Depleted Reds Steal Three Points

SCEFL Premier Division
Monday January 2 2017 15.00 (at Homelands Stadium, Ashford)

Whitstable somehow managed to pick up another win in this holiday fixture with a threadbare squad, despite a poor first half performance. After a scrappy first twenty minutes with few attempts on goal, Canterbury took control and Whitstable were indebted to the woodwork and some smart saves by Dan Eason to keep the game goalless at the break. The home side will feel they should have gone in several goals up and although they did hit the bar once more in the second half, Whitstable reorganised and gave a much better account of themselves. With 18 year old Loughborough University student Seb Rowland, brother of top scorer Kane, impressing as a substitute on his debut Whitstable looked more of an attacking threat. The only goal came after 68 minutes following a corner as Newman Poku, defender Pat Nzuzi, goalkeeper Daren Hawkes and the ball all ended up in the net after a bit of pinball in the box. Ashley Brown made a couple of timely interceptions as Canterbury tried to reply, but Whitstable held on with few further alarms. Dave Pilcher, who had been impressive in the first half, was sent off in the final minute for kicking out at an opponent.

With a number of players unavailable for various reasons and Darren Marsden having departed in the week, manager Scott Porter had limited options. Calvin Sedenu started at the back in the absence of Joe Kennett and Newman Poku played alongside Kane Rowland up front. New signing Seb Rowland was on the bench, with only coach Brendon Cass and reserve goalkeeper Harry Brooks for company. There was little action to excite the crowd in the opening stages with just a handful of free kicks and corners and both goalkeepers were generally untroubled. The referee chose to ignore a number of incidents for which free kicks might have been awarded – not that it led to much flowing football. On 20 minutes Nzuzi sent in a dangerous low cross from the left, but it was deflected away from the goal and then Pilcher curled a free kick way over the bar from a promising position. Sedenu mistimed a headed clearance from a long pass by Chris Webber and the ball fell to Matt Martin whose initial effort was blocked by Ashley Brown, but the ball came back to him and his rising shot hit the top of the bar and went behind for a goal kick. Soon afterwards Pilcher tried a dipping shot from distance that Eason got across to push out and Gary Mickelborough latched onto the rebound, but Eason got up quickly to make a great block. The resultant corner was not properly cleared, but the home side could not find the target.

Dan Eason gets down well to block

Whitstable were struggling to keep possession and kept giving the ball back to their opponents who were now growing in confidence. On 34 minutes Canterbury won their fourth corner and it was rolled back by Rob Lawrence into the path of Pilcher whose first time strike from well outside the box crashed back down off the bar with Eason beaten and was cleared. The ball though was chipped straight back into the box to Mickelborough who got a shot away, but it was blocked on the line. Kane Rowland finally gave Hawkes something to do after 36 minutes as he tried a speculative shot from 35 yards that was easily saved. Just before the break Aaron Quain sent over a good cross from the left and as both Poku and Charlie Smith challenged in the air, the ball fell to Ollie Lee who shot just wide. Harry Brown then limped off to be replaced by Seb Rowland. Hawkes had to get down to save from Kane Rowland and at the other end a long shot from Nzuzi was beaten away by Eason.

A rare first half effort is just wide

Whitstable and their supporters knew they had been fortunate to reach half time with the scores level and they came out for the second half with Smith playing in a more central role and Seb Rowland wide on the right. This seemed to give the visitors more control of the ball, with Lee also having a good game in midfield and Kane Rowland, perhaps inspired by his younger brother, having much more of an impact on the game with some good runs. A Smith free kick was headed clear and then Kane Rowland first played in Poku whose shot was too weak to trouble Hawkes and then after a good run he found Quain, but he shot over the top. Smith then collected the ball in the middle of the field and shot powerfully from 40 yards or so and it seemed to be heading for the top corner, but Hawkes managed to get across to touch it on to the woodwork and behind for a corner. It would have been a contender for goal of the season. Whitstable continued to press, but on the hour mark a Pilcher free kick was met by Gary Clarke who saw his header come back off the bar.

Poku then had a couple of chances, as he brought the ball down and shot wide and then won a corner as Hawkes blocked another effort. From this corner Whitstable had a couple of shots as City struggled to clear and eventually as Poku tried to force the ball home, Nzuzi and Hawkes ended in a heap in the goalmouth and ball crossed the line before Hawkes was able to clear. The officials gave the goal despite some protests from the home side and unfortunately Hawkes injured his ankle in the incident and had to be replaced by outfield substitute Dom Snee.

Newman Poku tries to force the ball home
It rolls over the line
Daren Hawkes has the ball but over the line

Martin almost got in for Canterbury with a burst of pace in the box, but the ball ended in the side netting. The Rowland brothers combined well on the right as Whitstable threatened again, but the ball was cleared. Ashley Brown had to use his pace at the back on a couple of occasions to prevent any further City attempts on goal and Whitstable substitute Cass fired a left footed shot wide after some good work by Seb Rowland.

The Rowland brothers played well in the second half

Some indecision between the officials over a throw in appeared to lead to some frustration that eventually saw Pilcher red carded for aiming a kick at a Whitstable player, before six added minutes passed with little to report although City did push their substitute goalkeeper forward to no avail in a final throw of the dice. Whitstable players celebrated the three points at the end, no doubt pleased with their second half efforts which were in stark contrast to a very poor showing in the first 45 minutes. For all the dominance shown by Canterbury before the break, they failed to win a single corner in the second half.

Whitstable have now won seven out of the last eight games, but will need to play with more consistency to keep the run going. The manager will hopefully have a stronger squad available for the next match.

Canterbury City
Daren Hawkes (Dom Snee 70), Chris Webber (c), Pat Nzuzi, Gary Clarke, Josh McCallum, Laurence Harvey, Matt Martin, Alfie Nunn (Mikey Yome 82), Dave Pilcher, Gary Mickelborough, Rob Lawrence (Sam Conlon 65).
Subs (unused): Reiss Crimmen, Dan Wisker.
Red card: Dave Pilcher 89

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Harry Brown (Seb Rowland 45), Aaron Quain, Ashley Brown, Rob Gillman (c), Calvin Sedenu, Ollie Lee, Tom Bryant, Kane Rowland, Newman Poku (Brendon Cass 82), Charlie Smith.
Sub (unused): Harry Brooks
Goal: Newman Poku 68
Yellow card: Tom Bryant 39

Attendance: 125
Referee: Matthew Pollington
Assistants: George Lowe & Sam Wilson