No Goals For Bumper Crowd

SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday December 30 2017 15.00

The two teams served up an entertaining game for a large holiday crowd on a great playing surface at Sheppey, although the conditions were spoilt by a very strong, gusty wind blowing across the exposed ground. Some good football was played, but neither team could find a decisive finish as chances were missed at both ends. With the wind causing problems, Dan Eason twice had to be alert to deal with in-swinging corners by Hicham Akhazzan in the early stages and Craig Cloke headed one effort off the line. Ricky Freeman put Whitstable’s best chance of the first half over the bar and Akhazzan should have done better when sent clear by Luke Harvey, but he failed to hit the target. The second half was end to end stuff at times, but the better chances fell to the home side with Eason making several saves and Akhazzan failing to score when he raced clear from the halfway line. Whitstable had their moments though as Freeman put the ball in the net, only to be flagged offside, Stuart West saw a shot come back off the bar with the home keeper beaten and substitute Rhys Brain stabbed a late chance wide when the ball ran loose in the box.

Whitstable were without the suspended Charlie Smith for this game, so with Shaun Welford not yet ready to return and John Walker and James Morrish also unavailable, four academy players and coach Brendon Cass were named as the substitutes. Sheppey were without a league win since October, but were always likely to present a difficult challenge with a capable team and good home support. In fact despite the unpleasant windy weather, over 500 spectators were present, including a considerable number of away fans, helping to create a great non-league atmosphere.

The game was only 5 minutes old when Sheppey won a corner that was curled in dangerously and Eason just managed to clear from under the bar. Whitstable had started quite well however, passing the ball around confidently in midfield and keeping possession, although chances were few. In the 16th minute though, Stuart West and Danny Williams helped the ball forward to release Freeman and with just goalkeeper Josh Glover to beat, he tried for the top right corner, but the ball went just over the bar.

Dan Eason keeps out an early corner
Josh Burchell is watched by a group of Whitstable fans
Ricky Freeman just fails to give Whitstable an early lead

The home team won their second corner a few minutes later and it almost led to a goal, as once more Eason had some problems, but did well to punch the ball away and the follow up attempt just failed to cross the line. West played a one-two with Freeman, but his shot was saved by Glover and then Freeman was found by Macauley Murray, who was seeing a lot of the ball, but the Whitstable striker was off target from distance. Murray next played the ball through to Williams, who tried an overhead kick that was comfortably saved.

Stuart West has a shot saved
Danny Williams tries an overhead kick

On 31 minutes, a quick Sheppey break ended with a Remell Davis effort being headed off the line by Cloke. Luke Harvey then headed a Lewis Clark cross wide, before playing a clever ball through to Akhazzan, that left him with just Eason to beat, but his shot went the wrong side of the left hand post when he really should have done better. Back at the other end, West flicked the ball on to Louis Sprosen and his cross was almost turned in at the far post by a stretching Freeman. As the interval approached, the Sheppey skipper Rob Saunders was booked for a challenge and a good right wing cross caused a few problems for Glover, but the goalkeeper just managed to grab the ball. The teams went in all square, but as the fans queued for their free cups of tea, they were probably thinking that both teams should have had something to show for the chances created.

Freeman just fails to guide this cross inside the post

Tom Bryant was shown a yellow card just after the restart, as the home side started brightly. Davis shot straight at Eason, Harvey blasted an effort high and wide and then from a corner that Whitstable struggled to clear, Eason had to get down well to block. Jack Mahoney became the third and final player to be booked by the replacement referee, who generally had a good game. After Davis sent another shot well wide, Whitstable had an effort ruled out for offside when Freeman raced on to a West assist and fired past Glover.

Freeman and Williams challenged by ex Whitstable players Brunt and Girt in front of some more away fans

Eason had to deal with a free kick by Akhazzan, before Sheppey replaced Harvey with Timmy Babbington. The game was becoming quite open and swung backwards and forwards, but neither team really looked convincing in front of goal. On 75 minutes Whitstable had a corner that was cleared from a packed box and the ball was played up to Akhazzan on the halfway line, where a slip by the last Whitstable defender left him a clear run on goal. He was forced wide by Eason and Chris Saunders just got back in time to block his shot from the right edge of the box. Whitstable then sent on Rhys Brain to play up front and Williams dropped back to the right side, with Sprosen going off. It was the pace of Williams that then won a free kick in a good position on the right, but the delivery was poor. West though struck the bar with an attempt from the edge of the area on 81 minutes. Both teams made further changes with a second Whitstable academy player Teddy Nelson coming on for Josh Burchell and Joshua Froggatt replacing Akhazzan for Sheppey. West had another shot charged down, Sheppey had a free kick cleared and then Freeman shot on the turn, but Glover was able to gather by his post. There was a final corner for each side during stoppage time, with a half chance falling to Brain when Glover failed to hold the ball in from Murray, but he pulled his shot just past the post.

Rhys Brain has a chance for a late winner

One point each was an outcome that did not really suit either team and each may feel they might have won. Whitstable saw quite a lot of the ball, although Sheppey had more attempts on goal, but the overall experience was a good advert for non-league football with the 552 attendance being one of the best in the country at this level.

Sheppey Whitstable
15 Attempts 9
8 On Target 2
5 Corners 2
4 Offside 3
12 Free Kicks Won 11

Sheppey United
Joshua Glover, Tom Brunt, Lewis Clark, Rob Saunders (c), Jon Ralph, Luke Girt, Dan Bradshaw, Jack Mahoney, Luke Harvey (Timmy Babbington 68), Remell Davis, Hicham Akhazzan (Joshua Froggatt 83).
Subs (unused): Darren Cooper, Cory Walters-Wright, Kwasi Amoah.
Yellow cards: Rob Saunders 44, Jack Mahoney 54.

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Louis Sprosen (Rhys Brain 77), Josh Burchell (Teddy Nelson 83), Rob Gillman, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, Danny Williams, Ricky Freeman, Stuart West, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Owen Fitt, Brendon Cass, Ryan Birch.
Yellow card: Tom Bryant 47

Attendance: 552
Referee: Harry Phillips
Assistants: Ryan Andrew & James Beadle