Player interview - Paris Hamilton-Downes

Carshalton Athletic rounded off an impressive return to the Bostik Premier League last weekend while ensuring more excitement for their fans to come, writes James Barrett-Sterling.

The Robins, who returned to the division as Bostik South champions after a five-year exile, finished in second-place on a last day full of twists and turns.

Carshalton won a 'Battle of Play-Off Hopefuls' by beating visiting Bishop's Stortford 2-1 and other results went their way to ensure that top two finish.

And, ahead of a play-off semi-final against Merstham, whom took the last spot away from Stortford by beating Worthing 4-2 and moving into fifth, Carshalton captain Paris Hamilton-Downes reflected on a last day full of drama.

"We didn't speak about ifs and maybes before the game, we just focused on going to win it," said Hamilton-Downes.

"But, including the other results going our way, the overall day was amazing. To finish second is an fantastic achievement considering we were lower mid-table in January.

"And now we have the play-offs to come which will give us a chance to make this season even more memorable."

Both sides knew victory on Saturday would guarantee involvement in this season's play-offs but Carshalton striker Harry Ottaway calmed any early nerves by tucking in a second minute goal.

And top scorer Ricky Korboa doubled that lead on 24 minutes as his drove his 15th goal of the season inside the top right-hand corner.

But, following a corner kick shortly afterwards, Stortford defender Sam Robbins bundled in from close range to reduce the arrears before the break.

"We felt, after going two-up, that we could push on and maybe score a few more in the first-half," lamented Hamilton-Downes, "but we gave away a bit of a cheap goal and put us on the back foot for periods after the break."

Carshalton were grateful to goalkeeper Billy Bishop for making a superb double save to deny Stortford's ex-professional striker Jamie Cureton on 68 minutes.

But the Robins were also guilty of missing chances to extend their lead before the final whistle eventually sparked ecstatic celebrations among the home fans.

Carshalton have now won nine straight home league matches since a defeat back in January by, oddly enough, Thursday night's opposition Merstham.

The Moatsiders have beaten Carshalton twice already this season and each time with only 10 men after suffering red cards within the first 30 minutes of each game.

"It's funny because Kalvin (Morath-Gibbs) said to me if we did finish second then of course we'd get Merstham," Hamilton-Downes smiled.

"But we won't think about the past. We are at home where we feel comfortable and I know we can give anyone a good game.

"We've got a few days to recover and we'll have a good training session early in the week. We'll be ready for this one."

Carshalton Athletic vs Merstham in the Bostik Premier play-off semi-final at Colston Avenue is on Thursday 2nd May (kick-off 7.45pm).