Crowborough Athletic 2 Brimsdown Rovers 1 aet
This report comes in two parts. On seeing the Vase draw & being particularly fond of Sussex grounds, I chose to visit Crowborough for the first time. When I set off from home, there was light rain falling and the forecast was not got. By the time I reached Crowborough. It was belting down. I gave the game only a 20% chance of being on. It’s easy to find the ground from the station. You basically turn right 3 times and then walk for about a mile and a half up a long road. The pavements are not overly wide and the road has a reasonably steep incline. As a walked up the road, the rainwater coming the other way was literally lapping over my feet. I discovered a chip shop ‘The Chip Inn’ & stopped for a sausage, chips & some respite from the rain. I ate my lunch in a bus shelter immediately over the road from the chippy. I continued on my way & found the ground easily. A steward was coming out of the turnstiles as I got there at 13:45. I asked him if the game was on & he said that it was, although the referee hadn’t looked keen to play it from the moment he arrived. Brimsdown turned up at 2pm. The referee inspected the pitch again. Both managers & players wanted to play but the referee eventually declared the pitch waterlogged and unplayable. There was a big puddle in the centre circle. The groundsman claimed he could fork it out, but to be honest, conditions were dreadful & the ref had no choice. Top marks to the friendly & welcoming Crowborough officials who kept apologising (Not your fault lads!) & gave me a free programme. I expected the game to be played the following Tuesday which I would not have been able to make. But to my surprise, it was re-arranged for the following Saturday. All I needed now, was for the weather to behave. The Thursday before the game, I looked out my window before turning in for the night & the road looked like Richmond skating rink. But cloud cover arrived and by the following morning, the frost had all gone and the game wasn’t in doubt at all. So off I went again, kind of nice not having to take any printed maps as the route was easy to remember. Highlight of the journey was on the Northern line. The driver announced over the PA that a beggar was on the train & not to encourage her by giving her any money. A guy sitting opposite me turned to his wife & yelled “There’s no point begging, you’ve already had everything I own” Not often that one comment reduced a tube character to simultaneous laughter (Nice line!).
I visited the ‘Chip inn’ again, this time having a pie & chips. This really is a superb chippy, run by a friendly couple with top draw nosh. The pie was piping hot, with generous meat & a rich gravy. The chips have been excellent on both weeks. I ate this meal again in the bus shelter for old times sake.
One of my favourite sights on reaching a ground is to find another match on. A game was taking place on a pitch just before the ground. I was informed that it was Crowborough’s third team & they were 1 nil up with about 10 minutes to go. By the time this game had finished, it was 4-2 after extra time with a red card shown to a Crowborough defender. Great to see 5 unexpected goals in a game, short on skill, but high on endeavour. Whilst watching, the Brimsdown coach arrived. One of the officials came over to chat & announced that they’d come all the way from Hertfordshire. I informed him that I was a ground hopper and had also come from Hertfordshire. He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a complementary ticket to the game, patted me on the shoulder & said “Enjoy the game”. I must go back to Crowborough, people can’t stop giving me free stuff. I was very grateful for the ticket & it softened the blow of having to pay twice to visit this ground.
Crowborough have a well organised set-up which is not typical of most Sussex league clubs that often have stunning scenery. The bar is set about 50 yards from the ground, inside there is a good sized stand and a covered area behind one of the goals. There’s also a well run tea hatch serving drinks & hot food. The whole ground is surrounded by a large corrugated fence. The pitch slopes slightly end to end although you don’t notice it once the game gets under way.
This turned out to be a highly competitive match. Brimsdown were through 1 on 1 after only 10 seconds, the keeper saving what could have been the most dramatic of opening goals. Once the game settled, Crowborough scored after 10 minutes with a header powered home from a corner. Crowborough were well on top and could have had a healthier half time lead. On 62 minutes Brimsdown stunned everyone by equalising against the run of play. A 30 yard blockbuster from the right back thumped against the crossbar, could have gone anywhere but dropped straight down to a Brimsdown player who couldn’t miss! Suddenly, we had a full blooded even cup tie that could have gone either way. Extra time was no surprise & it looked like stalemate had been reached with neither side threatening. Then the Crowborough manager took centre stage. As they won a corner, he replaced his most lively striker with a mountain of a man obviously brought on for his height. This player won the header from this corner & his header dropped in the six yard box and was gleefully stabbed home. High drama that sent the home fans away happy. One slight oddity is that they start & end the game at Crowborough with steel band music over the PA, didn’t quite fit on a cold December day.
After two trips in a week, I feel that I know Crowborugh well. I wonder if I’ll be back there as the FA Vase reaches its climax?