Whitstable Reach Trophy Final

Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Semi-Final
Saturday February 10 2018 15.00

Whitstable edged past Cray Valley to book their place in the Kent Senior Trophy Final at Maidstone on Sunday 8th April, where they will meet Sheppey United, who beat Canterbury City 3-1 in the other semi-final. The game was always likely to be a close affair with both teams in good form and the unpleasant wet and windy weather made conditions tricky throughout. Whitstable generally had the better of the first half, with a couple of good efforts by Ricky Freeman just off target, although Dan Eason had to turn a Joe N’Guessan strike around the post. The decisive goal came in the 17th minute, when a Josh Burchell free kick was headed into his own net by Ashley Sains. There were few clear chances in the second half, although Danny Williams had an early shot tipped over by Andy Walker. Cray Valley saw a lot of the ball, but Whitstable were well organised, working hard all over the pitch to defend their lead and Eason was not seriously tested by the dangerous visiting strikers.

John Walker and the cup tied Teddy Nelson were unavailable for Whitstable. Louis Sprosen started at right wing back and Stuart West dropped back into the defence with Chris Saunders returning in midfield. The Millers had won their previous six matches in all competitions and were the last team to beat Whitstable, back in mid-December, when their players with experience of higher levels of football made a difference, with goals from Kevin Lisbie and Joe N’Guessan and a commanding performance in midfield from Jamie Day. For this cup tie, more experience was added to their squad with Simon Glover starting and Calum Willock named amongst the substitutes, the latter having played in each of the top seven levels of English football including spells at Fulham, Brentford, Peterborough and Ebbsfleet and he also scored a couple of goals for St Kitts and Nevis in a World Cup qualifying game in 2006. Connor Dobson missed out through injury.

The home team were the first to press forward, Freeman won an early corner and the delivery from Burchell was helped on at the near post, but Andy Walker got down to collect. The Cray Valley goalkeeper was next in action in the 10th minute when he caught a good Sprosen cross from the right. Burchell then found Freeman with a nice pass and after the ball was initially cleared, it came back out to Freeman who struck a good curling effort that went just wide of the right hand post.

An early Whitstable attack
Andy Walker gets down to collect the ball
An effort from Ricky Freeman curls just wide

The first goal attempt by the Millers came in the 14th minute when N’Guessan tried a shot from distance that brought a good save from the diving Eason as he turned the ball around his right hand post for a corner. A few minutes later Whitstable won a free kick on the right and Burchell swung the ball dangerously into the box, where it was met by the head of defender Sains and he diverted it past Walker and into the net for an own goal.

The unfortunate Ashley Sains heads Josh Burchell’s free kick into his own net

Whitstable continued in the ascendancy with Cem Tumkaya and then Josh James both having to make timely interventions to stop attacks, as the visitors struggled to get into the game. On 24 minutes however, Whitstable skipper Craig Cloke for once failed to clear the ball as Cray Valley got forward down the right and his pass almost gave them a sight of goal, but his fellow defenders came to the rescue before Eason could be tested. Back at the other end, a Macauley Murray free kick was cleared as far as Freeman a few yards outside the box and his first time strike flew narrowly over the bar.

Ricky Freeman tries another long shot…
The ball is just too high

West was penalised for a tackle and cautioned for his reaction by the referee, before Day sent the resultant free kick tamely wide of the left hand post. Burchell tried a long range effort that was saved by Walker. Ryan Flack tried to set up Lisbie who was quickly closed down, but the ball fell to N’Guessan who was unable to hit the target. There was some controversy as half time approached when Williams chased a through ball alongside two defenders and as one of them got a touch that was picked up by Walker, the referee awarded Whitstable an indirect free kick for a back pass just inside the box. Williams touched the ball to Cloke whose shot struck the wall and the danger was cleared. The home side went in at the break 1-0 ahead, which felt about right given the balance of play.

A free kick is awarded to Whitstable for a back pass for this incident
The wall keeps the ball out

Eason had to make a routine save low by his near post at the start of the second half as N’Guessan and Flack combined. A poor defensive header fell to Williams on the 18 yard line and his shot was just palmed away for a corner by Walker. After a couple of Murray corners were safely cleared, a good low cross by Matt Parsons led to a corner at the other end that was headed over the bar. Williams then glanced his header wide from another Burchell cross, as the rain began to fall more heavily.

Danny Williams fires a shot towards the top corner
The goalkeeper pushes it out for a corner

Parsons and Ben Francis worked an opportunity for a cross on the left, but Flack shot well wide and then James felt he should have had a corner for a deflection when his effort went over the bar, but the officials disagreed. On 66 minutes, a Day free kick was headed down towards goal by Lisbie, but the ball was easily gathered by Eason. Freeman threaded a pass through for Williams, but as he raced on to it he was just beaten to the ball by Walker. N’Guessan tried a shot on the turn that was deflected behind and the ball in from the corner looped up kindly for Eason to claim.

Willock was introduced in place of Flack on 70 minutes, before a Francis cross was headed down by Lisbie and collected by Eason. Glover then collected the second booking of the game for a foul on Morrish and Denzel Gayle came on for Francis, as the Millers tried to find a way back into the match. With conditions deteriorating as the game entered the last 10 minutes, sandwiched between corners at each end, Willock had a shot deflected over the top after another Day free kick fell to him in a crowded box. Williams and Freeman continued to work hard up front for Whitstable without managing any further goal attempts, while the rest of the home team worked exceptionally hard to protect their lead, limiting the Millers to a few half chances. A great tackle by Saunders prevented another attack. Alex Nelson was the final Cray Valley substitution and Whitstable brought on Charlie Smith and Shaun Welford for the closing minutes. In stoppage time Day, who was playing his last game before leaving to become the assistant manager at Conference National side Barrow AFC, sent one more free kick and corner into the box, but the excellent Tom Bryant, Cloke, and West stood firm until the final whistle.

Whitstable clear the final attack to book their place in the final

It was a hard fought 1-0 win in difficult conditions against arguably the best team Whitstable have faced this season and it was later confirmed that the final will be played at the Gallagher Stadium, the home of Maidstone United, as Whitstable try to win the trophy for the first time since 2007.

Whitstable Cray Valley
6 Attempts 8
3 On Target 3
4 Corners 5
3 Offside 4
13 Free Kicks Won 11

Whitstable Town
Dan Eason, Louis Sprosen, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Craig Cloke (c), Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders, James Morrish (Charlie Smith 89), Ricky Freeman, Danny Williams (Shaun Welford 90+3), Macauley Murray.
Subs (unused): Rob Gillman, Owen Fitt, Rhys Brain.
Goal: Ashley Sains o.g. 17
Yellow card: Stuart West 29

Cray Valley PM
Andy Walker, Ryan Flack (Calum Willock 70), Matt Parsons (c), Jamie Day, Cem Tumkaya, Ashley Sains, Josh James, Simon Glover (Alex Nelson 86), Ben Francis (Denzel Gayle 77), Kevin Lisbie, Joe N’Guessan.
Subs (unused): Sam Bailey, Jordan Sandiford.
Yellow card: Simon Glover 73

Attendance: 141
Referee: Matt Charles
Assistants: Harry Wager & Myles Hewson
Fourth Official: Steven Perry