Steven Murray 27
CROWBOROUGH ATHLETIC 3 WHITSTABLE TOWN 1
SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday March 4 2017 15.00
Whitstable were beaten by title challengers Crowborough in a controversial game that saw ten cards brandished by the referee. Whitstable started well and after Aaron Quain had hit the post in the second minute, Craig Thompson hooked the ball into the net from the corner that followed to stun the home side. Second best for the first 30 minutes, Crowborough started to threaten and Sam Carrington scored twice in two minutes to turn things around. The game then became ugly with very little quality or goalmouth action as the home side set out to hold on to their advantage and Whitstable were reduced to ten men just before half time with Harry Brown being sent off for a tackle on the half way line. The second half was full of stoppages, lectures and cards with Bola Dawodu and then James Morrish, who had both played well in midfield, also being dismissed – perhaps unluckily. Substitute Tom Pearson wrapped up the points with a late goal.
This was the first meeting between the two sides this season and Whitstable were without Ashley Brown through injury. Charlie Smith and Harris Rodgers were both away and Joe Kennett was again unavailable. Bola Dawodu returned to the starting eleven and new signing Regan Payne, a young forward from Lordswood, was among the substitutes. Crowborough are planning to install an artificial pitch in the summer, but the current grass surface was bare and quite heavy in places.
Whitstable were soon on the attack and Quain beat the stretching Dan Tear to a through ball and broke free with just a minute played, but his low left footed strike came back off the inside of the far post and was cleared by Jack Turner for a corner. Connor Hood took it and the ball was helped on by Rob Gillman to Craig Thompson, who managed to hook it over his shoulder and past Dan Ellis to give the visitors the lead on 3 minutes.
Shortly afterwards Hood was the first into the notebook as he was shown a yellow card for a challenge, despite appearing to win the ball. On 12 minutes Thompson was caught by a high challenge by home defender Jason Barton who was spoken to by the referee. Quain then passed to Thompson, but his ball across the area evaded everyone. Crowborough had to make an early substitution with Tear failing to recover, having hurt himself when attempting to win the ball in the opening minutes. Some good build up play between Quain, Dawodu and Kane Rowland down the left almost created another opening, but the ball was cleared. The Crows had offered little, although after 16 minutes Zac Attwood made a promising run down the right, but could only shoot into the side netting. Back at the other end, a Quain free kick came to nothing after Rowland had been pulled back and with Morrish and Dawodu doing well in midfield, Whitstable won a couple more corners that were comfortably dealt with by the home defence.
Just past the half hour mark, Crowborough started to threaten more and Dan Eason had to be alert to gather a through ball by Jack Walder. After a Rowland shot had been easily collected by Ellis, the home side found a way back into the game. On 35 minutes a clever reverse pass by Attwood released three players down the left with little cover back for Whitstable. With offside appeals waved away, Henry Muggeridge set up Carrington who had plenty of time to fire past Eason. Just a minute later, Carrington turned well on the edge of the box and bent a shot towards the far corner that was well saved by Eason. From the resulting corner, Lee Carey and Muggeridge sent the ball across for Carrington to beat Eason again and the game had changed in the space of two minutes.
There was little else of note until stoppage time when Harry Brown, playing in a midfield role, was late in a challenge with Walder and shown a red card. Ollie Lee was booked in the aftermath along with the vocal home goalkeeper who seemed keen to get involved in the decision making at every opportunity.
The second half was unremarkable from a footballing point of view, but certainly not incident free. Walder was spoken to by the referee soon after the restart for a poor challenge on Dawodu and then Quain prevented an attack down the right and received a yellow card. Crowborough forced a couple of corners, but good defending by Tom Bryant and Gillman kept the score at 2-1. After Thompson was penalised for a tackle, Quain was given a final warning for fouling Sam Crabb as the home side pressed forward. Whitstable made two substitutions, with Payne coming on for his debut in difficult circumstances and Jack Mahoney returning after a long term injury. Dawodu shot well off target following a rare sight of goal. Dan Perry had to leave the field with a head injury after jumping for the ball with Bryant and landing awkwardly, although no foul was given on this occasion. Shortly afterwards however, Carrington was booked for a foul on Dawodu as he tried to break away. After some delay, a straight red card was shown to Whitstable player much to the surprise of most in the ground – it was apparently for catching his opponent with his foot as he was impeded. Crows substitute Pearson had only been on the field for a short time when he latched on to a pass from Muggeridge and shot past Eason to make it 3-1 after 81 minutes.
Carey was replaced by Tom Vickers as the game entered seven minutes of added time and then Morrish slid into Walder in the centre circle. Given everything that had gone before and the atmosphere around the ground, it was no great shock to see another red card brought out and perhaps an unnecessary challenge at that point in proceedings. There was still time for Vickers to be booked for a foul on Lee before the final whistle. It should be noted that Whitstable coach Brendon Cass was dismissed from the bench during the second half as frustrations grew.
Whitstable will need to learn from this game against a team containing a lot of experienced players lured from higher levels of football, a number having played for Hastings, Lewes and Tonbridge. A couple of moments of loose defending and two rash challenges were particularly costly. Crowborough were better at managing and influencing the game despite a slow start and it is interesting to note that their last three opponents have collected 11 yellow and 6 red cards between them. The championship now appears to be a straight fight between Crowborough and Ashford as was always expected given their available resources and it could be a tight finish. For Whitstable, after the turmoil both on and off the pitch last year, the club is now in a better position but planning for next season must now be the priority – although a cup final appearance is still a possibility.
Dan Ellis, Sam Crabb, Henry Muggeridge, Jason Barton, Jack Turner, Dan Tear (Tom Boddy 14), Lee Carey (c) (Tom Vickers 90), Jack Walder, Zac Attwood, Sam Carrington, Dan Perry (Tom Pearson 79).
Subs (unused): Phillip Appiah, Connor Pring.
Goals: Sam Carrington 35, 37, Tom Pearson 81
Yellow cards: Dan Ellis 45+2, Sam Carrington 77, Tom Vickers 90+6.
Dan Eason, Connor Hood (Jack Mahoney 71), Aaron Quain, Tom Bryant, Rob Gillman (c), Ollie Lee, James Morrish, Harry Brown, Kane Rowland, Craig Thompson (Regan Payne 69), Bola Dawodu.
Subs (unused): Calvin Sedenu, Brendon Cass, Dean Ruddy.
Goal: Craig Thompson 3
Yellow cards: Connor Hood 5, Ollie Lee 45+2, Aaron Quain 50, Craig Thompson 64.
Red cards: Harry Brown 45+1, Bola Dawodu 78, James Morrish 90+1.
Referee: Peter Conn
Assistants: John Quirke & Danny Roberts