Whitstable Beat League Leaders

Bostik League South East
Saturday March 30 2019 15.00

Whitstable edged out the long-time pacesetters in the division thanks to a well taken second half goal by Harry Stannard, his fifth in five games since his move from Ramsgate. In a game where both teams defended well and neither goalkeeper had much to do, Cray had plenty of possession in the first half, although a Mitchell Nelson header that went over the bar and a Joe Taylor shot straight at Dan Eason was as close as they came to scoring. The game opened up a little after the break, as Whitstable started to get forward more and Miles Cornwell played in Stannard, who shot past Nick Blue for the decisive goal. Tom Phipp went close when his dipping shot flew just over the bar and then another effort from an indirect free kick was blocked, but Whitstable held on for the win without Eason having to make a serious save.

Cray Wanderers away was the first league game of this season for Whitstable, following their promotion back to Step 4 football, but despite some resolute defending, Cray dominated that game and eventually scored a couple of late goals to seal a 2-0 win. Since then Cray have gone on to establish a large lead at the top of the table and could have sealed an early promotion at a sunny Belmont Ground, had results gone their way. Their only league defeats to date had been by Horsham and Hastings. Whitstable had collected ten points from their last twelve, but suffered some selection headaches with the late withdrawals of Stephen Smith and Stuart West through illness and injury. Rob Gillman was also unavailable, so John Walker was given an unfamiliar role alongside Tom Bryant in central defence and Ricky Freeman started upfront alongside the in-form striker, Stannard.

Whitstable might have taken a shock early lead when some casual play by the visitors saw the ball fall to Stannard, but he curled his shot high and wide. Cray soon started to push Whitstable back, with Ben Mundele and Junior Dadson seeing a lot of the ball on the right. The defence dealt well with a couple of Cray corners, but then a poor pass left Joe Taylor with an opportunity to run towards goal, but he was closed down on the edge of the box. Cray won a free kick on the left edge of the penalty area after 14 minutes and Karl Dent sent over a testing cross for Nelson, who rose above Connor Sanders, but was unable to keep his header down and the ball went over the bar. Dadson put in a low cross from the right, but Phipp was not able to find the power and the ball was hacked away by the defence. Former Ashford United left back Tom Carlse was the next to try his luck, but crashed his long range shot well over the top.

Mitchell Nelson heads a good chance from a free kick over the bar
John Walker, deputising as a centre back for the afternoon, clears the ball

Mundele made another good run down the right and went down on the edge of the box by the goal line. The Whitstable players felt that it might not have been a foul, whilst Cray appealed for a penalty. The referee consulted his assistant and the result was a Cray free kick just outside the box, which was wasted. Cray won two more corners that were taken by Dent, but the home defence were able to clear. In the final few minutes of the half, Cray suddenly became sloppy at the back and as Freeman chased down a through ball, Blue’s clearance went straight to Stannard who lifted the chance over the bar from around 25 yards. A back pass then almost let Whitstable in again and when it was cleared, the ball reached Freeman whose shot was saved by Blue. At the other end, Taylor tried a shot on the turn from 18 yards that was comfortably held by Eason and the teams went in at the break with the score 0-0.

Nick Blue saves from Ricky Freeman
Nick Treadwell and Mitchell Nelson challenging for the ball

Cray brought on Archie Johnson for Freddie Parker at the start of the second half. Freeman and Cornwell tried to set up Nick Treadwell, but his attempted shot looped harmlessly off target. Johnson then tried a shot following a Cray corner, but it was blocked. Dent lashed a shot over the top after a partial clearance, but Whitstable were starting to win more challenges in midfield and create a few half chances. Freeman’s shot was blocked, following some pressure caused by a long Sanders throw. Cornwell had an effort deflected for Whitstable’s only corner of the game, but it was overhit. Cray introduced Jordan Clarke and then three players collected yellow cards in quick succession. Taylor Fisher hit a free kick high over the bar and Mundele cut in, before also shooting way over the top. The key moment of the game arrived in the 69th minute, as Whitstable won a challenge in midfield and Cornwell collected the ball, then played a good pass through to Stannard on the left side of the penalty area and he shot past Blue to the delight of the home fans behind the goal.

Taylor Fisher sends a free kick wide
Harry Stannard strikes the winning goal
The ball is in the Cray net in the 69th minute

Cray won two free kicks, as they tried to get back on terms and from the second, the ball was cleared as far as Carlse and his pass was volleyed just over the bar by Phipp from the edge of the box. James Trueman replaced the Whitstable goal scorer, before Taylor tried a chip, but it went wide of Eason’s left hand post. In the 78th minute, the referee penalised Sanders for an overhead clearance from his own penalty area and awarded Cray an indirect free kick that Dent rolled to Phipp, but his shot struck the defensive wall and was cleared as Cray appealed in vain for a handball. Both teams made further substitutions, and there was a stoppage time booking for Joe Vines, who had been sent on as Cray looked for a more direct approach in the final minutes, but the home defence stood firm to claim a hard earned three points.

A midfield battle
Part of the 225 crowd looking on
Tom Phipp’s shot hits the Whitstable wall
Dan Eason had a surprisingly quiet game against the runaway league leaders

Whitstable now find themselves up to tenth place and all but mathematically safe from relegation, after finding some recent good form. Cray are still ten points clear of the chasing pack and will surely go on to deservedly clinch the title in the coming weeks.

Whitstable Cray Wanderers
6 Attempts 7
2 On Target 1
1 Corners 7
1 Offside 1
12 Free Kicks Won 13

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Jordan Wright, Taylor Fisher, Nick Treadwell (Harry Brown 90), John Walker, Tom Bryant, Connor Sanders, James Morrish (c), Ricky Freeman, Harry Stannard (James Trueman 75), Miles Cornwell.
Sub (unused): Stuart West
Goal: Harry Stannard 69
Yellow card: Connor Sanders 63

Cray Wanderers
Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson (c), Tom Phipp, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent (Joe Vines 85), Joe Taylor, Freddie Parker (Archie Johnson 46), Junior Dadson (Jordan Clarke 60).
Subs (unused): Jerome Frederico, Charles Etumnu.
Yellow cards: Sean Roberts 64, Jay Leader 66, Karl Dent 81 Joe Vines 90+1.

Attendance: 225
Referee: Ricky Adams
Assistants: Nick Dunn & George Lowe