Season Ends With Narrow Defeat

Bostik League South East
Saturday April 27 2019 15.00

Whitstable finished their first season back in the Bostik League in 12th place, after they went down to a 2-1 defeat on a windy afternoon in West Sussex. Whitstable played some good football in the first half and should have been several goals ahead by half time, but only had a Stephen Smith free kick as a reward for their efforts. Smith also hit the post and went close on a few other occasions, while James Shaw denied Ricky Freeman, John Walker and Harry Stannard. The home team did begin to get into the game towards half time and Connor French missed a couple of good chances. French did get an equaliser early in the second period when he claimed the last touch as a cross from the right curled past Dan Eason. Brannon O’Neill struck an unstoppable shot into the net from distance soon afterwards to turn the game around. A lack of discipline might well have cost Three Bridges, as they had to play out the closing stages with nine men after French and Andrew Sesay were both sent off, but despite having a number of chances, Whitstable were unable to find a way past Shaw again.

Three Bridges were promoted as runners up from the Southern Combination League at the end of last season, in similar fashion to Whitstable, who took the same route from their league. Both teams have had good and bad spells during the current campaign, but had secured their place for next season without having to ensure a tense afternoon in the final fixture. After three games without scoring, Three Bridges had beaten Whyteleafe on Easter Monday, thanks to two goals from French. Whitstable started with the same eleven that drew with Hythe in their previous game.

The end of season pitch was looking worn and had a fair covering of leaves from nearby trees on a blustery day, but the rain mainly stayed away. It was Whitstable that started much better and the game was played almost exclusively in the home half in the first quarter of an hour. Despite there being little to play for other than pride, the passionate home bench were perhaps fortunate to escape any punishment for comments directed at the referee in the opening minutes. The pressure on the home goal had not created too many clear cut chances, although Ricky Freeman volleyed over the bar in the 6th minute, when the ball reached him just inside the penalty area. Sesay made one threatening run at the other end, but he was eventually closed down before having a chance to test Eason. When Smith was fouled just outside the box in the 15th minute, he took the free kick himself and his low strike found the bottom left corner of the net to give Whitstable a deserved lead. Smith then headed a Walker free kick over the bar. In the 20th minute, Eason had to make his only save of the half, when Olu Oluwatimilehin shot straight at him after a promising move. Ibby Akanbi sent a dangerous ball across the Whitstable box, but there was nobody there to apply the finish.

Whitstable open the scoring from a free kick
The ball is in the back of the net
Stephen Smith has another goal towards the Golden Boot

Smith rose to meet a long Connor Sanders throw in the 26th minute, but his header came back off the post with Shaw beaten. Stannard then played in Smith again and he turned well, but shot over the top from 10 yards. James Morrish, who had a good game in midfield, chipped the ball into the area for Freeman who glanced a header just wide. Three Bridges almost found a way through on 33 minutes when Eason came out but was beaten to the ball by French, who hooked the chance wide from 25 yards. Whitstable then worked the ball well through the middle, but Smith shot wide. There was then a better opportunity for Whitstable to double their lead when Walker cut into the box and fed Freeman whose shot was blocked by Shaw and when the ball rebounded to Walker, his effort was cleared off the line by Tyrone Berry. The chances kept coming for Whitstable and a great cross by Taylor Fisher picked out Stannard, whose volley was pushed behind by Shaw for a corner. The home side were almost gifted an equaliser in the 42nd minute when an attempted back pass by Morrish went straight to French, but he blazed his shot into the car park with only Eason to beat. In the closing moments of the half, both French and Morrish lifted half chances over the bar at each end and Whitstable took a 1-0 lead into the break.

Stephen Smith rises to meet a throw in by Connor Sanders
The ball strikes the foot of the post
Smith tries again to increase the lead
This shot is just too high
This time Ricky Freeman is denied by James Shaw
The follow up from John Walker is cleared off the line by Tyrone Berry
James Shaw palms away a Harry Stannard volley

Whitstable had to make a change early in the second half, with the injured Walker being replaced by Nick Treadwell, who went into midfield with Jordan Wight moving to right back. On 56 minutes, Morrish drove forward and played the ball out to Freeman on the right, who crossed for Stannard, but he was unable to beat Shaw. The home team started to look more threatening and Oluwatimilehin hit a low shot from 20 yards that was pushed out and gathered at the second attempt by Eason. Akanbi then tried a shot from the edge of the area that was deflected for a corner, from which the ball eventually came back out to O’Neill on the right and his curling ball into the box was helped on by French into the net to bring the scores level. Three Bridges were now having their best spell of the game and won two more corners, whilst also making a couple of substitutions. In the 67th minute, they took the lead with a great strike by O’Neill. He collected the ball about 22 yards form goal and hit a dipping shot over Eason and into the corner of the net.

Dan Eason saves from Olu Oluwatimilehin
Three Bridges equalise

A few minutes later, an incident on the pitch caused tempers to flare and when things calmed down, the referee consulted an assistant before showing a red card to French, followed by yellows for Morrish, Sesay and Joe Tennent. Three Bridges were then left with about a quarter of an hour plus stoppage time to hold on to the lead and their goalkeeper Shaw tried to slow the game down and not release the ball. He went down when Smith challenged him, causing a further delay and a booking for the Whitstable striker. Shortly afterwards, Sesay was sent off for an incident off the ball and Whitstable with a two man advantage spent the remainder of the game pushing forward to try to rescue a point. Rob Gillman almost turned a corner past Shaw at the back post, then from the next corner, Tom Bryant was denied by the busy goalkeeper. A left footed effort by substitute James Trueman was deflected past the post and next it was the turn of Wright to force Shaw into another save, with Treadwell’s follow up also blocked. Treadwell had another header from a free kick saved and Freeman could only turn a cross into the side netting in added time. When Freeman struck a free kick wide in the 5th minute of stoppage time, the final whistle blew, giving Three Bridges the points with a 2-1 win.

Connor French is dismissed
Stephen Smith gets a yellow card for his challenge on the goalkeeper
Andrew Sesay is the second home player to be sent off
Rob Gillman tries to find a way past James Shaw
Jordan Wright and Nick Treadwell both go close to a late equaliser
Ricky Freeman can only hit the side netting from a narrow angle in added time

Whitstable therefore finish in 12th place with 43 points from their 36 games and Three Bridges were 2 points behind in 14th. Despite some encouraging late season form, Whitstable ended as the lowest scorers in the league with only 36 goals, although their defensive record was the 9th best with 55 goals conceded. Stephen Smith finished with 12 goals, 2 ahead of Ricky Freeman, and was presented with the held over “Golden Boot” trophy by the chairman Joe Brownett after the game.

Steve Smith won the Golden Boot this season for his 12 goals and received the award from the chairman after the game at Three Bridges
Three Bridges Whitstable
10 Attempts 20
4 On Target 10
4 Corners 4
2 Offside 1
8 Free Kicks Won 13

Three Bridges
James Shaw, Lee Hall, Dean Gunner, Andrew Sesay, Connor French, Brannon O’Neill, Ibby Akanbi (John Lansdale 67), Olu Oluswatimilehin, Tyrone Berry (Reece Hallard 62), Antone Douglas, Joe Tennent (c).
Subs (unused): Youcef Azzouz, Alex Clark.
Goals: Connor French 58, Brannon O’Neill 67.
Yellow card: Joe Tennent 74
Red cards: Connor French 73, Andrew Sesay (two yellows 74, 80)

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker (Nick Treadwell 50), Taylor Fisher, Jordan Wright, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Connor Sanders, James Morrish (c) (James Trueman 81), Ricky Freeman, Stephen Smith, Harry Stannard (Miles Cornwell 70).
Subs (unused): none
Goal: Stephen Smith 15
Yellow cards: James Morrish 73, Stephen Smith 78.

Attendance: 88
Referee: Kirsty Dowle
Assistants: Joshua Smith & David Lunani