PHOENIX SPORTS 2 WHITSTABLE TOWN 1
SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday February 25 2023 15.00
Whitstable suffered a narrow defeat in this eventful game between the two teams relegated from the Isthmian League last season. A Ryan Hayes penalty halted a bright start by Whitstable and led to a dominant period by Phoenix in the middle of the first half. Tashi-Jay Kwayie added a second before a couple of great goal line clearances kept Whitstable in the game. The returning Helge Orome almost pulled a goal back from a free kick as Whitstable regrouped just before the break, but he was denied by a fine Andy Walker save. Whitstable were the better side in the second half and substitute James Jeffrey scored to give them hope, but they were denied a point by an assistant’s flag when the rebound was put in after a shot had struck the post.
This was the first meeting of these two former Isthmian clubs since relegation, in a season when both would have expected to be challenging for an early return and now find themselves near the top of the table, although well behind runaway leaders Erith and Belvedere. Phoenix Sports are better placed to gain the second place play off spot having played four games fewer. The home line-up contained a number of vastly experienced players including veteran goalkeeper Andy Walker, captain Ryan Hayes, striker Andy Pugh and Matt Bourne, Faversham’s stalwart defender. Helge Orome was back in the Whitstable team for the first time since October, having since played for Faversham and Haringey Borough and James Jeffrey returned after playing some games on dual registration at Hythe Town. Dan Eason returned in goal after missing one game for a family wedding.
Whitstable started positively with the pace of Gus Barnes and Jefferson Aibangbee asking a few questions of the home defenders, but the two goalkeepers remained untroubled despite both teams winning early corners. The first key moment came when Phoenix scored in the 14th minute from the penalty spot. Kwayie collected a long ball down the right, used his pace to cut inside and try to get around Tom Mills, before going down in the box. The referee felt there had been contact and that it was inside the area, so the Whitstable protests were in vain and Hayes sent Eason the wrong way to put his team ahead. There followed a period when Phoenix threatened to take the game away from Whitstable. Mikey Dalton, Pugh and Hayes all tried shots, then Eason kept another Pugh effort out after Whitstable had lost possession. In the 27th minute, Whitstable went close when Rodney Eruotor broke forward on the right and curled a left footed shot just past the far post, then shortly afterwards he set up Orome who shot over the bar. Phoenix won a free kick on the right and Hayes delivered a deep cross that was headed down by Ryan Sawyer to Francis Babalola. The former Cray Valley forward did well to make space and send in a low cross that was collected by Kwayie who took his time before slotting past Eason to make it 2-0 in the 32nd minute.
A Whitstable corner found Will Thomas at the back post and his hooked shot back across goal was cleared off the line. Whitstable were temporarily reduced to ten when Liam Gillies was sent to the sin bin in the 37th minute and there followed two great goal line clearances in quick succession. Firstly, Thomas managed to get his left leg to a Pugh shot and deflect the ball onto the far post, then when the ball was crossed back in, Bourne’s header was headed out from under the bar by George Sheminant. After surviving some further pressure, Whitstable had a couple of chances themselves just before half time. Aibangbee was fouled just outside the area and Orome curled a free kick over the wall, but Walker just got his outstretched right hand to the ball that was then scrambled clear. Another Orome free kick was glanced wide by Barnes to leave Phoenix two goals up at the break.
There was an early chance after the interval for Gillies who shot over after some good approach play by Eruotor and Aibangbee. Whitstable were now looking the more likely to score and Mills headed a corner just wide before Jeffrey and Dean Grant were introduced from the bench. The home team carried little attacking threat in the second half, but did create a couple of presentable opportunities on the break and Hayes shot over in the 68th minute when set up by Kwayie. Dalton was the next to enjoy a spell in the sin bin and was off the pitch when Whitstable scored in the 74th minute. Aibangbee on the left found Jeffrey in the area and he took a touch before firing past Walker from a tight angle.
Phoenix were now hanging on to their narrow advantage, but did have one more good chance as Whitstable pushed forward when Kwayie chipped the ball forward for Pugh, but he shot over with just Eason to beat. Grant then had a similar chance, running on to a Mills pass, but he could only lob into the grateful hands of Walker. The game’s last major talking point came in the 86th minute when Aibangbee did well to find room to shoot through a packed area, only to see his shot strike the far post. Orome and Jeffrey, who were both onside when the original shot was taken, followed in and Orome nudged the ball towards the empty net. It appeared to be helped over the line by Jeffrey who was close to his team mate and after some discussion between the officials, the effort was adjudged offside. It looked a close call. There remained enough time for two more yellow cards and Mills became the third player sent to the sin bin by the busy referee. Some late Whitstable pressure was cleared and Phoenix held on for a hard fought three points from a good game that had plenty of incidents for the crowd to discuss on their way home.
After spending most of February on the road, Whitstable return to the Belmont on Saturday to face K Sports.
|5||Shots on target||5|
|8||Shots off target||8|
Andy Walker, Henry Douglas, Matt Bourne, Mikey Dalton, Ryan Sawyer, Lewis Clark, Ryan Hayes (c) (Kieran King 77), Lee Bird, Francis Babalola, Tashi-Jay Kwayie, Andy Pugh (Conor Johnson 88).
Subs (unused): Thomas Cousins, Isaac Long, David Martin.
Goals: Ryan Hayes (pen) 14, Tashi-Jay Kwayie 32.
Yellow cards: Tashi-Jay Kwayie 50, Lee Bird 90+3.
Sin bin: Mikey Dalton 72
Dan Eason, Jake Mackenzie, George Sheminant, Helge Orome, Will Thomas, Tom Mills (c), Harry Gamble (Dean Grant 61), Liam Gillies (Jordan Wells 67), Gus Barnes (James Jeffrey 61), Rodney Eruotor, Jefferson Aibangbee.
Subs (unused): Cameron Chamberlain, Caoilte Deakin.
Goal: James Jeffrey 74
Yellow cards: Gus Barnes 39, Helge Orome 79, Jake Mackenzie 90+5.
Sin bin: Liam Gillies 37, Tom Mills 89.
Referee: David Rowland
Assistants: Jack Heath & Alexis Stacchini