SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday November 18 2017 15.00

A late Ricky Freeman goal was enough to give Whitstable their second away win of the week on a damp, miserable afternoon in Tunbridge Wells. The visitors lost defender Rob Gillman to injury in the first few minutes when he slipped on the wet pitch, but were the better team for the first half hour and created a few chances, the closest being a header that struck the woodwork. Tunbridge Wells lost their goalkeeper, Michal Czanner, to injury on 34 minutes, with outfield player Tom Davey taking over the jersey. The remainder of the match was a fairly even affair, played mostly in midfield with neither goalkeeper having much to do. Injured Whitstable striker Danny Williams also had to be replaced at halftime and it was his replacement, Freeman, who got on the end of a header across goal by another substitute Shaun Welford to make the breakthrough. Welford, returning from a knee injury, appeared to still be feeling it, but remained on the pitch. Freeman also struck the post late on from a narrow angle. The home side had some late possession, winning a few corners, but Dan Eason did not have to make a save as Whitstable held on for the win.

The Whitstable manager kept faith with the starting eleven that had played well to win at Chatham during the week, although the experienced quartet of Craig Cloke, Shaun Welford, Ricky Freeman and Dean Ruddy all returned to the squad and started on the bench. Tunbridge Wells are not having the best of seasons, but the Culverden Stadium is never an easy place to get a result and the grim weather on this afternoon made it a cold, wet, gloomy place with a different playing surface to those encountered so far in this campaign.

Whitstable were temporarily reduced to ten men when Gillman had to leave the field with an ankle injury in the 2nd minute. A good ball from Macauley Murray released Williams who got in front of defender Perry Spackman before going down when challenged on the right edge of the penalty area. The referee waved play on and strike partner Charlie Smith almost got a clear sight of goal, but the danger was cleared by Czanner. Cloke then came on to replace Gillman, who was unable to return and is likely to be out for a couple of weeks. Josh Burchell and Murray both sent dangerous crosses into the box as Whitstable pressed forward. Chris Saunders, who had a good game in midfield, was clipped just outside the box, but Murray curled the resultant free kick wide of the post. Tom Bryant played a ball forward down the left and Williams outpaced John Shea before being denied by the diving Czanner at the near post.

Michal Czanner saves from Danny Williams, before having to go off injured

On 20 minutes, Jon Pilbeam had the first real attempt for the home side, when he turned past his marker and tried a shot from just outside the box, but as he was challenged the ball took a deflection and went out for a throw in on the far side. A couple of free kicks and a corner soon followed as Tunbridge Wells gradually got into the game, but they failed to test the Whitstable goalkeeper. Back at the other end, good play between Smith and Saunders resulted in the latter winning a free kick out on the right touchline, which was curled in by Burchell and a Stuart West header from 6 yards came back off the far post.

Stuart West hits the upright with a header

Smith broke into the box from the right and his shot was parried by Czanner, who was injured in a collision involving Shea and Saunders as the Whitstable player tried to follow in. The home goalkeeper did manage to carry on briefly and Williams had another effort blocked, but after some delay he had to leave the field, with Rhys Bartlett coming on and Davey taking over in goal. Tunbridge Wells then had a period on the attack as Bryant almost chested the ball past his own goalkeeper and then Pilbeam glanced a header wide from a Stephen Ita cross. In the 5 added minutes, a ball into the box by Smith struck the arm of a defender, but the penalty appeals were turned down and then Smith hit a free kick into the wall after James Morrish had been flattened 20 yards out. The visitors might feel that they should have been in front, but the half ended goalless.

The referee tries to brighten up a dull game

Williams had a tight hamstring and did not return for the second half, which saw little entertaining football as the weather deteriorated further. Substitute Freeman made a couple of runs, winning a free kick and then shooting wide, but he was also booked for a challenge on the stand in goalkeeper. Smith joined him in the book for a foul on Shea. Ita saw his free kick from 25 yards deflected off the wall for a corner, before Jack Harris was replaced by Joe Nwoko. Whitstable brought on Welford, who had been out for six weeks with knee ligament damage, in an attempt to find a breakthrough. A Burchell free kick was headed back across goal by Bryant and West was just unable to apply the finish at the far post. On 79 minutes though, Whitstable got the decisive goal when West came forward on the right and sent over a deep cross that was met by the head of Welford and as the ball came back across goal, Freeman found the net with a diving header.

Stuart West is inches away from connecting at the far post
Shaun Welford heads across goal
Ricky Freeman dives in
The replacement goalkeeper, Tom Davey, is beaten

Shortly afterwards Welford pulled up, appearing to be feeling his knee injury once more, to the amusement of a few unsympathetic home supporters, but he was able to continue until the end of the game. Tunbridge Wells were now having a good deal of possession in midfield and won a couple of corners, but Dan Eason was well protected by his defence. Burchell became the third player to be cautioned for one foul too many and two more late corners saw the ball going across the Whitstable goalmouth several times, but there was just one shot that was blocked by a defender in front of Eason at the near post. After the home side had made their final substitution on 90 minutes, Freeman chased a ball into the right corner, went around the goalkeeper who had come to meet him and rolled in a shot from a very narrow angle that hit the outside of the post. The final whistle sounded with no further alarms and Whitstable had secured a valuable three points. They had created the better chances in a generally poor game, but for long periods of the second half it was hard to see where a goal was coming from.

The Whitstable defence ensured Dan Eason had an easy afternoon
Charlie Smith on his 150th Whitstable appearance

The next game for Whitstable is at home to league newcomers Rusthall on Tuesday evening and checks will need to be made on the fitness of several players.

Tunbridge Wells Whitstable
5 Attempts 10
1 On Target 4
7 Corners 3
1 Offside 5
14 Free Kicks Won 18

Tunbridge Wells
Michal Czanner (Rhys Bartlett 34), Keiron Tarbie, Alfie Hall, Tom Davey, Perry Spackman (c), John Shea, Alex Kendal (Josh Biddlecombe 90), Steven Ita, Jon Pilbeam, Jack Harris (Joe Nwoko 71), Tom Lawrence.
Subs (unused): Maxim Carbune, Jake Hampson.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Rob Gillman (Craig Cloke 8), Stuart West, Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, James Morrish (c), Danny Williams (Ricky Freeman 46), Charlie Smith (Shaun Welford 77), Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Jack West, Dean Ruddy.
Goal: Ricky Freeman 79
Yellow cards: Ricky Freeman 54, Charlie Smith 68, Josh Burchell 87.

Attendance: 171
Referee: Joe Kasper
Assistants: Steve Roots & Stephen Luke


Date Time League Season
Sat 18 Nov 2017 3:00 pm SCEFL1718 2017-2018


Culverden Stadium
59 Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells TN4 9SG, UK


Club1st Half2nd HalfGoals
Tunbridge Wells000
Whitstable Town011