First Half Goals Secure Win

SCEFL Premier Division
Wednesday April 4 2018 19.45

Whitstable earned another important win at the Croydon Sports Arena, thanks to a good first half performance followed by a gritty defensive display after the break, as Croydon tried to fight back. Stuart West headed in from a corner and Danny Williams beat Lochlan Greenwood at the second attempt following a great Josh Burchell cross to give Whitstable a two goal cushion at the break. The Trams had a fair bit of possession in the first 45 minutes, but spent most of the time in their own half and Whitstable might have had a third on the stroke of half time, but Williams was taken out by the Croydon goalkeeper outside the box as he was about to shoot. In the second half, Croydon played their football further up the pitch and caused the Whitstable defence more problems. Ashley-Paul Robinson hit the post from a free kick and Dan Eason made a couple of good saves, but Whitstable, who rested several players ahead of the cup final at the weekend, hung on to claim all three points.

With the Kent Senior Trophy Final up next, Whitstable manager Scott Porter took the opportunity to rotate his squad. James Morrish, Ricky Freeman and Shaun Welford dropped to the bench and Rob Gillman was feeling unwell, so Charlie Smith started up front with Danny Williams. Croydon were occupying sixth spot in the table and this was the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. Whitstable were knocked out of the FA Cup back in August, but gained revenge with two wins in the space of a few days in January in the SCEFL Challenge Cup and the reverse league fixture.

Whitstable had the ball in the net in the first few minutes when a high cross by Burchell was fumbled by Greenwood and nodded in by John Walker, but the whistle had already blown for a foul on the goalkeeper. Whitstable made an early change on 16 minutes when Walker was substituted, as a precaution, after collecting a knock on the leg. Ricky Freeman came off the bench and Louis Sprosen dropped into the right wing back position, with Smith taking his place in midfield. There was little goal threat from either side in the first 25 minutes. Daniel Hector and Robinson both sent shots well over the top for Croydon, who also had Hector booked for a poor tackle on Macauley Murray. Croydon were determined to play their way out from the back and it almost got them into trouble on several occasions. A poor clearance went straight to Freeman and he shot from outside the box towards the bottom left hand corner as Greenwood tried to get across to save. The ball went just wide for a goal kick, although Whitstable felt the goalkeeper had got a touch. Smith then struck a low free kick from 25 yards out towards the same corner and Greenwood pushed the ball around the post for a corner kick. The ball was curled in by Murray and West rose between two defenders to head the ball down and up into the corner of the goal to give Whitstable the lead.

Charlie Smith takes a free kick
Lochlan Greenwood gets across to save
Stuart West (obscured) heads the ball towards goal
The ball bounces into the corner of the net to open the scoring

Murray collected a loose ball in midfield and his low shot from distance was safely gathered by Greenwood, who then caught a header by Williams as Whitstable pressed for a second goal. It came in the 40th minute when some clever play on the left touchline by Freeman gave Burchell the chance to send over a perfect cross for Williams. His first effort was well blocked by Greenwood, but the ball came straight back to the Whitstable striker, who this time made no mistake from inside the goal area.

Danny Williams sees his first attempt saved
He is first to the rebound
It’s 2-0

The Whitstable defence had barely been tested, although Lauris Chin did win a free kick just outside the penalty area on 42 minutes, but Robinson shot low through the crowd straight at Eason. Whitstable would have been happy going in at half time 2-0 ahead, but it might have been better as Williams won the ball and was about to aim for the unguarded net when Greenwood knocked him over 25 yards from goal. The Croydon goalkeeper was shown a yellow card, presumably being spared a sending off because there were a couple of defenders not too far away. Smith struck the resulting free kick wide.

Williams is knocked over by the Croydon goalkeeper as he is about to shoot

After the break, an early Whitstable corner was just touched away from the waiting heads by the goalkeeper, but Croydon were more positive in the second half, with the visitors seemingly happy to protect their lead. A free kick was worked through to Hector, whose shot was deflected past the post for a corner. Smith took another Whitstable free kick, but could only hit the wall and his follow up attempt was also blocked. Croydon were beginning to look more of a threat and Chin went over after a run into the box, but the referee ignored the penalty appeals and then had a few words with the home bench. The lively Hector made another good run, but his shot was again deflected behind. In a rare Whitstable attack, Freeman was brought down by Nathan Campbell, who escaped with a lecture, before the free kick was eventually scrambled clear. Chris Saunders was booked for conceding a free kick about 25 yards out and Robinson smacked the ball against the right hand post with Eason beaten. Then Chin cut in from the left and his firm strike was beaten away by the Whitstable goalkeeper. Croydon were now looking the more likely side, although Freeman was hauled back on the halfway line as he tried to get away in one break.

Ricky Freeman is pulled back as he tries to break clear

There were further bookings and substitutions for both teams as the game became scrappier. Chin worked himself another opening, but took too long and was closed down and then another Robinson free kick was comfortably claimed by Eason. A short corner was laid back to Hector, who sent a snap shot just past the post. A deep cross by Sprosen at the other end was fumbled behind for a corner by Greenwood to relieve some of the pressure and when a final Robinson free kick was cleared in added time the points were safe.

Dan Eason saves an Ashley-Paul Robinson free kick

Whitstable will be happy to have returned home from a tricky midweek away game with a vital win, especially as some attention was on the forthcoming cup final against Sheppey United, whose management team were amongst the 74 crowd. It extends the unbeaten run to 18 games, with this being the 12th clean sheet of that sequence. They are now level on points with second placed Crowborough, whom they visit next Thursday.

Croydon Whitstable
11 Attempts 10
4 On Target 6
7 Corners 3
4 Offside 3
23 Free Kicks Won 10

Lochlan Greenwood, Bradley Wilson, Novell Bruce, Nathan Campbell (c), Nick Wilson (Andy Mott 81), Jamie McGeoghegan, Raekwon Bailey-Allen (Gus Lukuni 77), Bryan Akongo, Lauris Chin, Daniel Hector, Ashley-Paul Robinson.,
Subs (unused): Otitololuwa Ojo, Daniel Pepple, Martin Sontan.
Yellow cards: Daniel Hector 19, Raekwon Bailey-Allen 74, Lochlan Greenwood 45+2.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker (Ricky Freeman 16), Josh Burchell, Teddy Nelson, Stuart West, Tom Bryant (c), Chris Saunders (Owen Fitt 88), Louis Sprosen, Danny Williams, Charlie Smith, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Shaun Welford, James Morrish, Dean Ruddy.
Goals: Stuart West 29, Danny Williams 40.
Yellow cards: Chris Saunders 69, Danny Williams 80, Josh Burchell 90+1.

Attendance: 74
Referee: Paul Agboola
Assistants: Abdulaziz Olol & Sam Hayon