SALTDEAN UNITED 0 WHITSTABLE TOWN 1 (After Extra Time – Score After 90 Minutes 0-0)
Buildbase FA Vase First Round
Saturday October 21 2017 15.00
Whitstable made it through to the Second Round of the FA Vase thanks to a late winner by the returning Ashley Brown on an afternoon of severe gales and heavy showers on the south coast. With little shelter from the stormy weather in a very exposed ground on the South Downs, football was always going to be difficult for both players and spectators. Saltdean, playing with the wind, had plenty of the ball in the first half, but Dan Eason only really had to make one good save, beating away a swerving long range shot by Ryan Warwick. Whitstable had the best two chances, as first Charlie Smith and then Ricky Freeman got through on goal, but both were denied by Rikki Banks. In the second half, Whitstable had the majority of the attempts on goal, with Smith having one effort disallowed by the referee. Saltdean had several free kicks in threatening positions, but failed to make them count and the 90 minutes ended goalless. Stuart West was somewhat harshly shown a straight red card for a foul in the first period of extra time and then after Banks had failed to hold a shot by substitute Jack West, Freeman put the ball in the net, but was flagged offside. There were few opportunities in the latter stages, but on 114 minutes a Josh Burchell free kick was headed past Banks by Brown for the decisive goal.
Whitstable suffered an early morning blow when in-form striker Danny Williams was unable to travel to Sussex for family reasons, so Smith started up front alongside Freeman, but captain Craig Cloke returned to the team. Saltdean United won promotion to the top division of the Southern Combination Football League last season and have started this campaign quite well, adding some experienced players to their squad including recent capture James Fraser, who was the top scorer at Bognor Regis last season when they won promotion from the Ryman Premier Division. The huge waves being whipped up by Storm Brian along the coast a short distance from the ground gave an indication of the likely conditions the teams would face. Hill Park could be a lovely place to watch football in the summer, but sadly not on this occasion.
The home team started the game trying to press forward and for the first 25 minutes generally pushed Whitstable back, although apart from the odd clearance or catch, Eason was untroubled. The experienced defensive trio of Cloke, Rob Gillman and Tom Bryant playing into the gale did well to keep the dangerous Fraser, Andy McDowell and Rob O’Toole quiet. It was actually the Kent team that had the first real chance on 27 minutes when Smith got the better of his marker, broke into the box and made himself the space for a right footed shot, but he was thwarted by Banks, the former Worthing, Lewes, Eastbourne Borough and Wealdstone keeper. Freeman also found himself with just Banks to beat after a good run down the left a few minutes later, but again the experienced stopper made the save. Eason was tested just before the break by Warwick when his well struck shot from distance forced a good stop from the Whitstable keeper.
After the half time interval Freeman had an early shot blocked by Banks and then Macauley Murray curled a free kick just over after Freeman had been fouled outside the box. In the 49th minute Smith muscled his way through and fired the ball past Banks, but the referee adjudged that a foul had been committed when he won possession. Whitstable then had a few free kicks and corners that were cleared by the home defence. Sprosen broke away on the right and sent over a cross that was met by Smith, but Banks saved his header just under the bar. Saltdean replaced McDowell and then Ollie Rowland talked his way into the book. The home team then had a better spell, winning several free kicks around the edge of the eighteen yard box, but Fraser was unable to quite get the delivery right in the windy conditions, although one was partially cleared and came back to him but he stabbed the chance wide. Saltdean were then fortunate to be awarded a corner and from it a header was saved by Eason. The last 15 minutes of normal time became quite open and both teams had a few half chances without really looking convincing, although in stoppage time Whitstable had one ball into the box deflected just the wrong side of the post. The final whistle meant extra time would be needed, but the option of penalty kicks had not been agreed so the teams would have faced a replay had the scores remained level.
Fraser shot over the bar from distance and then in the 97th minute, Stuart West fouled a home player as he tried the break clear and it seemed likely that a card would follow, but to the surprise of many it was a red one and Whitstable would have to play the remaining time with ten men. Jack West came on as a substitute, replacing Smith and he was almost an instant hero when he found himself with a sight of goal, but Banks managed to parry his shot and although Freeman was on hand to fire home, he was in an offside position.
Brown was introduced in place of Murray at the start of the final 15 minutes. Whitstable were now back playing against the wind and occasional driving rain, but James Morrish was still battling away in midfield, now alongside the two substitutes and when Freeman won a free kick on the left touchline Burchell stepped forward to take it. His delivery was met by Brown in a crowded box and his header beat the despairing dive of Banks low to his left to the delight of everyone from Whitstable. The remaining 6 minutes were seen out reasonably comfortably and in fact the best chance fell to Whitstable when a Saltdean free kick was bizarrely played straight to Jack West, who broke clear but was just unable to pick out a team mate in the box. It did not matter as the whistle blew and Whitstable were through with a hard earned win. A special mention must go to Freeman, who was apparently not feeling well, but, in the absence of regular strikers Williams and Shaun Welford, kept going for the 120 minutes on a foul day.
For hundreds of non-league clubs the FA Vase is a great competition, with a distant dream of fame and a Wembley final. That all seems far removed though on days like these, but they do also undoubtedly add to its charm. Missing the two players who scored hat-tricks in the previous round, a twelve hour round trip including twenty interesting minutes trying to turn and park the coach inside the ground, an unwelcoming venue, one litter strewn stand containing a few benches on an exposed hillside being the only cover for spectators on a stormy afternoon and difficult conditions for both teams who did their best for two hours to find a winner were all part of the experience. The late winner made it all worthwhile for the Whitstable squad and the 25 supporters and club officials who made the journey and now wait to see where the next round may take them.
|23||Free Kicks Won||16|
Rikki Banks, Dan Turner, Harry Docherty, Matt Fleming, Craig Hall (c), Harry Shooman, Ryan Warwick (Jordan Pryor 86), James Fraser, Andy McDowell (Wes Mills 58), Rob O’Toole, Ollie Rowland.
Subs (unused): Luca Bish, Ash Rees.
Yellow card: Ollie Rowland 62
Dan Eason, Louis Sprosen, Josh Burchell, Rob Gillman, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Macauley Murray (Ashley Brown 106), James Morrish, Ricky Freeman, Stuart West, Charlie Smith (Jack West 100).
Sub (unused): Dean Ruddy
Goal: Ashley Brown 114
Yellow cards: Craig Cloke 63, Ricky Freeman 80.
Red card: Stuart West 97
Attendance: 35 (to be confirmed)
Referee: Stephen Matthews
Assistants: Philip Jones & Aiden Farrelly