Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Wednesday March 21 2018 19.45

Whitstable will start the second leg of this semi-final with a single goal advantage after Lordswood fought back to score two late goals in a match that looked like ending in a comfortable away win until the last 15 minutes. In a one sided first half, two Rob Gillman goals from corners gave Whitstable a deserved lead and when Ricky Freeman headed a third soon after the restart, they appeared to be cruising towards a second cup final of the season. The game was more evenly contested in the second half, but it was only after Jordan Wells had fired home a loose ball on 75 minutes that Lordswood started to play with any real belief and suddenly Whitstable struggled to keep any meaningful possession. Joe Kane nodded in a second following a corner to set up a frantic finish, but the Whitstable defence withstood some late pressure to take a 3-2 lead back to the Belmont next Tuesday.

The two teams had met one month earlier in the league, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw at the Belmont and there were a few changes to the starting elevens. Carl Harrold, Peter Huggens and Bradley Webb were replaced by Frank Griffin, Jason Hollick and Helge Orome for the home team. Whitstable were without the suspended Stuart West and Charlie Smith, whilst also absent were injured captain Craig Cloke and top scorer Danny Williams, who had to miss the game for family reasons. Chris Saunders, who had sat out the previous couple of games through injury, was on the bench where he was joined by new dual registration signing Ashley Miller. Shaun Welford started his first game since early October.

Pre match greetings

The first meaningful action came in the 7th minute when Welford headed the ball on for Freeman, whose low strike was turned behind by Ryan Chandler. The corner was taken by Josh Burchell and when the ball found its way to the back post, it was headed back into the centre by Welford and Gillman rose to nod it into the net to give Whitstable an early lead.

Rob Gillman heads the first

A good run by Jordan Wells was ended by a Burchell tackle, but the referee allowed Lordswood to continue the attack and the danger was eventually cleared with a timely intervention by John Walker. A long ball in from the right by Welford then struck the angle of the post and bar before going behind for a goal kick. Burchell shot wide before Whitstable doubled their advantage on 21 minutes. Another corner by the left wing back led to one effort coming back off the post and the rebound was blasted high into the net by Gillman.

The ball rebounds off the post
Rob Gillman fires the ball back towards goal
It’s 2-0 to Whitstable

Jordan Gallacher made a couple of threatening runs for the home team, one leading to two corners in quick succession, but Dan Eason was not tested at all in the first half. In the 36th minute, a poor pass by Griffin was intercepted by Welford and although Lordswood regained possession, a back pass was picked up by Chandler and a free kick was awarded to Whitstable just to the left of the goal. Chandler was cautioned for his reaction, but when the free kick was rolled back to Welford his shot was blocked. Freeman and Welford both found their way into the book for challenges in the next few minutes. Whitstable were unhappy with two decisions just before the break, firstly when the ball appeared to go well behind the line for a corner that was not given and then after a Welford shot was deflected, Chandler crashed into Burchell as he attempted to get to the loose ball. The Lordswood goalkeeper saved one more Freeman shot before the half time whistle blew with the visitors well worth their two goal lead.

Ryan Chandler collides with Josh Burchell as they challenge for the ball

Gallacher strode forward dangerously with the ball early in the second half, before being upended by Teddy Nelson 25 yards from goal, but Helge Orome lifted the free kick high over the bar. On 51 minutes, a Whitstable free kick was headed back across the box and Freeman directed a header perfectly over Chandler and into the top corner to make it 3-0.

Ricky Freeman heads the ball over the goalkeeper
It finds the top corner and Whitstable are three up

Whitstable seemed to be in complete control, although Lordswood created their first real opening a few minutes later, when a good cross by Orome fell to Jack Mahon, but he could only stab the ball wide of the far post. It was to be his last involvement as he was then substituted by Adam Hooper. On the hour mark, the home team managed their first effort on target when a long range shot by George Blake was held just under the bar by Eason. Tom Bryant headed a Macauley Murray corner over the top and then Welford, who had done a good job on his return, was replaced by Miller. A spell of Whitstable pressure ended with Louis Sprosen shooting past the post from outside the box. Joe Kane was booked for a foul on Whitstable skipper for the night, James Morrish, before Burchell and Miller almost created another opportunity. Bradley Webb was then introduced in place of Gallacher. There was a break in play when one of the assistants was struck in the eye with the ball and had to be treated by the home physio, Donna Walker.

With a quarter of an hour remaining, a Griffin cross was not properly cleared by the Whitstable defence and Wells smashed the loose ball past Eason from just inside the penalty area. This changed the game completely and Lordswood suddenly grew in confidence and pushed Whitstable back. A Sprosen tackle was adjudged to be worthy of a caution and Grant McIlheron was the final substitute used by the home team. In the 81st minute, a corner was helped on at the near post by Gary Cook and Kane was on hand to head home from close range. In the time that remained, Whitstable survived another four corners and Eason made two comfortable saves from Webb, but despite the pressure Lordswood were unable to find an equaliser. The last action was a yellow card for Orome after a foul on Burchell and Whitstable will start the second leg with a one goal advantage. If the aggregate scores are level after 90 minutes at the Belmont, extra time, away goals and penalties may yet be called upon to decide the tie.

Lordswood Whitstable
10 Attempts 12
5 On Target 5
9 Corners 4
3 Offside 1
16 Free Kicks Won 13

Ryan Chandler, Joe Kane, Frank Griffin, George Blake, Gary Cook (c), Jason Hollick, Jordan Gallacher (Bradley Webb 72), James Huggins (Grant McIlheron 80), Jack Mahon (Adam Hooper 58), Jordan Wells, Helge Orome.
Subs (unused): Tom Carter, Tom Montgomery.
Goals: Jordan Wells 75, Joe Kane 81.
Yellow cards: Ryan Chandler 36, Joe Kane 71, Helge Orome 90+4.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Teddy Nelson, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Louis Sprosen, James Morrish (c), Ricky Freeman, Shaun Welford (Ashley Miller 63), Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Owen Fitt, Chris Saunders, Brendon Cass, Dean Ruddy.
Goals: Rob Gillman 7, 21, Ricky Freeman 51.
Yellow cards: Ricky Freeman 37, Shaun Welford 42, Louis Sprosen 79.

Attendance: 101
Referee: Kirsty Dowle
Assistants: Rob Columb & Billy Woods


Date Time League Season
Wed 21 Mar 2018 7:45 pm SCEFL Challenge Cup 2017-2018


Martin Grove
N Dane Way, Chatham ME5, UK