Town Denied By Late Equaliser

Bostik League South East
Tuesday September 25 2018 19.45

This was very much a game of two halves, as Whitstable put in a good first half performance, but Sevenoaks fought back well after the interval. Ben Bridle-Card in the Sevenoaks goal made two good saves from Jordan Wright, Tom Walmsley was denied by a combination of goalkeeper and post and Tom Bryant saw his header come back off the bar. Steve Smith did find the net on 31 minutes though, giving Whitstable a single goal advantage at the break. Sevenoaks improved in the second half and began to put the home defence under more pressure. Whitstable were reduced to ten men in the 65th minute, when the unfortunate Chris Saunders was sent off for the second consecutive game. Jai McKinlay then limped off and Sevenoaks threw everything at a reshaped home team for the rest of the game, although Whitstable did have a couple of chances on the break. Dan Eason pulled off a string of fine saves in over nine minutes of added time, but just as it seemed the inspired goalkeeper would ensure a home win, a William Johnson-Cole shot was cruelly deflected past him to give Sevenoaks the point that their second half efforts deserved.

This was a third home game in eight days for Whitstable, with the other two both ending in draws after Whitstable suffered from a number of injury concerns and unavailable players. The squad looked a bit stronger for this match, although Ricky Freeman was not yet ready to return and a couple of others were not fully fit. Sevenoaks had secured a first Bostik League win at VCD in their previous game and fielded exactly the same starting eleven and substitutes.

There was an early sight of goal for former Whitstable player Frankie Sawyer as he ran on to a through ball, but shot wide of the left hand post. Smith flicked a header on to Jordan Wright down the left and he hit a good shot towards the top corner that appeared to be tipped over by Ben Bridle-Card, but the officials did not agree and a goal kick was the result. The next action of note was in the 21st minute when Wright and Smith combined to send Walmsley clear, but he was brought down about 25 yards from goal and Wright struck a good free kick that was pushed around the post by Bridle-Card. On 28 minutes, another Wright corner was met by Tom Bryant who sent a good header back across goal, but was unlucky as it hit the bar and came out to Wright, whose follow up was saved on the line.

Ben Bridle-Card is at full stretch to reach Jordan Wright’s shot
Tom Bryant’s header hits the bar
Jordan Wright fires the rebound back towards goal
Sevenoaks keep the ball out again

Eason had to make his only save of the half when an Osman Proni shot took a deflection, before being safely gathered by the Whitstable goalkeeper. Whitstable got the goal they had been threatening in the 31st minute, when a ball into the box by Wright was controlled by Smith, who turned and shot low past the right hand of the diving Bridle-Card. Whitstable went close to a second just afterwards when a John Walker cross was turned towards goal by Walmsley, but a combination of goalkeeper and post kept the ball out. A good move almost got Whitstable in on goal again as half time approached, before Proni headed a Sevenoaks cross over whilst under pressure from the home defence. Smith fired a stoppage time free kick into the side netting just before the referee called a halt to the first half.

Steve Smith sees his shot give Whitstable the lead
Tom Walmsley almost scores number two

Sevenoaks had rarely looked like scoring prior to the break, but Fraser Walker and Proni had both missed the target with early second half attempts, before Eason did really well to keep out a powerful near post header by former Sheppey defender Rob Saunders from a 53rd minute corner. Rob Gillman made a timely interception, as Sevenoaks continued to press for an equaliser. Zac Attwood, whose past clubs include Hastings, Margate, Maidstone and most recently Crowborough, replaced Greg Benbow for the visitors. On 65 minutes, the game was to become harder for Whitstable, when Chris Saunders challenged for the ball and caught his opponent Tom Ripley, sparking an animated reaction from the nearby Sevenoaks bench. The referee took the decision to show a red card and, unsurprisingly, the two benches had differing views on the incident, leading to an exchange of words between them and the Whitstable manager was then asked to leave the technical area. John Walker was also cautioned for his protests. It was the second red card in consecutive matches for Chris Saunders, who will now miss seven matches. Sevenoaks then introduced Johnson-Cole, whilst Jai McKinlay was forced off through injury to be replaced by Louis Sprosen.

Rob Saunders sends a firm header towards goal
Dan Eason gets across to save

On 77 minutes, a good right wing cross found an unmarked Sawyer in front of goal, but he headed a great chance well wide. After another couple of substitutions, Attwood hit a good shot from outside the box that ended in the Whitstable net, but the celebrations were cut short by the assistant who had spotted a deflection off Kenny Pogue, who was standing in an offside position. Eason then blocked a Johnson–Cole shot at the back post. Whitstable were conceding possession to Sevenoaks too easily at this point, but did carve out a couple of chances on the break and Sprosen raced down the right before crossing to Smith who headed just wide of the far post. Smith then tried a shot from a narrow angle that was saved. Sprosen played another pass into the path of the breaking John Walker who was injured as he challenged Bridle-Card for the ball and had to be substituted.

Steve Smith heads a cross just wide

The referee had indicated six added minutes, but the injury meant that over nine extra minutes were eventually played, mostly in and around the Whitstable box. Eason made a great save from a Pogue header, then was again in action from the resultant corner, saving at the near post. A curling Alec Fiddes shot was next clawed away from the top corner, as Eason looked began to look unbeatable. He was though helpless to prevent the equaliser when it finally arrived in the 96th minute, when he looked to have a Johnson-Cole shot well covered, but the ball took a big deflection of Gillman and rolled into the net.

Dan Eason is busy in added time
Another great stop by the Whitstable goalkeeper
Late drama as Dan Eason is finally beaten when William Johnson-Cole’s shot takes a big deflection

So the points were shared, which in the end was probably a fair result. Whitstable might well have wrapped up the points in the first half, but Sevenoaks created plenty of chances in the second half as ten man Whitstable tired. A local derby at Faversham is the next challenge for Whitstable, whilst Sevenoaks entertain Hythe.

Whitstable Sevenoaks
10 Attempts 15
6 On Target 8
4 Corners 6
1 Offside 3
15 Free Kicks Won 13

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker (Chris Elliott 90+3), Jordan Wright, Stuart West, Rob Gillman, Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, James Morrish (c), Tom Walmsley (Teddy Nelson 78), Steve Smith, Jai McKinlay (Louis Sprosen 74).
Subs (unused): Harry Brown, Ricky Freeman.
Goal: Steve Smith 31
Red card: Chris Saunders 65
Yellow cards: Stuart West 50, John Walker 65, Steve Smith 90+7.

Sevenoaks Town
Ben Bridle-Card, Fraser Walker, Rob Saunders (c), Osman Proni, Jack Miles, Tom Ripley (William Johnson-Cole 73), Greg Benbow (Zac Attwood 58), Alec Fiddes, Mikey Dalton, Frankie Sawyer (Kenny Pogue 79), Sam Crabb.
Subs (unused): Luke Coleman, Wasiri Williams.
Goal: William Johnson-Cole 90+6
Yellow cards: Ben Bridle-Card 50, Fraser Walker 69.

Attendance: 122
Referee: Kane Dempster
Assistants: Andrew Simmonds & Dean Markwick