FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 20th August 2016
Match report and photos: Stuart Tree (full set of pics here)
Corinthian-Casuals put to rest to their terrible recent performances in the FA Cup, but it didn't come without a scare after trailing to Crawley Down Gatwick before winning 3-2.
The Amateurs have an unenviable record of winning just two FA Cup ties in the past thirteen years. Considering that they play opposition lower in the football pyramid at this stage, it felt like there was a jinx over the famous club.
Standing to potentially profit from the miserable luck was Crawley Down Gatwick – a former Ryman League club who's recent years have seen them compete back in the county league, now re-named the Southern Combination. They already had pedigree in this year's competition; The Anvils had emphatically fired seven goals past Hailsham Town proving that they know how to find the net.
Casuals travelled to the Haven Centre without the injured talismanic striker Shaun Okojie, who had grabbed a brace in the week. New signing Jordan Clarke was given the nod over Jamie Byatt in what was a fairly unchanged side that won 3-2 at South Park on Wednesday.
Blustery conditions weren't conducive to producing a free-flowing game but Casuals looked dangerous on the ball, with Warren Morgan and Clarke causing the back line particular problems. What was clear though was the Anvils were not going to be pushovers – hounding Casuals at every opportunity they could and threatening on each attack.
Without a shot on goal to their name, it was obvious that Corinth were not firing on all cylinders. Then, on the half hour mark, things took a turn for the worst when Michael Belli slotted past Danny Bracken to give the jubilant home side something to cheer.
It looked like the writing was on the wall yet again when Josh Uzun's penalty was well saved by Anvil's stopper Andy Greaves before the follow-up was bundled wide.
Casuals had more purpose and direction right from the start of the second half; Josh Gallagher latched onto a perfectly weighted through ball from Brandon Johnson, leaving the on-coming Greaves stranded and tapping into the empty net.
Crawley Down, who'd looked strong up to that point started to feel heavy in the legs and more and more space was created. Josh Uzun found the time and presence to slot home unmarked in the box following a neat square pass from substitute Jamie Byatt.
Three minutes later, the deal was done; Clarke, who'd looked impressive all afternoon, danced his way through the box before finishing the deal, giving Casuals an unassailable lead. There were a couple of nervy minutes to be had when Kieran Grieg nodded home from a corner, but James Bracken's side held on for the win and a home tie against Southern League South and West side North Leigh in the next round on 3rd September.
After the match, James Bracken had these words.
“It was a typical early round of the FA Cup where you play a team from a division below; they probably played a little bit above themselves and we played a little bit below ourselves.
“We tried something new today too. We played with a different shape. For big parts of the game there was a lot to be positive about, apart from in the final third of the pitch. Despite that, we've come away with another three goals scored. So I'm not going to be too critical.
“We haven't been very good this week but we've won two games and scored six goals. If we play like that every week, but still end up scoring six and winning, then I'll take that.
“We've always had the ability to dig in, the ability to scrap and see things through. Last season, we had that run of games when we conceded a few late goals before we went on that last push towards the playoffs. If we'd have got that right then, we'd have made third in the table at least. We conceded another late goal today from the corner but at 3-1 up, it was game over anyway.
“We have fight and determination – we've come from behind twice this week to win so there's no problem in being able to get stuck in.
“We'll look to improve each week now, to get ourselves into top gear as we're probably only in second gear at the moment.
“Jordan Clarke had a good debut today. He wants to be challenged and is here to win. He's good friends with a lot of the boys here so he's settled in quick. I'm expecting good things from him.
“Jordan adds strength in depth that we lost with Emil (Salama) being out for what is likely to be the remainder of the season. Ben Cheklit is struggling with his groin, Matt Reece is off travelling soon. Along with Shaun Okojie missing today, that was four unavailable strikers for what is a pivotal game. So it was nice to be able to bring Jordan in and strengthen ourselves again.
“I saw that North Leigh put seven goals past Thame United so it'll be another tough test. It's probably a good thing that they've scored that many today. If they'd scraped through we might have had the same scenario as we faced today.
“We did our homework on Crawley Down, looking at their players, how they play and figuring out what we wanted to do to combat them. Yet as much as I tell the lads it's a serious test, there's always that subconscious thought that creeps in when they look at the league tables, they see our opposition play a division below and that's dangerous.
“That's why there are upsets in the cup. So we'll always do our best to make sure we're not one of them. It's cup football and that's what makes it great. Hopefully we can get past these sides and start causing our own upsets. Then someone else can start answering those questions.”