Whitstable Reach Another Semi Final

Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Quarter-Final
Tuesday March 6 2018 19.45

Whitstable overcame the absence of several key players to progress to the last four of another cup competition with a deserved win over Deal Town. In a one sided first half during which Whitstable won eleven corners, some committed defending by the visitors kept the score goalless. Goalkeeper James Tonkin and his defence made sure they were first to most of the balls into their box, although Ricky Freeman was just off target after being sent clear by Teddy Nelson and Tonkin managed to deny Danny Williams from close range. Deal offered little threat apart from an Alfie Foster header that went wide from a free kick and one deflected long range shot that was easily saved by Dan Eason. The second half continued in similar fashion, although Deal did see a little more of the ball. Louis Sprosen chipped a great chance just wide and Tonkin made a good save from a Macauley Murray free kick, before a rash challenge by Luke Bigginton on John Walker gave Williams the opportunity to calmly put Whitstable ahead from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute. The introduction of three substitutes injected a bit more urgency into the Deal attacks late on and Eason had to make a couple of saves, whilst at the other end Tonkin prevented firstly Williams and then Shaun Welford from making the game safe.

This was the fourth attempt to play the game and following some hard work on a pitch that was under deep snow a couple of days earlier, conditions were fine for the game to proceed. Whitstable were without injury victims Craig Cloke and Chris Saunders, whilst James Morrish and Rob Gillman were also unavailable. This gave an opportunity for academy player Teddy Nelson to start at the back alongside Stuart West and Tom Bryant, with Louis Sprosen and Charlie Smith coming into the midfield. Deal were sitting in the top half of the table and had beaten Whitstable 2-1 in the league fixture at their ground back in September, although only four of the Whitstable players started in both games.

The home side began strongly and the majority of the first 45 minutes were played in the Deal half of the pitch. Whitstable had a number of dead ball situations in the first 10 minutes, providing opportunities to deliver the ball into the box, but a Bryant header and a shot from Williams failed to trouble the Deal goalkeeper, while Eason had just one catch to take at the other end. On 11 minutes, a good ball forward by Nelson found Freeman in space, but his shot went just wide as Tonkin tried to close him down. Whitstable then won a succession of corners, leading to a few scrambles and blocked goal attempts, but Deal generally defended stoutly with Tonkin and his defenders keeping them in the contest. Tonkin saved a Sprosen shot from the edge of the box, then a good move down the right gave Freeman the chance to send over a dangerous low cross, but Tonkin did well to prevent Williams giving Whitstable the lead in the 24th minute.

Action from one of many Whitstable corners, as Teddy Nelson challenges Kane Smith
Ricky Freeman has a shot blocked by the Deal defence
James Tonkin saves from a stretching Danny Williams

Macauley Murray had a good game in midfield and when he was flattened by Andy Miller, he got up to take the free kick, with the ball eventually falling to Freeman, whose shot was saved by Tonkin. On 29 minutes there was a rare chance for Deal when an Andy Miller free kick was headed wide by Foster and a few minutes later a long range attempt by Foster was deflected into the safe hands of Eason. Stuart West picked up the first booking of the evening after a foul on the Deal left and Andy Miller soon joined him in the book after conceding several free kicks. Just before the break, Walker put in a great cross following a one-two with Williams and that led to the eleventh corner of the half for Whitstable, although like a few before, the inswinging delivery by Josh Burchell was headed out from under the bar and the game remained 0-0 at half time.

As the teams emerged for the second half, there was a feeling around the ground that Whitstable should have had more to show for all their domination and it might just be a game where Deal would soak up the pressure and then create something on the break. This indeed almost happened when a good run by Andy Miller left the home defence a bit stretched, but Deal failed to find the right pass and the ball went harmlessly out for a goal kick. On 51 minutes Connor Coyne was spoken to by the referee after a foul on Bryant and from the free kick, the ball was headed into the path of Sprosen and, with just the goalkeeper to beat, he chipped the ball over Tonkin but wide. Charlie Smith made a good run from midfield before being stopped, then Jack Paxman was booked for a foul about 25 yards out and Murray forced a great save out of Tonkin as he turned his free kick around his left hand post. A couple more Whitstable corners followed and when the ball came back out to Sprosen, his chip to the far corner was saved by Tonkin and then Nelson sent a shot just over the bar. Deal brought on Ben Chapman for Connor Miller in the 62nd minute and he shot wide from distance shortly afterwards. West hooked an effort over the bar at the other end after being found by Sprosen. After Deal had made their second change, introducing Charlie Walsh, a promising build up down the right ended with Walker being fouled just inside the right edge of the box by Bigginton, resulting in a penalty and a yellow card. Williams stepped up and found the bottom right hand corner to put Whitstable in front with his 22nd goal of the season.

Danny Williams scores from the spot
The ball finds the corner of the net

Euan Sahadow, a young player on loan from Folkestone, was the final Deal substitute and Welford replaced the hard working Freeman for Whitstable. The combination of going behind and the three substitutions seemed to inspire Deal to go on the attack for the first time in the match and a deflected strike by Chapman was well saved by Eason at his near post and then in the 84th minute Deal won their only corner. The ball was cleared by Whitstable and Williams raced past the last defender, but was thwarted by Tonkin as he tried to take the ball around him. After a couple more Deal attempts by Sahadow and Chapman, neither of which seriously troubled Eason, the final chance of the game fell to Whitstable in stoppage time. Williams broke down the left and crossed the ball to Welford at the far post, but his shot was blocked by Tonkin for the sixteenth Whitstable corner and the game ended shortly afterwards.

Teddy Nelson jumps highest
Dan Eason collects a late Deal effort

Whitstable have now reached the last four of the competition and continue to chase success on three fronts. It will be a busy end to the season with a minimum of seventeen games left to play in seven weeks.

Whitstable Deal
16 Attempts 7
8 On Target 3
16 Corners 1
0 Offside 0
14 Free Kicks Won 13

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Teddy Nelson, Tom Bryant (c), Louis Sprosen, Charlie Smith, Ricky Freeman (Shaun Welford 79), Danny Williams, Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Brendon Cass, Owen Fitt, Rhys Brain, Dean Ruddy.
Goal: Danny Williams (pen) 73
Yellow card: Stuart West 38

Deal Town
James Tonkin, Jack Paxman, Danny Smith, Liam Hark (c), Kane Smith, Luke Bigginton (Euan Sahadow 76), Connor Miller (Ben Chapman 62), Alfie Foster (Charlie Walsh 69), Connor Coyne, Sam Wilson, Andy Miller.
Subs (unused): Dan Adams, Joe Reeves.
Yellow cards: Andy Miller 42, Jack Paxman 59, Luke Bigginton 72.

Attendance: 103
Referee: Dan Doyle
Assistants: Paul Franks & Kieran Stoneham