Freeman Goal Wins Tight Match

WHITSTABLE TOWN 1 CORINTHIAN 0
SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday February 24 2018 15.00

Whitstable edged closer to the top of the table with a narrow win over Corinthian in a game of few chances at a bitterly cold Belmont Ground, with a strong wind and a tricky surface making things difficult for both teams. Visiting goalkeeper Aiden Prall had to make three saves in the first half, the hardest being a Craig Cloke free kick that he got down well to gather low to his right. The best opportunity before the interval however fell to Luke Tanner, but the Corinthian number eleven shot wide from close range with only Dan Eason to beat. Substitute Rob Gillman replaced the injured Chris Saunders at half time, but only lasted a few minutes before suffering a nasty cut to his head from a high boot and Cloke also limped off later in the half. There were few moments of quality to warm the crowd, but Ricky Freeman scored the only goal in the 74th minute after Shaun Welford had caused problems from a free kick. Just a minute later, Eason had to pull off an important save, turning a fierce shot from Tanner around the post. That was the only effort on target that Corinthian managed, despite having some spells of pressure and although they were far from their best, Whitstable hung on to claim the points.

Josh Burchell was unavailable this week, so Louis Sprosen started for Whitstable at left wing back, but otherwise it was a familiar looking line up for the home side, as they looked to continue their unbeaten run that stretched back to mid-December. This was the third meeting of the season between these teams, with the two previous matches ending in 5-0 Whitstable victories and Danny Williams had scored a hat trick in both. Corinthian had won at Glebe in their latest fixture to end a four game losing streak and their team contained three former Oysters – Sam Bewick, Sam Groombridge and Michael Hurcomb.

There was some early action in the home penalty area, when John Walker sliced an attempted clearance towards his own goal, but the defence eventually cleared the ball up field. It was certainly not the only miskick of the afternoon with the strong wind and, in the second half especially, the soft pitch making things difficult for the players unless they took extra time to bring the ball under control. At the other end James Morrish felt he was fouled as he tried to get on the end of a good cross by Williams, but the officials saw nothing wrong. Williams was excellent in the first half, with his pace and control causing numerous problems for the Corinthian defence and he was taken out by Groombridge in the 8th minute just outside the penalty area. Cloke took the free kick and struck it low towards the bottom left corner of the goal, but Prall was able to get across to make the save.

Craig Cloke takes a free kick
Aiden Prall saves the free kick

Sprosen met a Freeman cross on the half volley, but it was a straightforward stop for Prall and then a good turn and forward run by Williams ended as he shot wide of the post. There were a few pushes and minor fouls that were ignored, as the referee decided to let the game continue with few stoppages and the next chance came in the 14th minute, when a long clearance bounced dangerously and just eluded two Whitstable players, who were both unable to divert the ball towards goal. The visitors then had a great chance to take the lead when a corner was taken short and the ball worked in from the right. It was only partially cleared and Bewick sent it back into the box where it fell to an unmarked Tanner on the six yard line, but he dragged his left footed shot wide of the right hand post when it looked easier to score. Just afterwards a good run by Bewick ended when he was crowded out by the home defence. Macauley Murray sent a dangerous free kick across the goal without anyone being able to get a touch, after Williams was pushed over on the right edge of the box and then Cloke felt he was impeded as he tried an acrobatic effort from another cross, but the referee did not agree.

Louis Sprosen tries a shot

As the half hour mark approached, Tom Bryant made a timely clearance after a bit of a mix up in the home defence. Freeman turned and shot over from 20 yards, then a Murray shot was deflected towards goal, but was easily gathered by Prall. On 36 minutes Saunders was injured in a challenge on the halfway line, but carried on until the break. After a spell of pressure by the visitors, a Whitstable free kick by Murray from his own half was headed over the bar by Williams. In the last minutes of the half, Bewick went over in the box after a surging run, but his penalty appeals were waved away and then Alexander Jack Billings found the side netting from an acute angle.

Saunders was unable to return after he break, so Gillman came on to play at the back with Stuart West moving into midfield. A few minutes into the half however, he was kicked in the head by Hurcomb as he went for a header in the middle of the pitch. The dangerously high kick sparked a few arguments amongst the other players before Gillman was helped from the pitch, to be replaced by Welford, and Hurcomb escaped with a yellow card. The unfortunate Whitstable player later returned from the local medical centre with a number of stitches in his forehead. When the free kick was eventually taken, the ball fell to Freeman whose shot flew over the bar. Freeman was involved again when he combined with Morrish to create an opening for Walker, but his shot was saved by Prall.

The unfortunate Rob Gillman suffers a nasty head wound

Cloke was robbed as he tried to bring the ball forward, but Tanner was unable to hit the target. A good piece of football down the right by Walker enabled him to deliver a cross that was volleyed over by Welford. Corinthian had a promising few minutes, pushing Whitstable back, but without being able to test Eason. When the home side did regain some control, Welford challenged Prall for a Bryant cross and the ball dropped to West whose shot struck a defender and went behind for a corner.

Shaun Welford challenges for a high ball

Bewick was booked for kicking the ball away on 70 minutes and then Whitstable lost their third player to injury, when Cloke had to be replaced by Owen Fitt. A free kick led to the decisive goal as Welford jumped in a crowd of players and the ball fell invitingly for Freeman, who swept it into the far corner from close range. As in the previous game, Whitstable looked vulnerable immediately after taking the lead, but this time Eason was equal to a shot by Tanner and turned it round the post. Hurcomb next shot high and wide after the ball had not been properly cleared.

Ricky Freeman scores the winner
The ball finds the far corner
Goal celebrations
Dan Eason prevents an equaliser

Corinthian made two substitutions, with a booking for Sprosen for dissent sandwiched in between. The remaining minutes passed with little quality, as the enforced changes and increasingly difficult conditions both played a part. Williams made one good run down the left to win a corner that Whitstable declined to send into the box and substitute Donvieve Jones was cautioned for a double foul on Sprosen as he raced down the right. The referee called a halt after three additional minutes as Whitstable secured another win. It is now 8 wins and 3 draws in the last 11 games and with other results helping, Whitstable moved up to third place, 5 points behind the leaders Sevenoaks.

Whitstable Corinthian
12 Attempts 7
6 On Target 1
3 Corners 2
1 Offside 2
10 Free Kicks Won 7

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Louis Sprosen, Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c) (Owen Fitt 73), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders (Rob Gillman 46, Shaun Welford 52), James Morrish, Ricky Freeman, Danny Williams, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Brendon Cass, Dean Ruddy.
Goal: Ricky Freeman 74
Yellow card: Louis Sprosen 78

Corinthian
Aiden Prall, Jordan Campbell, Alexander Jack Billings, Jack Bath (c), Jardel Bundu-Kamara, Sam Groombridge, Malik Ouani, Sam Bewick (Donvieve Jones 77), Michael Hurcomb, Oscar Housego, Luke Tanner (Conor Johnson 81).
Sub (unused): Aaron Guard
Yellow cards: Michael Hurcomb 51, Sam Bewick 70, Donvieve Jones 90.

Attendance: 147
Referee: Joshua Howard
Assistants: Paul Franks & Simon Jackson