Whitstable Ease Into Semi-Finals

Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Quarter Final
Wednesday January 31 2018 19.45

A depleted Whitstable Town team set up a home semi-final against Cray Valley PM on Saturday 10th February with a straightforward win at Oakwood, the ground Erith Town share with VCD Athletic. Ricky Freeman gave them an early lead from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the box. Stuart West almost found the net with a header shortly afterwards, before Dan Eason was called upon to deal with the only shot on target from Erith. The home side made things difficult for themselves with a red card in each half, both for rash challenges by players who had already been booked. Whitstable should have won more comfortably and Freeman had his second penalty saved by Adam Molloy after West had been fouled. Rob Gillman eventually wrapped things up by finding the net following a corner. Substitute Shaun Welford twice went close to adding to the score, but Whitstable had done enough with the defence looking solid throughout.

This was the third attempt to play this cup tie, following a couple of failed pitch inspections. Whitstable were short of numbers with James Morrish serving the final game of his ban, Charlie Smith and Macauley Murray were unavailable, Teddy Nelson was cup tied, Rhys Brain had a knee injury and the hat trick hero of the previous game, Danny Williams, had to withdraw for family reasons. There were returns for Rob Gillman and Louis Sprosen, with Stuart West moving into a forward role. Erith Town had drawn twice with Whitstable in the league this season, although they had lost their last two matches and were also missing a couple of their players and without Stuart Zanone, appeared to have a reduced goal threat.

Erith had an early sight of goal when a throw in was partially cleared and Osman Proni lifted a shot high over the bar from 20 yards. Whitstable soon started to press forward though and Freeman had an effort blocked, then the hard working West won a corner that was cleared by the home defence. Freeman did well to control a long ball forward down the right and burst into the box, where Dan Palfrey came across and brought him down and the referee blew for a penalty. After some protests that earned a yellow card for Harrison Hume, Freeman stepped up and struck the ball into the right hand corner, sending Molloy the wrong way and Whitstable had the perfect start after just 10 minutes.

Ricky Freeman is fouled for the first penalty
The penalty is taken
Adam Molloy is beaten by Ricky Freeman’s penalty

A few minutes later West rose to beat Molloy to a high ball as the goalkeeper jumped into him and the ball just went past the left hand post of the open goal. The collision left Molloy needing some treatment before being able to continue. Erith had their only real attempt on goal in the 17th minute when a long ball was helped on to Andres Tobon and his cross reached Proni, whose shot was kept out by Eason and the follow up was sent way over the top. West then got into a good position and shot low across the goal, but Molloy was able to make the save. Erith were reduced to ten men on 23 minutes when a poor challenge by Hume on Josh Burchell left the Whitstable player on the ground after he had cleared the ball. It was a tackle that might well have earned him a straight red card, but he still had to leave the pitch as the referee brandished a second yellow.

Some good play by West created another opening for Freeman and his shot was pushed around the post for a corner by Molloy. Freeman won another corner a few minutes later after being played in by Ronnie Dolan, but Whitstable could not capitalise on the chances they were creating. A mistake by Jack Duffy allowed West a clear run on goal, but he was forced wide to the right by Molloy and was unable to get a shot on target from a narrow angle. West then turned provider to release Freeman, but his shot was too high. As half time approached, Palfrey slipped over on the halfway line and pulled the ball back with his hand whilst on the ground to earn himself a caution. West turned and shot low, but was again denied by Molloy and the last chance of the half fell to Freeman from a Burchell cross, but his shot across goal went past the far post.

Ronnie Dolan on the ball

Whitstable will have been disappointed with the single goal to show for their efforts before the interval and the second half continued in similar fashion. A dangerous cross from Burchell found West in a good position, but he was unable to get on the end of it. A one-two between Freeman and West resulted in a good long distance strike by Freeman that was tipped around the post by Molloy. There was a rare chance for the home team on 54 minutes when a Sidney Warden corner was headed well over the bar by Jim Day. Whitstable had a great opportunity to double their advantage when a Tom Bryant pass was flicked on by Freeman to West and he was pulled down in the box by Jack Hooper, earning the defender a booking and Freeman another chance from the penalty spot. This time he tried to beat Molloy to his right, but the goalkeeper got down to make a save. The ball ran loose and Freeman was booked for catching Molloy as he gathered it at the second attempt.

Adam Molloy saves the second penalty

At the other end, a dangerous curling cross from Tobon might have made Whitstable pay for their missed chances, but nobody could get a touch and it went out for a goal kick. In the 65th minute, a reckless challenge by Hooper on Chris Saunders left the referee with no option but to show him a second yellow card and he walked off leaving nine men to battle on. The young Erith team did work hard and pass the ball around well, but just could not find a way through the experienced Whitstable defence, with Gillman, Bryant and captain Craig Cloke leaving Eason with little to do.

John Walker and West combined down the right to create another chance for Freeman, who turned and shot from just inside the box, but once again Molloy got down to save. Welford came on to replace Freeman on 71 minutes and he was soon in the action as his downward header from a Cloke delivery fell to Saunders, whose shot was blocked. A miscued clearance by Eason led to a corner for Erith, which the Whitstable goalkeeper had to tip over for another that he caught safely. In the 75th minute, West won a corner that was swung in by Burchell and the ball dropped to Gillman who shot through the crowd into the far corner to finally put Whitstable 2-0 up.

Rob Gillman shoots for goal
The ball goes in the far corner and it’s 2-0

A great cross field pass by the impressive Dolan picked out Burchell and his ball in was acrobatically tipped around the post by Molloy. Whitstable introduced the young Owen Fitt for Saunders and Erith made three substitutions in the final 15 minutes. Another Burchell cross found Welford at the back post, but his header was deflected behind for a corner. Welford had one other opportunity, turning and shooting after receiving the ball from Burchell on the edge of the box, but the effort went wide. In stoppage time, Sprosen sent in a dipping shot from distance, but the ball just went the wrong side of the post.

A Josh Burchell effort is touched away by Adam Molloy at full stretch
Shaun Welford has a header blocked by the post

Whitstable will be happy to progress to a home semi-final with few alarms, but should really have scored a few more goals, although credit must go to the way that Erith fought and their goalkeeper for a number of saves to keep his team in the game for so long.

Erith Town Whitstable
4 Attempts 16
1 On Target 9
3 Corners 7
0 Offside 7
14 Free Kicks Won 11

Erith Town
Adam Molloy, Ben Fitchett, Daniel Palfrey, James Day (c), Jack Duffy, Jack Hooper, Andres Felipe Losada Tobon (Lewis Risk 84), Harrison Hume, Ken Charles (Ollie Milton 76), Sidney Warden, Osman Proni (Hamid Bangoura 80).
Subs (unused): Lewis Scotter, Cameron Lovatt.
Yellow card: Daniel Palfrey 42
Red cards: Harrison Hume 23 (two yellows 10, 23), Jack Hooper 65 (two yellows 57, 65).

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Rob Gillman, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Ronnie Dolan, Chris Saunders (Owen Fitt 78), Ricky Freeman (Shaun Welford 71), Stuart West, Louis Sprosen.
Sub (unused): Brendon Cass
Goals: Ricky Freeman (pen) 10, Rob Gillman 75.
Yellow card: Ricky Freeman 57

Attendance: 60
Referee: Jamie Eacott
Assistants: Liam Vittoria & Daniel Blades