SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday March 10 2018 15.00

Whitstable managed to battle back to keep their long unbeaten run going after a sluggish start against Tunbridge Wells on a heavy pitch at the Belmont. The team had started really well in the previous match against Deal Town, but this was the complete opposite as Tunbridge Wells dominated the opening 25 minutes with the home side struggling to get going. Jack Harris was allowed far too much space and shot through a crowded area into the bottom left hand corner to give the visitors an early goal. Dan Eason had to make a couple of saves to prevent Tunbridge Wells extending their lead and then Whitstable were reduced to ten men on 20 minutes when Charlie Smith was sent off for a poor challenge on Jon Pilbeam. Eason tipped a fierce Josh Biddlecombe strike over the bar shortly afterwards, but then Whitstable reorganised and the ten men worked extremely hard to turn things around. Ricky Freeman ran on to a long pass that was missed by the last defender and took the ball around Cameron Hall to equalise. Danny Williams, Josh Burchell and Freeman each had chances to add a second before the break. Whitstable generally had the better of the second half, with Teddy Nelson and Williams both going close, before Stuart West had a header cleared off the line and late effort ruled out for offside. The best opportunity for the visitors fell to Tommy Lawrence, but he shot over the bar. The last few minutes were mainly notable for a flurry of yellow cards and a draw was probably a fair result in the end.

James Morrish and Rob Gillman returned to the squad, but Craig Cloke and Chris Saunders were still ruled out through injury. Morrish took over as captain, whilst Teddy Nelson and Charlie Smith kept their places in the starting eleven after good performances in the midweek cup success against Deal. Tunbridge Wells, who also made it through to the last four of the league challenge cup on Tuesday with a 2-1 win against Cray Valley, came into the game in better form than their league position would suggest and had lost only one of their last six games. The three previous games between the two sides had been tight affairs, with a 1-0 win each at the Culverden Stadium and a 1-1 draw at the Belmont.

Tunbridge Wells started on the front foot and created most of the early chances. They took the lead in the 6th minute as the home defence retreated, allowing Harris the opportunity to bring the ball forward and shoot low into the left corner from just outside the box, with Eason unable to get across as the ball passed through a congested area. Williams was lectured by the referee for pulling back Alexx Kendall as he tried to break and a few minutes later it was Kendall who forced Eason into a save at the near post after a good run by Harris.

Dan Eason makes an early save from Alexx Kendall

Kendall continued to cause problems by getting forward down the right and on 16 minutes his fierce cross was pushed up into the air by Eason, who was then fouled as he tried to gather the ball at the second attempt. Whitstable had a rare opportunity when Macauley Murray struck a free kick into the wall, but they were to suffer a further blow when an unwise tackle by Smith on Pilbeam was deemed worthy of a straight red card by the referee and following a needless bout of pushing and shoving, Biddlecombe was shown a yellow card. After a John Walker cross had whistled past the Tunbridge Wells far post, a poor Whitstable clearance went straight to Biddlecombe and his shot was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Eason. The corner that followed led to a couple more half chances, but Whitstable eventually managed to clear the ball.

The ten men in red gradually began to work their way back into the game and a good Freeman cross just lacked a final touch, then Tom Bryant found Williams on the right and his cross was headed away from a waiting Freeman by Kendall, although the officials decided it should be a goal kick to the annoyance of the home crowd. Just after Burchell had picked up a booking, the Tunbridge Wells defence failed to cut out the ball on the halfway line, leaving Freeman a clear run at goal and he went past the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home to make it 1-1.

Ricky Freeman is just beaten to the ball at the far post, although a goal kick was given
Ricky Freeman takes the ball past Cameron Hall
The ball goes over the line and the scores are level

Biddlecombe curled a shot wide, Williams was cautioned and then Jarred Trespaderne joined him in the book after catching Bryant in the head with a raised boot. As half time approached, Williams hooked a shot over the bar, then pulled the ball back for Burchell whose shot was blocked and when the ball came out to Freeman, his shot was deflected just over to prevent Whitstable going into the break with a lead.

Josh Burchell has a shot blocked
This effort by Ricky Freeman is deflected just over for a corner

The visitors had to make an early change in the second half, when the injured Drew Crush limped off. Nelson got his head to a Murray corner, only to see the ball go agonisingly wide of the far post. A spell of Whitstable pressure led to another attempt by Williams, but his shot from 20 yards was just too high. On the hour mark, Pilbeam tried a shot from distance at the other end, but failed to find the target. Another Murray corner was met by Stuart West, but his header was cleared off the line by Kendall.

Teddy Nelson glances a header just wide of the far post
A header by Stuart West is cleared off the line by Alexx Kendall

Whitstable brought on Louis Sprosen and Shaun Welford, with Tunbridge Wells introducing Lawrence, who almost made an immediate impact when the ball was played across to him from the left, but he failed to keep his shot down and it sailed over the bar. Both teams made their final changes with Rob Gillman replacing Nelson, who had played a full academy game the previous day, and Franco Mici coming off the Tunbridge Wells bench.

Whitstable won a series of late free kicks as they drove forward in search of a winner and Tunbridge Wells collected four more yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes, as almost every challenge seemed to result in a caution. West also picked up a booking for sharing his thoughts with the officials. In the 84th minute, a Murray free kick was headed back across goal by Bryant for West to apply the finish, but the assistant had flagged for offside against Bryant. Another free kick bobbled around in the area before Bryant shot over the bar. The final free kick however was at the other end, but a Mici shot from 25 yards was deflected harmlessly to Eason.

Tom Bryant heads the ball back across goal, but is flagged offside
Stuart West puts the ball in the net, but the effort is ruled out
Scott Porter receives his third Manager of the Month award from Ray Brown after the match

In the end, it was a hard fought point for both teams, with Whitstable showing a lot of heart and determination to battle back with ten men from a poor start, although it was ultimately two points dropped in their challenge at the top of the table. Tunbridge Wells celebrated at the end and deserved something from the game for their first half performance. Scott Porter was presented with the February Manager of the Month award after the final whistle and Whitstable can now look forward to another big game on Tuesday at Crowborough.

Whitstable Tun Wells
8 Attempts 7
4 On Target 4
4 Corners 6
2 Offside 0
18 Free Kicks Won 14

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell (Louis Sprosen 66), Stuart West, Teddy Nelson (Rob Gillman 80), Tom Bryant, Charlie Smith, James Morrish (c), Ricky Freeman (Shaun Welford 73), Danny Williams, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Owen Fitt, Dean Ruddy.
Goal: Ricky Freeman 36
Yellow cards: Josh Burchell 36, Danny Williams 39, Stuart West 83.
Red card: Charlie Smith 20

Tunbridge Wells
Cameron Hall, Alexx Kendall, Alfie Hall, Drew Crush (Ollie Cooke 49), Jake Hampson, Jon Shea, Jon Pilbeam, Tom Davey (c), Jarred Trespaderne (Franco Mici 79), Jack Harris, Josh Biddlecombe (Tommy Lawrence 73).
Subs (unused): Jack Hyslop, Michal Czanner.
Goal: Jack Harris 6
Yellow cards: Josh Biddlecombe 22, Jarred Trespaderne 41, Jack Harris 80, Ollie Cooke 83, Alfie Hall 86, Jon Shea 89.

Attendance: 140
Referee: Jamie Eacott
Assistants: Kieran Stoneham & Matt Williams


Date Time League Season
Sat 10 Mar 2018 3:00 pm SCEFL1718 2017-2018


The Belmont Ground
58 Grimshill Rd, Whitstable CT5 4LN, UK


Club1st Half2nd HalfGoals
Whitstable Town101
Tunbridge Wells101