Late Penalty Rescues A Point

WHITSTABLE TOWN 1 EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN 1
Bostik League South East
Saturday January 5 2019 15.00

A headed goal by Greg Cundle following a long throw put Whitstable behind in the opening minutes for the second consecutive game. East Grinstead had the better of the first half and Whitstable had Dan Eason to thank for keeping his team in the game at the break. Whitstable did improve in the second half, without creating many clear cut chances, as East Grinstead defended well against a number of corners and long throws into their box. The pressure finally told in the closing minutes, when Charlie Smith was brought down unnecessarily in the box following a corner and Chris Elliott tucked away the penalty. Either team could have found a winner in stoppage time, as Whitstable threw bodies into the box, but the visitors stood firm and went close themselves when the ball struck the bar and rebounded to safety as Whitstable struggled to clear a free kick.

East Grinstead arrived at the Belmont just one place and one point behind Whitstable in the league table, with both teams having played 18 games. The visitors were in fact the only team that Whitstable had not yet played in the league this season. Ricky Freeman returned up front for Whitstable alongside Charlie Smith, with both Stephen Smith and Danny Williams unavailable. Skipper James Morrish was serving the first of a two game ban, whilst John Walker remained sidelined. East Grinstead had recently raced into a 4-0 lead after 24 minutes on their way to a 5-2 win at Herne Bay, the week after Whitstable had lost heavily to their local rivals. Former Gillingham striker Greg Cundle, in good goal scoring form, was partnered by Marcus Elliott, a new loan signing from Lewes.

The game started with a soon familiar sight, as Chris Elliott launched a long throw into the East Grinstead penalty area that caused a few problems before being cleared to Louis Sprosen, who hooked the ball wide. It was at the other end though, that a throw in led to the opening goal in the 4th minute. Jack Bray sent the ball to the near post, where it was flicked on by Mitchell Chapman and Cundle headed it past Eason from close range. It nearly got worse for Whitstable just afterwards when a cross from the left by Karn Miller-Neave was met by Marcus Elliott, but Eason managed to block on the line and the resulting corner fell to Dean Gunner, who shot wide. Whitstable did create an opening in the 11th minute, when Tom Bryant picked out Freeman with a ball into the box, but he could only flick the ball into the hands of Sheikh Ceesay. The next throw in by Chris Elliott was cleared as far as Sprosen, whose cross was headed wide by Smith. Chris Elliott then curled a free kick from the right towards the far corner, but it was caught by Ceesay. The home defence was in trouble again when Marcus Elliott ran on to a long ball and forced Eason into another save low to his right. Smith and Freeman then made a promising break, but Leo Mazzone got back to prevent Smith finding his colleague.

Dan Eason somehow keeps out this close range effort by Marcus Elliott

East Grinstead continued to look dangerous and in the 25th minute, Mazzone rose to glance a free kick towards goal, but Eason dived to his left to make a good save. They then almost scored from a well worked corner in the 33rd minute, when the ball was played across the 18 yard line and after a couple of players stepped over it, Miller-Neave lifted his shot over the bar. An injured Mazzone then had to be replaced by Jordan Johnson, before another two long throws by Whitstable came to nothing. Just before the break, Cundle and Bray both went close, without working Eason, with shots from the edge of the box. Sprosen was another injury victim and had to be substituted on 45 minutes, with Sam Welch coming on. Whitstable were probably pleased to hear the half time whistle blow, with just the one goal deficit.

Dan Eason saves well from Leo Mazzone’s glancing header
One of many long throws by Chris Elliott

Soon after the restart, Michael Jenner swung in a free kick and Bryant rose highest, but his header was saved by Ceesay, who carried the ball behind for the first of seven second half Whitstable corners. Chris Elliott delivered several more long throws into the box and Freeman, Rob Gillman and Smith each had goal attempts, with Gillman seeing his header deflected over the bar by Ryan Johnson and Miller-Neave heading Smith’s effort off the line. The first yellow card of the afternoon was shown to Dan Pearse on the hour mark and Eason saved from Bray, before Jenner also saw yellow. Whitstable were spending more time in the East Grinstead half and during a spell of pressure, Ceesay hit a clearance straight to Smith, but he lost his footing at the crucial moment.

Tom Bryant’s header is saved at the near post
Charlie Smith heads towards goal
Karn Miller-Neave on the line heads the ball away
Rob Gillman’s header is deflected over by Ryan Johnson

Smith then had another shot blocked and Whitstable introduced Tom Walmsley and James Trueman. When Ceesay rose above the crowd to punch away another home corner, it seemed as though there would be no way through, but Smith collected the ball and was clumsily brought down as he was moving away from goal and Whitstable had a penalty in the 88th minute. Chris Elliott stepped up and found the bottom right corner, just out of the reach of the diving goalkeeper. Whitstable pushed forward looking for an unlikely winner, until after a bit of a scramble, Pearse broke away, but shot straight at Eason. In the final minute of stoppage time, an East Grinstead free kick was headed on by Drew Cooney and Gillman tried to clear, but the ball looped over Eason and struck the bar before bouncing away for a corner that was safely cleared and the game finished 1-1.

Sheikh Ceesay pushes another corner away from goal
Chris Elliott takes the penalty
The ball beats the dive and it’s 1-1
East Grinstead survive some late pressure as Whitstable try for a winner
The frame of the goal saves Whitstable in added time

Whitstable will take the point and move on to two challenging away games at Ashford and AFC Hornchurch, in the Velocity Trophy quarter final. Finally, a special mention for Tom Bryant, who had an excellent game at the back whilst deputising as captain, on what was his 100th appearance for Whitstable.

Whitstable East Grinstead
10 Attempts 12
5 On Target 7
9 Corners 5
2 Offside 1
11 Free Kicks Won 12

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Stuart West, Chris Elliott, Michael Jenner, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant (c), Chris Saunders (James Trueman 83), Louis Sprosen (Sam Welch 45), Ricky Freeman (Tom Walmsley 79), Charlie Smith, Jordan Wright.
Subs (unused): Harry Brown, Teddy Nelson.
Goal: Chris Elliott pen 88
Yellow cards: Michael Jenner 66, Tom Bryant 78.

East Grinstead Town
Sheikh Ceesay, Dean Gunner, Karn Miller-Neave, Dan Pearse, Drew Cooney (c), Ryan Johnson, Leo Mazzone (Jordan Johnson 39), Mitchell Chapman, Marcus Elliott, Greg Cundle, Jack Bray.
Subs (unused): Ollie Boulding, George Landais, Abodje Yao, Matt Day.
Goal: Greg Cundle 4
Yellow card: Dan Pearse 61

Attendance: 145
Referee: Kirsty Dowle
Assistants: Joe Kasper & Chris Price