Slough drawn into Cup complacency

| FA Cup
Att: 524
Slough Town
Pluckrose (25), O'Connor (63 pen)
2 - 2
Croydon
Norris (0-1, 72)
Unknown
The FA Cup has the habit of making heroes or villains overnight. On Saturday, Slough were the villains.

Facing Croydon, fifth from bottom of division one of the Diadora League, they turned in a performance of ineptness that sees them lucky to have had a second chance.

After struggling against a shambling, shuffling Croydon the Conference outfit found themselves facing the most humiliating of exits as Trevor Franklin raced through with only Phil Burns to beat.

Burns raced off his line, thundered into Franklin and floored the speedy flanker without touching the ball. But referee Mr P. Lavelle-Maurice, who had a similarly appalling afternoon as the Rebels' side, only booked him when there was no excuse for him not to walk.

Burns did well to tip over Mick Pay's resultant blast from the freekick - something that an outfield player may not have been capable of.

But realistically they didn't deserve it. The FA Cup is now so well known for dumping the disrespectful flat on their egos that every professional and semi-professional player should not fall into complacency - but yet they still do!

It wasn't the Slough Town that everyone had come to know on Saturday as they were shamed by Croydon. The performance was virtually as unexplainable as an Arthur C. Clarke mystery!

Players who played so well on the previous Wednesday and had impressed at the start of the season were made to look quite ordinary against their Diadora counterparts. A performance like this in the Conference would be well and truly punished.

Croydon's Matt Norris gave ex-Aldershot defender Darren Anderson and £18,000 signing Colin Fielder the run around at the back. There was no sign of things to come when Anderson headed against the bar from a corner and then Paul McKinnon had his effort saved.

But the Rebels should have been shocked into life when Mick Putnam's pathetic header from a drop kick allowed Norris in to give Croydon the lead. Norris then shot through the Slough defence and had them trailing in his wake before wasting his effort.

Slough were going to be up against it now with Croydon packing their ranks and defending like their lives depended on it. But the Rebels' refusal to play their normal game was beginning to tell.

Mark Hill found himself well marshalled by Franklin, who stuck to him on the left, but Phil Stacey was continually in space on the right but instead of getting down to the byeline to bang in some crosses he thumped the ball into the box too early and the keeper had little trouble in taking command.

The Rebels lined up on the edge of the box to thump wayward and aimless shots from around 25 yards as they found no gumption to break down the visitors defence. The only highlight of the game was Slough's equaliser. It was started and finished by their best player on the day and captain Allan Pluckrose. He played some sweet football with Fielder, whose superb touch split the Croydon defence and Pluckrose sent a fine diving header over Gary Moseley.

But just as everything looked to be coming together, Croydon got back into control. Slough lacked imagination and verve and could find no way through the defence and moved forward as though they had lead in their boots.

The second half arrived with the hope of a reshuffle and Slough to regain the form that had eluded them. Putnam was replaced by Barry Rake with Fielder taking on the sweeper role in the back four. Rake's pace looked set to cause problems on the right but he never found the way through.

The game just continued in the same vein as the first half and with poor football, Croydon dictating and the referee making some horrendous decisions the afternoon degenerated into thoroughly unentertaining stuff.

Slough did find the way through in the end after Thompson's cross was handled by Dave Boyton and Eammon O'Connor converted the spot kick after 63 minutes.

But Slough didn't capitalise and just nine minutes later Norris again ghosted through the Rebels' centre of defence to slot past the stranded Burns.

Thompson almost snatched it with eight minutes remaining when he nipped in only to hit the bar with his shot and then McKinnon missed an open goal from a corner by inches before the drama which should have seen Burns take an early bath.

The whistle eventually ended the game and gave Slough the chance to redeem themselves at the Arena, Croydon, rather fortunately.

Croydon Line up

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