City Come From Behind To Defeat Croydon
By Kevin Olver
Exciting end to game eventually makes long away trip worthwhile for City faithful
Canterbury City 2 Croydon 1
Whether this was a stirring victory for City or a blatant case of smash and grab by them will probably depend on which side you support. Safe to say though that Croydon took the lead and held it for most of the match, with a much changed City side looking as if they were going to be unable to influence the outcome.
However, late on and with defeat against the league strugglers looming, City turned it around with some much needed energy off the bench and a controversial injury time penalty.
Undoubtedly with an eye on next weeks FA Vase last sixteen tie, City rested several of what have become their established and regular first eleven for this away trip to the hard and bumpy surface at the Croydon Sports Arena and for a long while they looked as if they would return empty handed. The game ambled along in the early stages with a couple of wayward shots for City and an easy save for home keeper Adam Ballard before the home side took the lead in the eleventh minute when Luke Medley fired home a penalty, sending City keeper Jack Delo the wrong way and to give the hosts the lead at 0-1.
City were desperately unlucky not to level immediately after when James Turner fought his way into the Croydon box and then cut inside and back on himself before turning and curling a shot past Ballard but also off the outside of the far post and out for a goal kick.
Opportunities were then exchanged as Rob Lawrence hooked a volley wide for City while at the other end, Danny O'Rourke shot straight at Delo from twenty-five yards. Croydon were looking to slip Medley through on the break at every opportunity and David Owusu was becoming a handful down the left against young City full-back Harry Barkaway. The hosts were looking the more composed in attack with City a touch disjointed and falling foul of several offside flags.
Lawrence and Medley both fired off target for their respective sides whilst City debutant Harry Brown hit a free-kick straight at the Croydon wall, with Turner eventually scooping the ball over the bar when City won back possession. A City corner, two attacking free-kicks and a couple of Jordan Casey long throws all failed to create a clear cut chance for City while Tre Daley dribbled his way into the City box before seeing his shot blocked and crowded out by several defenders.
A largely uninspiring first-half ended with the hosts a goal to the good and probably just about edging the game so far.
Croydon attacked straight from the restart and the busy looking Medley worked the ball well before laying it off to Daley whose shot was saved by Delo before Medley fired the loose ball across goal and wide. He then had another effort charged down before a rapid break from a failed City attacking free-kick saw another Medley effort again saved by Delo. The Croydon forward was the focus of all their attacking moves and another break from the hosts saw Medley's ball pinged dangerously and low across the City box but snaffled well and out of harms way by the keeper.
With around thirty minutes still to play and it looking difficult to see where a City goal might come from, they made a couple of changes with the introduction of Josh Froggatt and Renford Tenyue into the fray. A City corner and several long throws launched straight into Croydon's box came and went with the athletic Ballard flinging himself at everything and making some unlikely crucial punched clearances and under pressure catches.
A training ground routine attacking free-kick for Croydon didn't quite work out, while Dan Hogan's long shot was safely gathered by Delo. City responded with Casey crashing a long range shot wide as the visitors were hurriedly getting forward to try to salvage anything from the game. Croydon were defending well and still looking to hit City on the break and that man Medley again surged forward chasing a through ball but was beaten to it by inches as Delo raced out to clear.
On seventy-three minutes, City finally had the ball in the net but Casey's knockdown to Turner was ruled offside by the linesman. That was Turner's final contribution as he was soon replaced by Bola Dawodu. A telling switch by the City bench because just four minutes after coming on, Dawodu had equalised for City. A Tenyue corner was headed goalbound and blocked on the line but Dawodu reacted the quickest and stabbed the loose ball home for 1-1.
Suddenly there was far more purpose in City's attacking and a Tenyue ball in needed Ballard to react quickly to smother it as Dawodu closed in at speed. A couple more corners and long throws for City had Croydon under immense pressure at the back with Ballard again defying gravity at least once with a superb flying punch clear.
Croydon were still looking to hit City on the break and from two of these, both down the right, one shot went wide with them appealing in vain for a corner while the other ended when O'Rourke shot straight at Delo. At this point any result was possible - Froggatt twisted and turned his way into the home box but saw his shot charged down while at the other end Delo did well to save another on-target effort from Croydon.
A counter-attack from City then saw Dawodu whip a low ball across which Froggatt side-footed home only to see the offside flag go up and deny City once more! A further corner from City was cleared again by Ballard and as Croydon broke forward, Barkaway tracked back well to clear the danger.
With five minutes of stoppage time signalled, City threw everything forward sensing what would have been a very unlikely winner. Tenyue had a shot blocked after some great work in midfield by Froggatt, while Liam Quinn suddenly broke from the back with the ball and found himself bombing into the opposition box but Froggatt's final pass to him was just cut out.
A long ball launched upfield by Delo saw Casey battle his way into the Croydon box getting two quick-fire shots off, both blocked, but the second attracted the linesman's attention and after a bit of furious flag waving and a consultation with the referee, City were awarded a penalty for handball much to the consternation of everyone wearing a Croydon shirt or scarf. After several minutes of the referee dealing with the home protests from all and sundry, Casey nervelessly thumped the spot kick home to make it 2-1 to City cuing even more protest from the partizan home crowd as City celebrated.
Now in the ninety-ninth minute, Croydon attacked straight from the restart and Ross Obazee's effort was superbly blocked at point blank range by Delo before the keeper bravely dived in to deny O'Rourke any chance of getting to the rebound.
There was still time for Casey to blaze virtually the last kick of the game well over the Croydon bar, but not for Croydon to retrieve the ball and get forward again before the final whistle blew.
The protests and debates raged on as both teams and the officials left the pitch with many on the field and in the vast stand wanting to have their say, but for all that and despite all that, the final score still read:
Canterbury City 2 Croydon 1.
City: Jack Delo, Harry Barkaway, James Nurden, Dan Keyte, Liam Quinn, Ollie Lee, Harry Brown, Chris Saunders (Josh Froggatt), Jordan Casey, James Turner (Bola Dawodu), Rob Lawrence (Renford Tenyue)
Unused Subs: Gary Sayer, Dean Grant