Late West Double Rescues Point

SCEFL Premier Division
Tuesday December 5 2017 19.45

Whitstable left it late to earn a draw in this league match at the Belmont that was delayed by 15 minutes due to traffic problems on the M2. Despite Whitstable playing some promising football, particularly in the first half, Erith Town went ahead with a well taken goal in their first attack, as Ken Charles headed in a great Sidney Warden cross. Whitstable lost their captain Craig Cloke due to injury on 25 minutes, but although they continued to dominate possession and had one effort cleared off the line, they trailed by the single goal at the break. Some early pressure in the second half failed to yield a goal and then Erith doubled their lead when a corner was not cleared and substitute Ben Fitchett fired home. The visitors fought hard to defend their two goal advantage and frustration grew for Whitstable in a game littered with lengthy stoppages. Stuart West was pushed up front and found the top corner with a good strike on 77 minutes and shortly afterwards headed in a John Walker cross to bring the scores level. Jack Hooper was then sent off after a second caution, leaving Erith to see out the remaining time, including six added minutes, to claim a hard earned point.

Major delays on the motorway caused problems for both teams and officials before the game, which eventually started at 8 p.m. Chris Saunders was one of those affected, so started on the bench for Whitstable who did have James Morrish back after sitting out the previous game through illness. Erith Town were missing some regulars and included a number of Margate FC Under 23 and Maidstone United Academy players in their team.

Whitstable started on the attack, winning a couple of early corners with both Ricky Freeman and Josh Burchell having shots blocked. Danny Williams raced on to a through ball, before going down as he was tackled by the last defender on the edge of the box, but the officials ruled that it was a fair challenge. The game was in the 9th minute when Erith broke down the right and Margate youngster Warden sent over a perfect cross for the unmarked Charles to head back across goal past Dan Eason. It was well executed by the two young players, but a poor goal to concede for the home defence.

The remainder of the first half saw Whitstable striving to find a response and apart from one late corner, Erith did not threaten again before the interval. Although Whitstable moved the ball around quite well and got forward in wide positions, particularly down the left through Josh Burchell, the final ball into the box was often too close to former Sittingbourne goalkeeper Adam Molloy. A good Burchell cross in the 15th minute was met on the half volley by Walker whose shot went just over the bar. Lewis Scotter was cautioned for dissent, before Cloke picked up a painful looking muscle injury midway through the half and despite lengthy treatment on the pitch was unable to continue and Rob Gillman came on to replace him. Williams was off target with a couple of headers, but the closest the home side came to scoring was after 36 minutes. Hooper was booked after taking out Williams on the left and Murray swung the free kick into the box where there were a few seconds of pinball, with a Freeman effort cleared off the line and another attempt was scrambled away for a corner that fell to West, who shot over from close range.

John Walker hits an early shot just over
An acrobatic effort by Ricky Freeman
Erith clear off their line

Eason was mostly a distant spectator at the other end, but Erith did have a late corner that resulted in the ball being deflected just wide of the near post before Charlie Smith made a good run from midfield, only to blaze his shot over the top in the last action of the half.

The second half started in similar fashion, with Smith hooking the bar just over after it was helped on in the box by Williams and he then headed a Burchell cross wide. Just as in the first half, Whitstable were stunned by another goal out of the blue by the visitors. This time it came from a corner, when the defence failed to clear the ball and substitute Ben Fitchett, another Margate youngster who had only been on for a few seconds, drove the loose ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.

Smith turned smartly in the box, but shot over and then won a free kick, but Williams was booked for his challenge on Molloy as Murray delivered the ball into the danger area. Saunders came on to replace Smith, before another long injury delay followed that resulted in the Erith skipper James Day having to be substituted by Tamer Bilal. Erith later made their final change bringing on Lewis Risk, as they looked to hang on for the win. Whitstable were finding it increasingly difficult to create chances and the smallest home crowd of the season had little to inspire them until West was sent to play further forward. Bilal was booked for a foul and as the free kick into the box was knocked down, it was West who caught the ball perfectly on the half volley and Molloy could do nothing as it flew into the top left corner of the net. Just three minutes later, a Whitstable build up on the right gave Walker the chance to put a good cross into the box and it was West again who rose to plant a header into the roof of the net to make it 2-2.

Stuart West strikes the ball towards goal
The ball flies into the top corner
West gets his head to a cross
The ball beats Adam Molloy and it’s 2-2

As the home side pressed for a winner, Hooper committed a foul just outside the penalty area and although the referee tried to play the advantage, he eventually pulled play back for a free kick and showed a second yellow card to the Erith defender. Williams struck the free kick into the wall and Murray lifted the rebound over the top. Williams, West and Burchell all had late efforts saved by Molloy. There was a heated debate on the touchline about the amount of stoppage time to be added, but there was to be no late winner and the final whistle eventually sounded after six additional minutes.

The point pushed Whitstable up to sixth place, but it was a game they would feel they should have won. The young Erith team scored from their only two goal attempts, defended well and Whitstable were largely disappointing in their efforts to score themselves despite having nearly all of the possession. Next up is a visit to Corinthian at the weekend, before AFC Croydon visit the Belmont on Tuesday, as the search for league points at the top of the table continues.

Whitstable Erith Town
17 Attempts 2
7 On Target 2
9 Corners 2
2 Offside 0
8 Free Kicks Won 10

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c) (Rob Gillman 25), Tom Bryant, Charlie Smith (Chris Saunders 66), James Morrish, Ricky Freeman (Louis Sprosen 90), Danny Williams, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Teddy Nelson, Ryan Birch.
Goals: Stuart West 77, 80.
Yellow card: Danny Williams 64

Erith Town
Adam Molloy, Lewis Scotter, Dan Palfrey, James Day (c) (Tamer Bilal 68), Myles Keizer-Burrows, Jack Hooper, Sidney Warden, Jack Duffy, Ken Charles, Adem Ramadan (Lewis Risk 76), Osman Proni (Ben Fitchett 54).
Subs (unused): Harrison Hume, Peter Dale.
Goals: Ken Charles 9, Ben Fitchett 55.
Yellow cards: Lewis Scotter 23, Tamer Bilal 76.
Red card: Jack Hooper 81 (two yellows 36, 81)

Attendance: 96
Referee: Stuart Marriott
Assistants: Matthew Sell & Danny Roberts