LORDSWOOD 1 WHITSTABLE TOWN 2
SCEFL Premier Division
Monday May 7 2018 12.00
A long and successful season finally ended on a hot and sunny May Bank Holiday at Lordswood. The game felt more like a benefit match and was played in a relaxed manner by two teams waiting for their summer holidays. There were a number of absentees for both teams and Whitstable goalkeeper Dan Eason played on the right wing, with coach Dean Ruddy taking his place in goal. It was Eason who fired Whitstable ahead early on, finishing well after being set up by Shaun Welford. Whitstable passed the ball around quite tidily under little pressure during the first half and Rhys Brain might have added to the lead before the break. Lordswood came out for the second half with a little more determination and Jordan Wells gave Ruddy no chance when he found the top corner to equalise. Whitstable substitute Brendon Cass thumped a shot against the bar, before Louis Sprosen nodded Whitstable back in front after an Eason shot had rebounded off the bar. Ruddy made a couple of good saves to deny the home team another goal and ensure that Whitstable finished the season with a win.
With this game being rescheduled for after the expected end of season, both teams were without some of their regular players. Whitstable were missing eight, with Josh Burchell, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Craig Cloke, James Morrish, Chris Saunders, Macauley Murray and Danny Williams all unavailable for a variety of reasons. Coach Dean Ruddy played in goal with Dan Eason taking up an unfamiliar outfield role. After scoring the winning goal in the cup final, striker Ricky Freeman spent his 50th game for Whitstable playing at right back, whilst Shaun Welford was made captain. Academy players Teddy Nelson, Owen Fitt and Rhys Brain all started and assistant manager Brendon Cass was the only named substitute. Whitstable had nothing to play for, although a Lordswood win would have lifted them above Deal Town into seventh place in the final standings. Amongst the absentees for the home team were skipper Gary Cook and ex-Whitstable favourite Joe Kane, although another former Whitstable player, Adam Hooper, was made captain on his 200th Lordswood appearance.
The game started at a leisurely pace, but in the 6th minute a good run forward and low shot by Jack Mahon forced Ruddy into a save, as he touched the ball around the post. Adam Hooper took the resulting corner and after the ball was returned to him, he swung over another cross that Freeman almost headed into his own net, but the ball flew just over the bar. Charlie Smith created a chance for Welford, but he was unable to get the ball under control. Whitstable did take the lead in the 14th minute though, when Fitt crossed the ball from the left to Welford and he helped it on to Eason, who took it past a couple of defenders before firing it past Ryan Chandler from the right side of the penalty area. It was a first Whitstable goal for Eason on his 135th appearance.
Fitt and Nelson were playing some nice football on the left, with Lordswood applying little pressure, and Nelson crossed for Welford on 22 minutes, but his effort went just over. After a break for drinks, Eason and Welford combined to create a great chance for Brain, but he skied the ball from 6 yards with the goal at his mercy. Smith then tried a long shot that also went over the bar. Wells and Frank Griffin played a one-two, but the low shot by Wells was easily saved by Ruddy. Bradley Webb and Mahon both shot wide and then Grant McIlheron struck a free kick into the wall, as Lordswood tried to find an equaliser. John Walker sent Eason away again and his cross reached Brain, who had made a good run to the near post, but he shot wide and Whitstable went into the break leading 1-0.
Lordswood brought on Jake Creed in place of McIlheron for the second half and an early foul by Sprosen produced an unexpected yellow card, which turned out to be the only one in a game played in a good spirit by both teams. A dangerous cross by Tom Wooldridge was headed wide by Mahon, but in the 58th minute the scores were level when Wooldridge played the ball across to Wells, who hit a great shot into the top corner from outside the box, giving Ruddy no chance. Lordswood were having a better spell and some good defending by Stuart West denied them the opportunity to take the lead. Whitstable were gifted a chance however, when Lennie Laker failed to cut out a forward pass, but Chandler saved from Eason at the near post. Lordswood made their second substitution, with Junior Alade returning to their team in place of Mahon, as they continued to chase a winner. Ruddy was called upon to gather a couple of crosses, but just before another drinks break, Smith put Eason through and he shot past Chandler, but wide of the near post. When play resumed, Brendon Cass replaced Brain, who had been injured earlier in the half. Eason won a corner on the right and from the ball in by Fitt, Welford had a shot blocked, before Chandler pushed a West shot out for another corner, from which Freeman shot well over.
Cass then thumped a shot against the Lordswood bar from 20 yards. A quick break by Lordswood gave them a three on one opportunity, but Tom Carter had his shot saved by Ruddy and next, the Whitstable goalkeeper tipped a Wooldridge shot over the bar. Whitstable scored the winner in the 81st minute, after West made a driving run to win a corner on the left. The ball came right across to Eason, who crashed his shot past Chandler and against the underside of the bar, but Sprosen was on hand at the far post to nod the rebound home as it bounced up.
The game continued to be very open and Wooldridge had a shot blocked by the Whitstable defence, then Ruddy saved well from Wells. Cass and Eason had further attempts for Whitstable before goalkeeper Chandler went forward for a late Lordswood corner that Ruddy dealt with. Welford, who had a good game for Whitstable, tried a left footed shot from 25 yards that was tipped over by Chandler. Eason rose to head the ball into the net from the corner, but the referee had already blown to halt play and ordered Sprosen to take the kick again and this time the ball went right across goal with no one able to get a touch. A final interception by Chandler in stoppage time stopped the lively Eason from latching on to a Welford pass and Whitstable finished with a 2-1 away win.
So, after a somewhat tame end to the season, Whitstable can be proud of their efforts from mid-December that produced a record of P30 W23 D6 L1 F59 A17, despite a late fixture pile up. The rewards were two cup wins in finals watched by 1666 people and a return to the Bostik League after two challenging, but enjoyable seasons in the SCEFL.
|8||Free Kicks Won||7|
Ryan Chandler, Frank Griffin, Lennie Laker, Adam Hooper (c), Peter Huggens, Grant McIlheron (Jake Creed 46), Tom Carter, Bradley Webb, Jack Mahon (Junior Alade 65), Jordan Wells, Tom Wooldridge.
Subs (unused): None
Goal: Jordan Wells 58
Dean Ruddy, John Walker, Teddy Nelson, Dan Eason, Stuart West, Owen Fitt, Charlie Smith, Louis Sprosen, Shaun Welford (c), Rhys Brain (Brendon Cass 73), Ricky Freeman.
Subs (unused): None
Goals: Dan Eason 14, Louis Sprosen 81.
Yellow card: Louis Sprosen 46
Referee: Peter Conn
Assistants: Max Sollis & Bo Wang