Late Smith Goal Earns Point

CANTERBURY CITY 2 WHITSTABLE TOWN 2
SCEFL Premier Division
Wednesday April 18 2018 19.45

A great overhead kick by Charlie Smith in the closing minutes rescued a point for Whitstable after a determined Canterbury City had threatened to end their long unbeaten record. A large number of travelling supporters, who helped Canterbury to their highest attendance of the season, saw their team start slowly after a punishing schedule of games. In a physical game of few chances, Canterbury took an early lead with their best move of the evening when Jordan Casey fired the ball past Dan Eason, who just managed to deflect a Wayne Wilson free kick on to the bar a few minutes later. Whitstable gradually got into the game and Shaun Welford equalised from the penalty spot after he was fouled in the box. A dreadful tackle by Jamie Maxted sparked an angry confrontation just before the break, as things threatened to boil over. Whitstable put Canterbury under pressure for most of the second half without creating many clear chances, as former Oysterman Laurence Harvey stood firm at the back, although Tom Bryant hit the post following a free kick. It was the home team however that took the lead again when a free kick eventually fell to Wilson and he flicked the ball over Dan Eason and just under the bar. Louis Sprosen went close to an equaliser before Smith had the final say to produce probably a fair result on the night.

Dan Eason, John Walker, Tom Bryant and Shaun Welford returned to the Whitstable team, having missed the game against Rochester 48 hours earlier. Danny Williams was still suspended and Rob Gillman was away. Canterbury had several ex Whitstable players in their team, including former manager Wayne Wilson, whilst striker Jordan Casey was making his first appearance for several months.

Canterbury had the better of the first 25 minutes, as Whitstable started poorly and it looked as though the number of recent games was perhaps catching up with the players. There were no real chances in the opening stages, but Wilson sent a free kick over the bar from 30 yards. In the 12th minute, Canterbury opened the scoring with a neat piece of play and Luke Griffiths slipped the ball through for Casey to shoot low past Eason.

Dan Eason is beaten as Canterbury take the lead

There was almost an instant response, as Welford helped the ball on for Freeman and with Delo off his line, the striker chipped the ball over him and the last defender, but it went over the unguarded net. Stuart West then headed a Macauley Murray free kick right across goal, but it went just past the far post with no other Whitstable player close enough to get a touch. Canterbury were still causing problems at the other end and on 22 minutes, Wilson swung over another long dipping free kick from the left and Eason just managed to get a touch on the ball to push it on to the bar. Casey went close again, but shot wide and then Wilson had an effort saved by Eason low down, just inside the post.

Ricky Freeman sees his lob go over the bar
Dan Eason touches a Wayne Wilson free kick on to the bar

Whitstable were slowly improving and after a good move down the right, Chris Saunders shot wide when under pressure from the last defender. Josh Burchell delivered another cross and Welford challenged for the ball and then chased after it as it ran away to the left, where he was brought down and the referee gave a penalty. Welford took it himself, firing the ball into the bottom left hand corner just out of reach of the diving Delo and Whitstable were back on terms after 33 minutes. There was little further action of note for the remainder of the half until the 42nd minute when Maxted jumped into a dangerous challenge on Murray right in front of the away bench. Following the inevitable bout of pushing and shoving that followed as Murray received treatment, the referee showed the Canterbury left back a yellow card, when many felt it should have been a straight red. The teams went in at half time with the scores level, with everything to play for after the break.

Shaun Welford was brought down for the Whitstable penalty
Welford takes the spot kick
Jack Delo is beaten in the bottom corner
The players discuss the foul by Jamie Maxted on Macauley Murray

The visitors started better in the second half and several long throws by Welford gave Canterbury some defending to do in the first few minutes, with Delo getting his hand to one header across the box. Whitstable twice went close following a Murray free kick as Bryant and West challenged at the far post, with the former appearing to get to the ball first, but the header rebounded off the post and as he followed in, the ball just went the wrong side of the post. Murray delivered another free kick straight into the hands of Delo, as Whitstable continued to press forward. Saunders became the only Whitstable player to be cautioned when Rob Lawrence was brought down in the 64th minute.

Jack Delo gets a hand to this header
Whitstable hit the post
Tom Bryant tries to tuck the rebound away
The ball goes just wide

The game became a bit of an aerial battle, as both teams seemed happy to launch the ball backwards and forwards, with Harvey winning a lot of headers in the home defence. Canterbury had created little since the restart, but a rebound off Matt Martin fell to Wilson on the left of the box, but his shot flew right across towards the far corner flag from a narrow angle. It was the Canterbury midfielder though who put them back in front on 71 minutes when a deep free kick was not properly cleared and Wilson flicked the ball back towards goal and it dropped over Eason and into the net. Shortly afterwards, Welford went down in the box as he challenged for a cross, but the referee waved away the appeals for a second penalty. Pat Nzuzi was booked for a poor challenge on the touchline as Whitstable continued to look for a second equaliser.

Another Wilson free kick from 25 yards sailed over the bar, before Whitstable brought on Smith for Welford. On 81 minutes, a snap shot by Lawrence from the edge of the box went wide of the left post. Whitstable sent on Sprosen and then Teddy Nelson, with the tall, young defender being given an unfamiliar role up front. With a couple of minutes remaining, Sprosen picked up a loose ball just outside the box and fired a shot just over the bar. Whitstable won a series of free kicks around the box and from one of these, Murray curled the ball in from the left and West rose with Maxted at the near post. As the ball came across goal, Smith tried an overhead kick and connected perfectly to send the ball into the back of the net, sparking celebrations behind the goal and around the ground by the numerous visiting supporters. Whitstable continued to throw everything forward in added time, with Canterbury doing their best to wind down the clock and making a late substitution. When a Burchell free kick was cleared, the final whistle sounded and the teams had a point each.

A late free kick is flicked on
Charlie Smith gets a perfect connection on his overhead kick
It’s 2-2 and the unbeaten run continues

The result felt about right on the night and Whitstable were happy to remain unbeaten in 2018, despite the loss of two important points in what was always likely to be a tricky fixture. They now face 5 games in the final 10 days of the season, but will have Williams and Gillman back to boost the squad for the final push.

Canterbury Whitstable
9 Attempts 10
4 On Target 2
0 Corners 1
3 Offside 1
15 Free Kicks Won 17

Canterbury City
Jack Delo, Gary Sayer, Jamie Maxted, Wayne Wilson, Laurence Harvey (c), Will Hadler, Pat Nzuzi, Luke Griffiths, Jordan Casey, Rob Lawrence, Matt Martin (Tom Barton 90+3).
Subs (unused): Robel Grant, Billy Lewins, Josh McCallum, Ryan Catmull.
Goals: Jordan Casey 13, Wayne Wilson 71.
Yellow cards: Jamie Maxted 43, Pat Nzuzi 75.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders (Louis Sprosen 82), James Morrish (Teddy Nelson 85), Ricky Freeman, Shaun Welford (Charlie Smith 78), Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Owen Fitt, Nick Shaw.
Goals: Shaun Welford 33, Charlie Smith 89.
Yellow card: Chris Saunders 64

Attendance: 149
Referee: Daniel Procter
Assistants: Daniel Barham & Andrei Neda