Town Back To Winning Ways

SCEFL Premier Division
Monday April 23 2018 19.45

Following hard fought draws in the previous two games, Whitstable returned to the winning trail and collected a comfortable three points against AFC Croydon Athletic at the Belmont. Tom Bryant scored from an early corner to give the team a perfect start. The Rams saw their chances of getting back into the game diminish when Tom Penson was sent for his reaction to conceding a free kick in the 19th minute. Goalkeeper Dan Burnett dropped a Macauley Murray free kick to gift Rob Gillman the chance to double the lead inside the first half an hour. A good piece of play down the right involving Danny Williams and John Walker led to Williams scoring the third on 63 minutes. Whitstable then took the opportunity to rest some tired legs as their punishing end of season schedule continues, using all three substitutes in the space of a few minutes. They did go close to increasing the score on several occasions, but there were few alarms at the other end despite some glimpses of good football from the visitors. Whitstable now have 20 wins and 6 draws from their last 26 matches and have moved to within three points of leaders Sevenoaks Town with just three away games of their league campaign remaining.

With games still coming every couple of days, manager Scott Porter rotated the squad a little, with Craig Cloke, Chris Saunders and Ricky Freeman all sitting this one out. Rob Gillman returned to the starting eleven, having not played in the previous three games. Charlie Smith, who came off the bench to score late equalisers in the last two games, was given his chance from the start. AFC Croydon have not been in the best of form in recent weeks, but did enjoy an excellent 3-1 win at Sheppey earlier in the month. They arrived at the Belmont without a few regular starters, but the team did contain two players with good goal scoring records this season, Emmanuel Oloyede and Nahum Green.

Whitstable had only managed to draw their previous two games, but got off to the ideal start by taking the lead in the 3rd minute. Smith did well to hold the ball up and win a corner, which Macauley Murray swung over and it was met at the far post by Bryant, who hooked the ball into the net.

Tom Bryant strikes the ball towards goal
It’s in the net and Whitstable take an early lead

Smith continued to cause problems for the visitors defence and Whitstable had another two corners cleared, before Gabriel Adesina tried a shot that was deflected behind at the other end and the corner, taken by Green, was headed wide by Adesina. Whitstable continued to look more likely to get the next goal, although there were some shouts for a Croydon penalty when James Fray had a shot blocked by the home defence. Croydon were then reduced to ten men, when their captain Penson was sent off for a combination of something said to the referee and kicking the ball at the assistant, after Whitstable were awarded a free kick. On 29 minutes Murray delivered a free kick into the box from the left and as Burnett attempted the catch, he spilled the ball and the grateful Gillman was able to find the net from the six yard line.

Danny Williams tries to get the ball across
Dan Burnett tries to collect a free kick
The ball is dropped for Rob Gillman to score the second

Louis Sprosen headed a good Josh Burchell cross over the bar and then Smith was pulled back by Abbas Agoro, earning the Croydon number six a yellow card. The home team continued to press forward without creating many clear cut chances, but in added time, another great Burchell cross just needed a finishing touch, but Smith missed his header and Whitstable had to settle for a 2-0 half time lead.

Croydon had a good spell early in the second half, although they struggled to open up the Whitstable defence. They did make an early change when Adesina was replaced by Joshua Calder. It was the home side that continued to look the more dangerous though and a Burchell corner almost led to another goal, but the ball was headed just wide for a goal kick. Williams and Walker combined to give Whitstable their third goal, when Williams sent the wing back away down the right and his cross into the box was perfect for the striker, who arrived to sweep the ball into the corner of the net.

This attempt from a corner goes wide
John Walker about to cross for the third goal
Danny Williams is first to the ball
Whitstable have a 3-0 lead

Walker was seeing plenty of the ball and was then fouled on the edge of the box. Burchell took the free kick, which was scrambled clear and then Smith went down in the box, but the officials were not impressed with the penalty appeals. Williams created another opportunity for Walker to advance down the right, but when he might have tried a shot, he elected to cross and the ball was cleared for a corner. Sam Lobinjo was booked for continuing complaints to the referee, before the game could restart. Owen Fitt, Teddy Nelson and Shaun Welford were all introduced from the bench, as Murray, Burchell and Williams were given a rest. A mazy run by Sprosen created a half chance for Fitt, but his low left footed strike from the edge of the box went wide of the right hand post. Croydon, who also used their full quota of substitutes, did force Dan Eason into a save when a break down the right led to a cross being deflected towards the near post. Smith latched on to a forward pass and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper, but it also went over the bar. In stoppage time, Smith thought he was through on goal, as a long ball forward was missed by everyone else, but he was halted by an offside flag and the game ended 3-0.

This was the final home game of the season and as the players were applauded off the pitch, the result saw Whitstable edge closer to long time leaders Sevenoaks, but perhaps more significantly they are seven points ahead of third placed Crowborough. Whitstable now have to finish their campaign on the road with visits to Rochester United, Cray Valley and Lordswood, as they seek the league points needed, before thoughts can turn to the Challenge Cup final against Tunbridge Wells.

Whitstable AFC Croydon
9 Attempts 2
4 On Target 1
9 Corners 2
12 Offside 1
12 Free Kicks Won 10

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell (Teddy Nelson 76), Stuart West, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Louis Sprosen, James Morrish (c), Charlie Smith, Danny Williams (Shaun Welford 78), Macauley Murray (Owen Fitt 73).
Subs (unused): Chris Saunders, Dean Ruddy.
Goals: Tom Bryant 3, Rob Gillman 19, Danny Williams 63.

AFC Croydon Athletic
Dan Burnett, Ibrahim Kallon (Romel Blair 89), Sam Lobinjo, Tom Penson (c), Rob Carter, Abbas Agoro, James Fray, Emmanuel Oloyede, Gabriel Adesina (Joshua Calder 53), Valentine Laurence (Lorenzo Lewis 79), Nahum Green.
Sub (unused): Alvin Turyatemba
Yellow cards: Abbas Agoro 38, Sam Lobinjo 70.
Red card: Tom Penson 19

Attendance: 138
Referee: Matt Charles
Assistants: Daniel Baruch & Mark Cheeseman