Whitstable Ease Into Last Eight

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup – Third Round
Tuesday January 9 2018 19.45

Whitstable comfortably beat Croydon in this third round Challenge Cup tie. The visitors, who knocked Whitstable out of the FA Cup at the Belmont in the first game of the season, never looked likely to repeat that result. They did win three early corners and from the third of them Nathan Campbell missed the target when well placed, but that was as good as it got for the team from south London. Charlie Smith, who later had to go to hospital with an eye injury, headed the opening goal after 8 minutes and Craig Cloke added a second just before half time. Substitute Ricky Freeman scored the third after being set up by Macauley Murray and James Morrish on the hour mark and Cloke blasted in a free kick towards the end.

For the first of Croydon’s two visits to the Belmont this week, Whitstable were without Rob Gillman, who was unwell, so Stuart West dropped back into defence and Danny Williams returned to the starting eleven. Croydon have been going well this season and lined up with eight of the players that started in their latest win at Sheppey. Their captain, Nathan Campbell also returned for this cup tie.

Croydon won two corners in the opening minutes, but failed to test Dan Eason and it was the home side who took the initiative when an attempted clearance by the Croydon goalkeeper Alex Hewitt was closed down and the ball fell to Williams, who chipped the ball into the box where it was headed past Hewitt by an unmarked Smith.

Charlie Smith’s header beats Alex Hewitt

A 14th minute corner provided Croydon with their best chance of the half when the ball went right across to the far post where Campbell had a clear sight of goal, but he lifted his shot over the bar. It was generally Whitstable in the ascendancy though and Williams had an effort saved before Smith fired over following a corner. Croydon had one other effort on 27 minutes when Andy Mott shot just over from 20 yards. Williams made a good run across the box, but was just unable to pull the ball back. Chris Saunders did well to win the ball on the 18 yard line and get a shot away, but it was just off target. Croydon had to make an early change with Eden Blake being replaced by Otitololuwa Ojo.

As half time approached, Whitstable won a succession of corner kicks. One was just scrambled away and from the next, the Croydon goalkeeper managed to punch the ball out to the Whitstable left, but Macauley Murray swung the ball straight back into the box and it was met at the back post by Cloke who found the net to make it 2-0 at the break.

Craig Cloke heads towards goal
Whitstable are 2-0 ahead

Croydon made a second substitution at the start of the second half and it was the new player Bradley Wilson who put the ball into the Whitstable the net a few minutes later, but the game had already been halted by an offside flag. On 55 minutes Smith had to be taken off, suffering from an injury to his eye and Freeman came on in his place. Smith spent a few hours in Maidstone hospital before being discharged. Some good play by Morrish and then Williams created an opening for Freeman whose shot was deflected just the wrong side of the post and the resultant corner was headed over by West. Whitstable were not to be denied however and a couple of minutes later Murray won a challenge in midfield and found Morrish, who slipped the ball to his left for Freeman and this time he shot past Hewitt to make it 3-0.

This effort is deflected just wide
Ricky Freeman beats the Croydon keeper after a James Morrish pass
It’s 3-0

There was an incident for the match officials to sort out in the 64th minute, when a tackle by Morrish initiated a coming together of a number of players. After some deliberations between the excellent referee and his assistants, Morrish and Stefan Joseph were both shown yellow cards. When the football resumed, Morrish passed to John Walker, who made space for himself on the edge of the box and forced a good save out of Hewitt. The corner was curled in by Josh Burchell and West hit the side netting after the ball fell to him at the far post.

Ojo was booked for a foul on Walker before the visitors made their final change with Aidan Brown replacing Harry Pilkington. Eidan Fejzi tried a shot from distance that was easily saved by Eason and the Croydon player was then booked for a late challenge on Walker, who was having a good game on the right for Whitstable and he sent over another useful cross that was glanced just wide by Freeman. Eason was called upon once more to comfortably gather the ball low down by the post as Brown tried to find the target, but Whitstable had done a good job of stopping Croydon playing and they created very little on the night. Murray shot wide after another Whitstable corner and then Rhys Brain came on for Williams. In the 84th minute, it was 4-0 when Saunders was fouled on the edge of the penalty area and Cloke stepped forward to strike an unstoppable free kick past Hewitt and into the roof of the net. In added time, Walker found Freeman in space in the box, but his shot went over the bar and Mott had one final wayward attempt from distance for Croydon.

Craig Cloke about the score the fourth

On the night it was a comfortable home win. The two teams meet again at the Belmont on Saturday in a league fixture.

Whitstable Croydon
18 Attempts 5
8 On Target 2
8 Corners 3
2 Offside 3
10 Free Kicks Won 16

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, James Morrish, Danny Williams (Rhys Brain 82), Charlie Smith (Ricky Freeman 55), Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Brendon Cass, Ryan Birch.
Goals: Charlie Smith 8, Craig Cloke 44, 84, Ricky Freeman 60.
Yellow card: James Morrish 64

Alex Hewitt, Melvin Adesida (Bradley Wilson 46), Eden Blake (Otitololuwa Ojo 32), Jamie McGeoghegan, Sinn’Kaye Christie, Nathan Campbell (c), Eidan Fejzi, Bryan Akongo, Stefan Joseph, Andy Mott, Harry Pilkington (Aidan Brown 73).
Subs (unused): None
Yellow cards: Stefan Joseph 65, Otitololuwa Ojo 72, Eidan Fejzi 76.

Attendance: 68
Referee: Andrea Timpani
Assistants: Dan Friar & Bo Wang