been 18 yards in depth and it includes the six yard box, so any neutral watching the official would expect the defensive wall to be lined up 2 yards outside the 6 yard box – the calculation is rather simple 18 – 10 = 8 so 2 yards outside the 6 yard box. The referee paced out the 10 yards twice and the defensive wall was probably only 6-7 yards back, what is hugely frustrating as a player and supporter is that the linesman could intervene and inform the referee that the wall needs to be moved back further, but once again we witness that the linesman at this level really have no real part to play in any football match apart from when the ball goes out of play to award a throw in. What of the free kick; Adam Green took it and made the opposition keeper make a sharp save as he turned it around for a corner; nothing came of the resulting corner.  The referee was being assessed by a FA official it would be good to see what that person’s account of that incident would have been, but we will never find out.

There really was not much to report between Balham’s first goal and their second goal in the 85th minute which owed itself to a huge deflection off one of our defenders and gave our goalkeeper no chance in our goal. The only other incident of note in the closing stages was another clear elbow from an opposition player on one of our players, at least this time the referee did show a yellow card to the assailant, who of course protested his innocence to the official – another official who did not have the strength to show a red card.  The game ended 2-0 to Balham.

Where does this leave us? It was not a good day for us as the 2 teams below us both won so have closed the gap on us.  Sheerwater have the same amount of points as us but a far worse goal difference and have played the same amount of games as and bottom of the table Colliers Wood are 4 points behind us but with 3 games in hand. Our next game is on Saturday 23rd March against Horley Town and it will be the first of four consecutive games we have at home out of our last 5 remaining fixtures.  A win and a committed performance by our team is a must.