Narrow Defeat In Sussex

Bostik League South East
Saturday April 6 2019 15.00

After a good five game run that yielded four wins and a draw, Whitstable went down to a 2-1 defeat in a hard fought game at play-off chasing Haywards Heath. Whitstable had the better of the first half, despite falling behind when Tom Graves planted a firm header past Dan Eason from a good Callum Saunders cross. Nick Treadwell headed the equaliser when he was first to Ricky Freeman’s corner. Freeman then went close to giving Whitstable the lead on a couple of occasions and was unlucky when he lobbed the ball over Anthony Ender, only to see the ball bounce up and hit the bar. Neither goalkeeper was tested in the early stages of the second half, but Whitstable gradually found it harder to get up the pitch, playing against a strong breeze. Kenny Pogue headed an Omar Folkes cross past Eason to put the home side back in front and they almost added a third, but Eason just managed to touch a long range shot by Alex Laing on to the post. Some late Whitstable pressure failed to bring an equaliser and Haywards Heath held on to win 2-1 and consolidate their fifth place.

Haywards Heath, like Whitstable, were promoted to the Bostik League this season, although unlike Whitstable, this was their first time at this level. They would have been promoted the previous season, but for being deducted points due to an unfortunate administrative error. Whitstable had lost 1-0 on a previous visit to Hanbury Park in an FA Cup Preliminary Round tie in September 1980, when their team contained some well-remembered players such as Brian Gambrill, Trevor Gowan and Martin Mills. The home team have had a successful season and are looking set for a play-off place, with a good advantage over their closest challengers. They were without several players for this match, including goalkeeper Josh Heyburn, captain Nathan Cooper, Sean Roddy and Trevor McCreadie. Whitstable were missing Stuart West and John Walker though injuries.

The home team started with some hesitant defending that almost let Harry Stannard in, but the ball was pushed away for a corner, following which Miles Cornwell shot over from just outside the box. The first threat at the other end came from a right wing cross that Rob Gillman cleared as far as Karl Akehurst, whose shot was blocked in a crowded area. A long throw by Connor Sanders somehow found its way right through to the goalkeeper, Anthony Ender, with nobody able to get a decisive touch. Haywards Heath opened the scoring on 13 minutes, when a Saunders cross to the back post from the right wing was headed powerfully into the net by Graves. Whitstable tried to respond immediately as James Morrish found Freeman on the right, but his angled effort went wide of the far post. Laing always looked the biggest threat for the home team and tried a low shot that was gathered by Eason. Whitstable had a good spell, winning most of the balls in midfield, with Treadwell, Morrish and Sanders all playing well and they forced three corners in a few minutes. Freeman took the third in the 25th minutes and Treadwell rose well to head past Ender.

An early opening for Harry Stannard
The ball is cleared for a corner
Tom Graves heads past Dan Eason to give Haywards Heath the lead
Nick Treadwell heads the equaliser from a Ricky Freeman corner
Whitstable make it 1-1

Treadwell then got his head to a Stannard cross, but it went well wide. In the 31st minute, a great ball through by Jordan Wright sent Freeman clear and he just reached the ball before the advancing Ender and clipped it over him but it bounced up and came back off the crossbar. Ender had caught Freeman, so the referee brought play back, showed him a yellow card and awarded a free kick outside the box that Stannard struck into the wall. Freeman then intercepted an attempted back pass, turned and shot just past the far post, as Whitstable continued to press. Treadwell and Wright both had further attempts, but neither could find the target. Freeman then appeared to be pushed over in the box as he tried to reach a deep cross, but penalty appeals were turned down, much to his frustration. The score remained 1-1 at the interval, but Whitstable will feel they should have been ahead.

Ricky Freeeman chips the goalkeeper before being brought down, but the ball hits the bar
Another Freeman effort flies just past the far post

Jamie Weston replaced the injured Josh Spinks at the start of the second half, as the home team reorganised a little. On 57 minutes, Cornwell passed inside to Morrish, who hit a left footed shot just wide from distance. Freeman thought he had been fouled near the halfway line, but Cameron Tutt was allowed to break down the left and cross for Laing, who could not find the finish. Laing then turned provider for George Landais, but his effort was well wide and he was replaced by Folkes shortly afterwards. Stannard, who had been struggling with an injury, was also substituted and Stephen Smith came on for Whitstable. Smith almost had an immediate impact when he blocked an attempted clearance by Ender, but the ball rebounded wide of the goal and then Freeman turned and shot over the bar from around 25 yards.

Haywards Heath were seeing more of the ball in the Whitstable half and with the wind behind them, they were looking ever more dangerous. Pogue got up well to meet a deep cross, but the ball went wide. It was a warning of things to come however and in the 71st minute, Folkes did well on the right to hook over a high cross and Pogue jumped the highest, directing his header just out of the reach of Eason into the right corner to give his team the lead for the second time. Morrish and Freeman both earned bookings, as the frustration grew and James Trueman came on in place of the Whitstable captain. In the 80th minute, Laing hit a great shot from over 30 yards out and Eason appeared to just get a hand to it, before it struck the post and was cleared away. Tutt picked up the fourth card of the game as Whitstable tried to find a way through, but despite some late pressure that saw a corner, free kick and long throw all delivered into the box, a blocked shot by Taylor Fisher was as close as they came to an equaliser and the home side held on for a 2-1 win.

Dan Eason touches a long range strike on to the woodwork
Whitstable looking for a late equaliser that never came

Haywards Heath remain in the final play-off position, six points clear of VCD, with just four games left. Whitstable can no longer finish in a relegation spot after the weekend’s results and still sit in a respectable tenth position, with ninth placed Phoenix Sports the visitors to the Belmont next Saturday.

Haywards Heath Whitstable
7 Attempts 12
4 On Target 1
1 Corners 5
0 Offside 3
9 Free Kicks Won 13

Haywards Heath Town
Anthony Ender, Kieran Rowe, Cameron Tutt, Karl Akehurst, Tom Graves, Josh Spinks (Jamie Weston 46), Callum Saunders, Byron Napper (c), Kenny Pogue, George Landais (Omar Folkes 60), Alex Laing.
Sub (unused): Tyrese Gray-Branford
Goals: Tom Graves 13, Kenny Pogue 71.
Yellow cards: Anthony Ender 32, Cameron Tutt 81.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Jordan Wright, Taylor Fisher, Nick Treadwell, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Connor Sanders, James Morrish (c) (James Trueman 78), Ricky Freeman, Harry Stannard (Stephen Smith 78), Miles Cornwell.
Sub (unused): John Walker
Goal: Nick Treadwell 25
Yellow cards: James Morrish 75, Ricky Freeman 77.

Attendance: 128
Referee: John Pike
Assistants: Ciaran Fidler & Dominic Barrow