As anyone who reads my site regularly will know, I’m not a huge fan of watching non-league football in athletics stadiums. The distance from the pitch because of the track, can make the magic of the game somewhat lessened, plus the games can lack atmosphere, as the stadium are not designed with football and fans of the game, in mind.
With that in mind, I came on a sunny afternoon which hopefully marked the end of an unseasonably chilly April, to the Croydon Arena. A stadium which serves as the home of Croydon FC, as well as being an athletics stadium and home of Croydon Harriers. This visit was significant and well worth my time for today’s visit, as it was the final ground, in the two divisions of the Southern Counties East Football League, that I had yet to visit.
Croydon FC are supported by loyal fans known as “The Barmy Trams Army” on account of the tram system that serves the Croydon area. Croydon FC have an illustrious history with time spent in the Isthmian Premier league in the 1980’s and 1990’s and a famous FA Cup run in 1979/80, which culminated in a second round defeat to Millwall.
The ground has a large grandstand, a refreshment stand, toilets and decent floodlighting. The pitch is grass and in good condition, and surrounded by an eight lane athletics track. Parking was free in the stadium car park and there is a range of covered standing on the opposite side of the pitch to the grandstand. The ground had better views and a much better atmosphere, than I had predicted.
Croydon FC and Sporting Club Thamesmead both sit outside the 2nd to 5th place play off places. Croydon are just 5 points behind Snodland Town in 5th place, with four games remaining, whereas Sporting Club Thamesmead FC are 14 points away, with only 12 available.
Richard Pingling was Croydon’s top scorer, coming into the game, with ten goals from fifteen matches. Mayowa Olufeko remains Sporting Club Thamesmead’s leading scorer, this season, with eight goals in eight matches, despite not having played since October. Mention also needs to be made of Tim Beckford, who has a total of 12 goals from 35 matches this season, having played for both of today’s teams, with 7 goals for Croydon and 5 goals for SC Thamesmead.
The game started with Sporting Club Thamesmead dominating the possession and creating the best opportunities. Tim Beckford and Danny Edwards linked together well to pressurise the Croydon defence.
As the half wore on Croydon FC came more into the game but neither side had the final passing touch required, to break the deadlock.
At half time the teams went into the break with the scores still level and with the points fully up for grabs.
The second half continued in much the same pattern, although in this half it was Croydon FC, marshalled by Junior Baker and with Christian Udo winning ball in the air, who had the balance of play.
In the 65th minute, however, it was Sporting Club Thamesmead who went into the lead, with a well struck goal from Danny Edwards, which broke the deadlock and put the away side 0-1 ahead.
Croydon threw everything into trying to score an equaliser, but at the final whistle, it was Sporting Club Thamesmead who took the points.