ERITH AND BELVEDERE 1 WHITSTABLE TOWN 2
SCEFL Premier Division
Saturday March 18 2023 15.00
Whitstable produced a determined, organised performance to claim three away points at Park View Road. Debutant Ashley Sains was sent off early in the first half, but the team responded positively and Jefferson Aibangbee gave them a deserved lead at half time. Whitstable continued to play the more effective football at the start of the second half and were rewarded when Josh Oliver doubled their advantage from the penalty spot after being fouled. The Deres were eventually given some hope midway through the half when Ryan Palmer pulled a goal back with a penalty at the other end and they then pressed hard for an equaliser. Whitstable defended heroically, with Dan Eason making some vital stops, and were always a threat on the break, but with no further goals the team and travelling supporters were able to enjoy a well-earned win.
When the teams met at the Belmont in October, they produced a memorable game that finished 2-2 with both teams scoring in added time. Erith and Belvedere began the season with eleven wins and went on to establish a seemingly decisive lead at the top of the table. They have faltered a little recently, with just one win since the start of February, but still hold a healthy advantage. Former Oyster favourite Andy Constable was dismissed as manager in the run up to this game with Matt Longhurst taking over following a very short spell at Burgess Hill. Whitstable included new signing Ashley Sains in defence, with Will Thomas moving into a holding midfield role.
The game began in bright sunshine after a wet morning and the Deres started on the front foot. Lewis Chambers shot at Eason after Whitstable had lost possession, George Monger lifted an effort over the bar from 25 yards and Danny Lear sent an overhead kick wide after another attempt had been blocked. The game changed dramatically in the 17th minute when Whitstable tried to play out from the back and Sains stretched for the ball as Chambers pressed, resulting in a clash that the referee deemed worthy of a red card for the defender. This seemed to galvanise the ten Oysters that remained on the pitch, who showed great spirit and organisation to turn the game in their favour. Josh Oliver was a constant threat on the right and easily outpaced his marker before crossing low to the back post where Jefferson Aibangbee arrived only to hit the bar from a couple of yards out when he seemed certain to score. Oliver then had another effort blocked at the edge of the area, then a long ball forward by Thomas found Dean Grant who was denied by the new home goalkeeper, Jordan Perrin. Kie Douglas put a weak shot wide at the other end, but the momentum was with Whitstable and they opened the scoring in the 35th minute. Grant won the ball in the centre circle; Liam Gillies threaded a pass through to Aibangbee on the left and he raced into the box before sliding the ball past Perrin. There were a few half chances for the Deres as the interval approached. Lear’s shot was deflected for a corner, a right wing cross was headed over by Douglas under pressure from the Whitstable defence and Eason easily gathered a low 20 yard shot by Chambers.
The second half began quietly with Whitstable comfortably nullifying any threat from the home team while looking dangerous when they did get forward. A great Grant cross from the right was headed over the bar by Aibangbee a few minutes before the second goal was scored in the 61st minute. Eason threw the ball out to the right where Oliver had plenty of space to run into the box before being barged over by Monger and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty that Oliver tucked into the bottom left corner. That prompted a double substitution from the home bench, including the former Gillingham player, and more recently Glebe manager, Luke Rooney, whose free kicks would cause Whitstable some problems in the latter stages. Aibangbee released Grant, but he was closed down before he could get his shot away. A challenge by Tom Mills on Lear near the bye line led to referee Tom Nicholls awarding his second penalty of the afternoon and the much-travelled Ryan Palmer stepped up to make it 1-2 in the 67th minute. There followed a bizarre incident between Jude Russell and Aibangbee that led to a lengthy delay with discussions between the officials, a yellow card each and when the Whitstable player could not be calmed, he was promptly substituted.
The pressure from the home team was increasing, with a series of free kicks, corners and long throws, but Whitstable held firm, helped by a couple of near misses. Rob Strachan headed a cross wide then almost got on the end of a Rooney free kick that flashed across the box. Eason pushed another free kick away from danger and Chambers nodded wide following a corner. It wasn’t all one way and Perrin did well to turn away a fierce Oliver strike from the right. In the 89th minute a Ryan Palmer cross was met by Bradley Ryan whose shot was well saved by Eason who then had to pull off another diving stop after Ryan Palmer cut in from the right before bending a left footed shot towards the far corner. The resulting corner was sent right across the goalmouth by Rooney, but nobody could get a touch. There were nine added minutes and towards the end Oliver and Eason were cautioned, then in the final moments James Jeffrey found Oliver in space again and he was brought down just outside the box by the last defender, Chambers, who escaped with a yellow card and when Oliver played the free kick towards the corner flag the final whistle blew. It was a great effort by the team who played the majority of the game a man short and keeps Whitstable in the top six, whilst the Deres will be hoping for a return of confidence soon to avoid a nervy end to their title challenge.
Whitstable return to the Belmont on Saturday, which is also “Non-League Day”, to entertain Holmesdale, a team they have yet to face this season.
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Erith and Belvedere
Jordan Perrin, Jude Russell (Tunde Aderonmu 79), Ryan Khanye (George Snelling 90+3), Lewis Chambers, Rob Strachan, Ryan Johnson, Ryan Palmer (c), George Monger (Ben Wilson 90+3), Danny Lear, Kie Douglas (Luke Rooney 62), Nathan Palmer (Bradley Ryan 62).
Subs (unused): none
Goal: Ryan Palmer (pen) 67
Yellow cards: Jude Russell 69, Luke Rooney 72, Lewis Chambers 90+9.
Dan Eason, Jake Mackenzie, George Sheminant, Will Thomas, Ashley Sains, Tom Mills (c), Josh Oliver, Liam Gillies, Dean Grant (Cameron Chamberlain 83), Harry Gamble, Jefferson Aibangbee (James Jeffrey 72).
Subs (unused): Gus Barnes, Caoilte Deakin, Victor Aiyelabola.
Goals: Jefferson Aibangbee 35, Josh Oliver (pen) 61.
Yellow cards: Jefferson Aibangbee 69, Josh Oliver 90+4, Dan Eason 90+5.
Red card: Ashley Sains 17
Referee: Tom Nicholls
Assistants: Ben Wright & Daniel McGlynn