Late Morrish Goal Beats Crows

SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday December 23 2017 15.00

Whitstable provided some Christmas cheer for their supporters with a good performance in this important league fixture against second placed Crowborough Athletic. The visitors never really got going as a hard working Whitstable team looked sharper and more determined throughout. In the first half, Danny Williams and Chris Saunders were denied by goalkeeper James Shaw, who also dealt well with several good crosses into the box. Crowborough were unfortunate to lose two players to head injuries, but rarely threatened and Dan Eason really had only one save to make just after the break. Shaw made another good double block, before James Morrish eventually got the goal that Whitstable deserved in the 84th minute, with a good finish from the edge of the box when the ball fell nicely into his path after Crowborough had failed to clear. The referee did not endear himself to either team with some of his decisions and the Crowborough manager was dismissed towards the end of the game.

Following the defeat against a useful Cray Valley team in the previous game, this was an important fixture for Whitstable against a team they failed to take any points from last season. They were still without injured striker Shaun Welford and Stuart West was serving a one game ban, but Williams returned. Crowborough were missing a couple of regular starters up front, with Zac Attwood and Ross Treleaven not in the squad.

The opening period was relatively quiet with both teams having a couple of attempts that failed to test the goalkeepers and it soon became apparent that the referee was not going to stop play unless absolutely necessary, with a couple of seemingly obvious fouls being ignored, to the displeasure of the home supporters initially. A miscued back pass put the Crowborough keeper Shaw in a spot of bother as he had to deal with a succession of challenges whilst trying to get the gather the ball in the air, until he was awarded a free kick. Morrish became the first name in the notebook on 17 minutes for a midfield challenge on Jack Walder, before Crowborough thought they had won a corner as the ball was headed behind by the home defence, only for a goal kick to be given. The game was then halted when Sam Carrington picked up a head injury following an aerial challenge and it was several minutes before the game was restarted with a dropped ball. The Crowborough player was however unable to return and was replaced by Lewis Unwin. The first attempt on goal came in the 31st minute, when Williams headed a John Walker cross at Shaw and just afterwards a good turn and shot by Charlie Smith saw the ball rebound to Williams, but Shaw was able to save his shot.

Tom Bryant gets his head to an early corner
Danny Williams challenges James Shaw
Shaw blocks a shot by Williams

Walker and Smith combined to win a corner on the right and the delivery by Josh Burchell was punched out by Shaw and as the ball was played back into the box, Saunders helped it towards goal where it was headed out for another corner. Walker sent over a couple of testing crosses, with one going just over the bar and the other had to be tipped over by Shaw.

The Crowborough keeper gets a touch to a John Walker cross

As the interval approached, home skipper Craig Cloke was booked for dissent and then Crowborough defender Jack Turner was injured in a challenge with Smith. It was also a head injury and resulted in him being unable to return for the second half. The teams went into the break with the score still goalless, although Whitstable had created the better of the limited chances.

Connor Pring came on at the restart in place of Turner and it was the visitors who began on the attack. Tom Pearson had a low shot turned around the near post by Eason to earn Crowborough their first corner. Walder sent a shot wide before Jason Barton went down with another head injury, although he was able to continue after treatment, and then Tom Phipp shot wide whist the home team appealed in vain for a handball. At the other end a Macauley Murray corner was partially cleared to the edge of the box and as the ball was fired back towards the goal, Shaw made a good block down by the post and then recovered quickly to save as several home players looked to follow up.

The goalkeeper denies Whitstable again

On 59 minutes a good break by Williams created a chance for Saunders, but his shot was deflected for a corner that was headed over at the back post by Tom Bryant. Phipp tried another shot for Crowborough, but it was Whitstable who looked the more likely to find a way through. Walker did well to retrieve a deep cross by Smith and send the ball dangerously back across goal, but there was nobody there to apply the finish. After Phipp had struck a Crowborough free kick over the bar from distance, Murray found Smith from a Whitstable free kick, but he was unable to hit the target. Walker then swung over a great cross from the right that just eluded everyone once again. A Smith tackle was adjudged worthy of a yellow card on 75 minutes and there were a few shouts for a handball as another Murray corner was curled into the box.

Williams tries a diving header

Both teams made a change in the 83rd minute, with Ricky Freeman coming on for Whitstable in place of Williams and recent signing Dion Macfoy-Johnston replacing a limping Pearson for Crowborough. The decisive moment arrived in the next minute, when Crowborough played the ball riskily across the field from the right and it was picked up by Morrish, who took it forward before beating Shaw with a good finish into the bottom right hand corner to the delight of the increasingly vocal home support.

James Morrish strikes the winning goal

Crowborough substitute Macfoy-Johnston was soon in the book for a foul on Burchell and his manager was then sent off by the referee. A good turn and shot by Freeman was saved by Shaw and then in added time Freeman looked to have broken clear, only to be brought down by James White, but play was allowed to continue and the final whistle followed soon afterwards.

Ricky Freeman is stopped by James White

Whitstable were the better team on the day and the result keeps them in touch at the top of the table, but Crowborough have a squad that will certainly be challenging for a top two finish until the end of the season. The next Whitstable game is another tough one, away at Sheppey United on Saturday. In the meantime Whitstable Town Football Club wishes all the players, management and supporters a Happy Christmas.

Whitstable Crowborough
14 Attempts 8
8 On Target 2
7 Corners 2
1 Offside 3
6 Free Kicks Won 15

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Rob Gillman, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, James Morrish, Danny Williams (Ricky Freeman 83), Charlie Smith, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Teddy Nelson, Louis Sprosen, Owen Fitt, Ryan Birch.
Goal: James Morrish 84
Yellow cards: James Morrish 17, Craig Cloke 41, Charlie Smith 75.

Crowborough Athletic
James Shaw, Dan Tear, Jason Barton, James White, Jack Turner (Connor Pring 46), Jack Wilder, Henry Muggeridge (c), Tom Phipp, Sam Carrington (Lewis Unwin 28), Tom Pearson (Dion Macfoy-Johnston 83), Sam Crabb.
Subs (unused): Tom Boddy, Marcus Goldsmith.
Yellow card: Dion Macfoy-Johnston 85

Attendance: 159
Referee: Paul Greenfield
Assistants: Rob Columb & Kieran Cox