I am not shy to admit that this game was not on my “games to do” over Christmas. Why, you might ask when I have waxed lyrical in the past about Carshalton Athletic and that “proper” non league ground AND it being a fiercely contested local derby? Well the simple reason is that this was a “free pass day”, a day where I could go to any game I wanted and as a seasoned non league (and European I hasten to add) traveller, I had planned to try something new – the first ever Canvey Island derby. But of course the f*cking tw@ting weather put pay to that game, as with our option B (Billericay Town), C (Folkstone Invicta, D (Horsham) and E (Tooting & Mitcham United). In fact after decimating the whole of the non league calendar on Boxing Day, it pretty much took out the whole of the Step 3 and 4 Non League games on the 27th as well with only a small handful surviving.
Random Carshalton Athletic fact #1 – Between 1974 and 1976 current Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson played for the club, and then went on to manage the club for one season. After leaving them he joined Halmstad in Sweden and took them to the Swedish Championship in his first season.
One such ground where the supporters had worked tirelessly to get a game on was at Carshalton’s War Memorial Ground. After all they had everything to lose if they couldn’t get the pitch playable. This is the biggest date in their diary. Just over 200 had been at their previous home gate, against Concord Rangers, but for this Bank Holiday fixture the crowd would be almost five times that. Add the presence of a few Bare Naked Ladies in the bar (according to the website), the darts back on the big screen TV’s and their nearest and bitterest local rivals from just 2 miles down the A232 and you can see the need for preparation.
Random Carshalton Athletic fact #2 – Their game earlier this season against Tonbridge Angels was voted one of our top three in the annual 12 Days of Christmas awards.
This wasn’t just any old bitter local derby either. Sutton United were having a marvellous campaign, living up to their pre-season billing as favourites in the Ryman Premier and coming into the game top of the league. Last season they had finished runners up to Dartford in the league but then surprisingly lost at home to Kingstonian in the play offs. And they also had three ex-Carshalton Athletic players in their squad, one of whom was bound to cause some acrimony when he crossed the white line.
Random Sutton United fact #1 – In 1979 The club won the Anglo-Italian Cup by beating Chieti, in the Abruzzo region of Italy in the final. They went on to two more finals in the next few seasons losing them both to Triestina and Modena respectively.
Richard Jolly is a very well known name in the non leagues. He was at AFC Wimbledon for a while before moving to Colston Avenue. In 2008/09 he scored 31 goals for the Robins as they reached the play offs at the end of the season. Last year, in a disappointing campaign on and off the pitch he still managed to score 19 goals. However, in the Summer he decided to take the bus along the A232 to Sutton.
“Realistically, joining Sutton was a no-brainer. By just moving across the borough I knew a few people wouldn’t be happy but I wanted to join a team that’s going to win the league.”
In his Twitter updates Jolly said “I’m expecting some good old stick & banter from the Robins fans today. Good bunch. Too much tho & I’ll start throwing snow balls!! Haha!!”
He was also going to be joined by ex-Robins Craig Dundas and Karl Murray to add some more spice to the occasion as if it needed to.
Random Sutton United fact #2 – Their mascot Jenny The Giraffe is apparently the only football mascot with her own Twitter account (We know this is untrue as we are aware of at least three others, but Wikipedia says its true so we must be lying).
With Northern Steve down for his annual search of southern chips with gravy we headed off from TBIR towers, taking a route that did not involve going anywhere near any shoppers who seemed to have descended on every shopping centre in England on the same day. At 2.30pm, with some constant checking just to make sure the game was on we parked up and was in the very pleasant Robins bar enjoying a pint of Bare Naked Lady (anyone expecting any porn can navigate away now) and watching the darts on TV.
Random Sutton United fact #3 – Since the club beat Coventry City in the FA Cup 3rd round in 1989 no other Non League team has beaten a top flight side in the competition.
There was hardly a trace of snow on the ground, testament to the fantastic job the groundstaff had done. The bars and food queues were packed, the terraces behind each goal were rammed full of fans – all we now needed was some football.
Carshalton Athletic 0 Sutton United 2 – War Memorial Ground – Monday 27th December 2010
This wasn’t the prettiest of games, nor was it one that was settled by great goals but at this time of the year we would take a Blackburn Rovers v Stoke City nil nil just to see a game! Whilst Sutton United came into the game on top of the league it was the home side who made all of the early running, playing the ball to feet and quickly moving off the ball whilst Sutton seemed content to play the ball long to Jolly as and when they could.
Unfortunately, the two Carshalton centre backs had this plan easily covered, and a few little digs here and there just to remind the striker what he had been missing saw him dropping deeper to get the ball. The home side had the best of the opening exchanges and should have been ahead when Paul Johnson found himself one on one with Sutton keeper Kevin Scriven but could not finish.
The Richard Jolly chants went up before we had even had a chance to tuck into our second Naked Lady. “You only went for the money” was the chant from one end, retorted by “You only came to see the Jolly” from the other.
Sutton’s first chance came in the 18th minute when a free kick from 25 yards caused the snood wearing Ross to spill the ball in the Carshalton area but no one was on hand to capitalise. We had to wait until the 37th minute for the first corner, an effort that was eventually volleyed over the bar from Gary Noel.
Northern Steve went off to do his pie research and as he was queuing up inevitably he missed the opening goal. Carshalton’s Michael Boetang had seen yellow for one too many challenges on Jolly, and whilst the first cross into the area was cleared, the subsequent ball in found the unmarked head of Andy Forbes and he made no mistake.
Not only did he come back disappointed about missing the goal, he was also mardy (a northern word borrowed for the occasion) that they “‘ad no fookin’ gravy”…and instead had a sweet chilli jam. What a continental treat for him. He loved it and immediately awarded the Carshalton Athletic effort FIFA 5 stars!
The first three minutes of the second half were a carbon copy of the last three in the first. Robins defender was yellow carded for flattering Jolly, earning himself a yellow card. The ball came in, was headed back across by Dundas and there was Bradley Woods-Garness to head home.
That was essentially game over. Sutton took off a battered Jolly on the seventy minutes mark and effectively killed the game off. There was the odd Carshalton foray into the Sutton area in the last ten minutes, and you got the sense that a goal would have made the last few minutes interesting. But with the temperature falling, and the bar looking more welcoming, we headed inside to see if anymore Naked Ladies wanted to join us and watch the darts.
“Mr Jolly moved next door
But he came back to say hello.
When he left he took three points
Wearing a shirt of not red, but yellow”
I thank you. Goodnight.
More pictures from the game can be found at our Flickr stream here.