Defence Holds Firm To Secure Win

SCEFL Premier Division
Tuesday November 21 2017 19.45

A goal in each half was enough to beat league newcomers Rusthall and earn Whitstable their fifth straight win in all competitions. The visitors played some good football, particularly early in the second half, but were unable to find a way through the home defence. Chris Saunders hit the bar early on, before opening the scoring on 28 minutes, firing the ball back in after it had been partially cleared. Whitstable struggled to create much after the break, as Rusthall pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but Ricky Freeman confidently converted a 75th minute penalty after Louis Sprosen had been fouled whilst attempting to shoot. Whitstable then saw the game out in relative comfort to move up to 7th in the league table.

The three players injured at Tunbridge Wells were unable to start this game. Rob Gillman and Danny Williams are both expected to be out for a couple of weeks with ankle and hamstring problems respectively, whilst Shaun Welford is awaiting advice after feeling a muscle pull in his leg. Academy trio Ryan Birch, Rhys Brain and Teddy Nelson were on the bench, with the latter having just transferred from Hollands and Blair, where he had been playing since the start of the season. Rusthall are playing at this level for the first time, having won promotion this year and Whitstable are yet to visit their Jockey Farm Stadium in Tunbridge Wells, where facilities are gradually being improved. They have so far won four league matches and were dumped out of the FA Vase by Epsom and Ewell, the team subsequently beaten in that competition by Whitstable.

In the 1st minute, Freeman charged down an attempted clearance by goalkeeper Callum Christie, but the referee signalled that the ball had struck his arm and awarded a free kick. Rusthall had their first chance when a John Sebbar free kick was headed just wide by a stooping Joe Fuller. On 12 minutes Charlie Smith crossed from the right and Saunders nipped in to deflect the ball towards goal, but it hit the bar.

Joe Fuller sends an early header wide
Chris Saunders almost scores for Whitstable

Craig Cloke did well to defend a dangerous Rusthall cross before a Saunders shot was deflected behind for a corner. The game was fairly even at this stage and Steve Smith shot low through a crowd of players and Dan Eason appeared to get across to touch the ball around the post, although the referee decided that it should be a goal kick, much to the surprise of the visitors. Whitstable had the ball in the net soon afterwards when Freeman won a high ball into the box and fired in, but he was penalised for a foul. A good cross field ball by Tom Bryant was volleyed wide by Charlie Smith, who probably had more time than he realised, but then Cloke found Charlie Smith again on the right and this time he was hauled back by Callum Gallie. Josh Burchell swung in the resulting free kick and the ball was headed out by Daniel Mitchell, but only as far as Saunders who took it in his stride and shot through the crowd into the net to give Whitstable the lead.

Daniel Mitchell tries to head clear
Chris Saunders picks up the ball and heads towards goal
Whitstable take the lead

Charlie Smith and John Walker both shot over the bar after they were each set up by Freeman. Steve Smith, who looked a threat for Rusthall throughout, skipped through the Whitstable defence on the left and forced Eason to get down to make a save. Freeman attempted an ambitious shot from a narrow angle that failed to trouble Christie and just before half time a good spell of possession by Whitstable created a chance for Freeman, but he failed to get a decent connection, so the home team went in 1-0 up.

Saunders, who had been very good in the Whitstable midfield, did not return for the second half due to an injury niggle and was replaced by Louis Sprosen. The home defence were almost caught out by a long free kick which found Mitchell unmarked in the box, but his glancing header went wide. James Morrish had to make a couple of timely challenges to assist the defence as Rusthall began to dominate possession. John Phillips and Steve Smith both caused some problems with their runs, but the Whitstable defence generally did a good job of protecting Eason, who was not seriously tested. Freeman did have a couple of chances on the break, created by Charlie Smith and Morrish, but was unable to beat Christie. Whitstable got the cushion of a second goal when Paul Butler impeded Sprosen in the penalty area as he shaped to shoot and the referee pointed to the spot. Freeman stepped up to power the ball into the right corner giving Christie no chance. Steve Smith was booked in the aftermath, presumably for something he said.

The referee awards Whitstable a penalty as Louis Sprosen is impeded
Ricky Freeman makes it 2-0

Shortly afterwards, a chip into the Whitstable box was punched clear by Eason, amidst shouts for a penalty as a Rusthall player went down in the box, but the officials were unmoved. Both teams made changes, with Brain replacing Freeman up front and Nelson coming on for his debut in place of Burchell for Whitstable and all three named Rusthall substitutes were given an opportunity to change the direction of the game. Whitstable were quite happy to run the clock down though and there were few chances for either team, although Sprosen had a shot saved by Christie. The referee collected a couple of late bookings, with Sprosen and Mitchell being cautioned for fouls.

Dan Eason clears as Rusthall appeal for a penalty

The game ended 2-0 and the winning run continued for Whitstable. Rusthall did not play badly with Mitchell and Steve Smith in particular having good games, but Whitstable defended very well and took a couple of chances when they arose. Two cup games now follow for Whitstable, as they look to extend their interest in the Kent Senior Trophy and FA Vase.

Whitstable Rusthall
11 Attempts 10
4 On Target 5
7 Corners 3
2 Offside 2
11 Free Kicks Won 17

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell (Teddy Nelson 88), Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders (Louis Sprosen 46), James Morrish, Ricky Freeman (Rhys Brain 83), Charlie Smith, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Brendon Cass, Ryan Birch.
Goals: Chris Saunders 28, Ricky Freeman (pen) 75.
Yellow card: Louis Sprosen 85

Callum Christie, Jacob Wright, Callum Gallie, Ryan Waterman, Daniel Mitchell, Stewart Gostlow (c), Steve Smith, Paul Butler, John Sebbar (Bayley Colbran 73), Joe Fuller (Drew Crush 79), John Phillips (Alex Rich 79).
Subs (unused): None
Yellow cards: Steve Smith 76, Daniel Mitchell 86.

Attendance: 100
Referee: Paul Agboola
Assistants: Mark Cheeseman & Ryan Chantril-Smith