Rusthall 0 Crows 1

This result means that the balance in the Force is thankfully restored as Boro avenged the home defeat to the Rustics in August and completed a nice little Derby-set of results with this win at Jockey Farm to go with our win at Tunbridge Wells. If Rusthall can beat Wells at the end of the month at the Culverden (before they build houses on it), it will bring complete A26 results symmetry for this season which will almost certainly resolve Brexit.

When shall we three meet again? It’s looking highly unlikely that it will be next season as Rusthall sit firmly at the bottom of the table, seven points from safety currently, although with games to play against the next three teams above them including home and away games with Croydon, a team in an equally precarious position, salvation is still mathematically possible. In my humble opinion I would say only their upcoming game against Cray Valley would require divine intervention, so I’m sure their management team will rally the troops for one last effort to avoid the drop. They played well enough in patches against the mighty Crows but lacked any kind of cutting edge. Fix that and their Great Escape could be on. Cue the music….

Rusthall’s cause was certainly not helped by a Crowborough defence that’s suddenly become tighter than that gap Prince Phillip thought he could see on the A149. Although we’ve conceded….ummm…..a few….. league goals this season, we’ve suddenly become very hard to score against, letting only the one breakaway goal in, in our last three games, and have kept successive clean sheets. It doesn’t take a politician to tell you that if you don’t concede a goal, you can’t lose a game. King, Boddy, and Carbune (the KBC) across the back have been terrific in these last three games, restricting our opponents chances to a bare minimum and certainly not allowing anything through that would hugely upset Ryan Burbridge in our goal. Ryan himself had a faultless game again, dealing with the things he should deal with when called upon and setting the Crows in motion time after time with his intelligent distribution once the ball was in his hands. The KBC are certainly providing a strong base for us to build on now, and it’s clear we need to find that winning combination in midfield and up front to reap the benefits of that solid foundation. We ain’t going down – a balmy and barmy 33 points on the board and 11th place currently – so let’s throw a little caution to the wind and attack, attack, attack in our remaining games.

As for this game, there’s not much to say. I’ve got the blue-rose tinted glasses on of course, and I feel the result was about right although I probably would’ve been ok with a draw. A very young looking Rusthall side certainly battled and worked hard but we were the only team on the pitch with dangerous strikers and it was inevitable that an ex-Rustic in Danny Powell would score his first Crowborough goal against his old team. That’s one of the unwritten laws of football. From my perspective, the game went like this ; very scrappy first 25 minutes, both teams unable to pass to one of their own players ; much better last 20 of the first half from Crowborough bringing a number of decent chances and a great goal from Danny, gently finding the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the Rusthall box. 1-0 to us at the break and we expected Boro to crack on, but I can only assume the half time instruction was to focus on the win and keep everything nice and compact, as we sat back a little too much and allowed Rusthall to come at us down the slope, happy just to counter attack as soon as the KBC retrieved the ball. To be fair, I thought we looked very dangerous on the counter and we all felt a second Boro goal was imminent, but some poor decision making in great situations and good goalkeeping from the new chap in the Rusthall goal kept us all on squeaky bum time right to the last. I think a Rusthall goal may well have prompted our bench to get Masikini and Johnson on a bit sooner, and we looked more threatening when they were eventually introduced, Trey hitting one particularly defence splitting pass and Levonte’s pace yet again bringing him one on one with the keeper to seal the deal but denied this week by an outstretched leg. I guess if we’d have got that elusive second, we would be celebrating the tactical genius of the win. It’s fine margins even at Step 5.

Everyone in blue gave their all for the cause, and our midfield battled to the last. We just need to find that winning combination to convert effort into goals (E = G4US) and for me and a number of the faithful that really has to mean Luke Leppard leading the attack. As we’ve said before, Luke could be making the teas at half time and they would be the best teas you’ve ever had, strong yet unassuming, probably with a cheeky Bourbon on the side. He gives everything wherever he’s deployed but to my eyes, he’s a little wasted as a holding midfielder and those battling never-say-die qualities could serve us better in the opponents box. Let’s play the ball along the floor and look to hit Leppard and Powell marauding forward, with Masikini in the “number 10” role creating those chances. We meet a lot of lanky centre-halves (half’s?) in this division, and I’m sure Dan and Luke would scare the bloody life out of them – that’s not to say Adrian Stone is doing anything wrong, he’s not, and we had a glimpse of his striking instinct early in the second half when his snap shot was tipped over by the Rusthall keeper, but he can’t win every header pumped in his general direction. I’d just like to see us play to our strengths and try something a bit different now, and I also think that we have other options in that holding midfielder role, with Chris Lawal, Ant Gonella (as no one calls him) and Ansu Janneh all potentially meeting that need,

But hey, what do I know? Without doubt, the management team have done a fine job to get the required points with some inspired tactical performances, and I’m in no position to criticise at the point where we are icing our cake. I’d just like to see us have a right go now as I think we have the players to do it and a big enough points cushion to be bold and see who we can upset. We’re going to have a say on what happens at both ends of the table, so let’s make it “BOO” rather than “Hi, how are ya?”, and we also have a couple of scores to settle before the end of April.

So that’s about it for this entry, and we have another fixture free Saturday on Feb 9th. There are a helluva lot of games going on in the SCEFL (as well as some of our rivals involved in something called “a cup”) before we run out again at Alderbrook to face Erith on the 16th. We expected to pick up points once we’d cleared December and so it is proving, and with 12 games to go, we can all relax and plan for next season hopefully back in the Sussex league where we belong, with the bottom five of Isthmian SE still hosting teams all from North Kent. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out….

Forza Crows! Volvo Autumn!

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