We all know where Boro's 1997-8 FA Cup run took us – but did you know that it was against Carshalton Athletic that it all started?
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We all know where Boro’s 1997-8 FA Cup run would take us; an epic battle with Newcastle United that’ll forever be edged into our club’s folklore. But did you know where that famous cup adventure started that season? After all, everything has its origin story. And this one is an away day at Carshalton Athletic. Not that a one-off cup meeting is all there is to be said about us and the Robins. And that’s just what we’re priming ourselves to dive into now…

Who are Carshalton Athletic?

It’d seem that we have two separate clubs that contribute to the formation of what we now know as the Robins; formed in 1905 as Mill Lane Mission, but owing some form of debt to Carshalton St Andrews too. It also seems as if Mill Lane Mission were knocking around in 1903 – but only formally registered in 1905 with the local FA. Two years later, the Mission changed name to its current moniker; the club formally absorbing St Andrews too in 1908.

The club moved to their current gaff, the War Memorial Sports Ground, during the 1920-1 season; the name clearly derived from the fact it was built in memorial to those who lost their lives during World War One. In 1922, the Robins were granted senior status; a move that let them enter FA competitions like the FA Cup. But that’s as exciting as it gets during the interwar years; local and county competitions where you’d most likely find them.

After World War Two, the Robins kicked on and joined the Corinthian League; spending 10 seasons in the competition and winning the title twice. The mid-1950s saw them move on again after election to the Athenian League. The move didn’t bring any huge success. Their close shave with second position – losing out on goal average – in 1964 was good as it’d get. In 1966, they were relegated into Athenian League Division One.

Why do we know the Robins?

In summer 1973, the Isthmian League was expanding. And, with it, came a chance for the Robins to move up another step. Ending their stint in the Athenian League, they became a founder member of the new Isthmian League Division Two. It was a rough-and-ready start to life in the competition; twice struggling, before going so close to promotion at the third time of asking. It seemed to spark life into the Robins, as the following season proved.

The 1976-7 campaign saw the club promoted to Isthmian League Division One; renamed as the Premier Division that summer. Life in a higher league again proved a struggle. But the Robins remained on that perch. Don’t get us wrong – there were some close calls. Yet, no season would end in relegation. And their 1987-8 campaign would see them crack the top half for the first time.

The eagle-eyed among you’ll know the 1987-8 season was also one in which our own rise up the ladder took a step back. As the Robins grew more comfortable in their own division, would it be that we’d have to win promotion twice to meet them for the first time? No. We’d break our first bread together while we were still two divisions apart in September 1989. It was an A.C. Delco Cup First Round tie and the odds were firmly stacked against us.

What is our record against Carshalton Athletic?

The gulf in class wasn’t that apparent in our first meeting; the Robins coming out on top by a single goal at Broadhall Way. For us against a side that weren’t all that far off the summit of the Isthmian League at the end of the previous season, a 1-0 defeat isn’t too bad. But it was all we could show for our time together for another three years. And, by the next time we had cause to meet, we’d shifted the footballing landscape a lot.

The 1992-3 campaign saw us on a par with the Robins after two straight promotions under Paul Fairclough. Such was our growing stature that we made sure the South London team were in no doubt who the new sheriffs in town were; beating them 3-2 at our place in early September 1992. This doesn’t seem to have gone down well with them, however. We went down 2-1 in our first-ever visit to the War Memorial Sports Ground.

The 1993-4 season would stick yet another feather in Cloughie’s cap as Boro’ boss. It’d be our third title in four campaigns and another huge step up for us. But the Robins weren’t in the mood to indulge us at all. A 4-2 win at Broadhall Way and a 2-0 win on New Year’s Day at the War Memorial Sports Ground ensured we had to wrap up the title with absolutely no help or contribution from them. Fortunately, that double defeat didn’t prove too costly…

Carshalton Athletic: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 7 — W 2 — D 1 — L 4 — F 11 — A 11 — Pts 3 — WR 29%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 5-0 Carshalton Athletic, 24 November 1997

What happened to them?

Up we went to the Conference all the same. For the Robins, mid-table would soon beckon in the Diadora League Premier Division. But what about the FA Cup we spoke about at the start? Well, yes. That came after another three year break in relations. By November 1997 rolled around, both our fortunes were on the wane. But the FA Cup Round One draw gave us a chance to renew acquaintances. Did the Robins still have that hold over us?

Now, it’s worth pointing out that Boro’ went straight into the First Round hat. The previous season, in which we’d made it through to Round Three, saw us start at a very early stage; the First Qualifying Round in fact. But we have it in our mind that Victor Green was hugely unhappy at this and, as a result, Conference teams now came in at the First Round stage. We’ll have to dig that one out.

Anyway, our journey to the War Memorial Sports Ground had all the makings of a possible upset. But we resisted that threat; a goalless draw brinigng it back to Broadhall Way. Here, we’d make no mistake; Michael Love scoring twice in a 5-0 win that steered us through. It sent us to Cambridge United in the next round and the rest, for this particular story, can be described as history. As can our record against the Robins (for the time being).

In the seasons that bring us up to the current day, the Robins have remained (for the most part) in the Isthmian League Premier Division. But for two campaigns in Conference South and a couple of short spells in Division One South, it’s been a consistent old tale for them. While they finished runners up in the Premier Division in 2019, they fell a long way behind  Dorking Wanderers; now of the National League South.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Carshalton Athletic club profile


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