The U15s came into their home game against Dover after an enforced three week break and were missing a number of key players from their squad in this important tie. It was a game that Whitstable needed to win if they wanted to maintain pressure on Margate who still sit at the top of the table but have played two more games than Town.
Whitstable started the game on a strong footing creating chances through shots from Dylan Richards, Will Derby and a free kick from Alfie Mantle in the early stages of the game. Harrison Wade - normally a midfielder but deputising admirably at right back - was also on corner taking duty as Whitstable piled on the pressure in the opening 10 minutes. But just like the previous game against Dover earlier in the season, the opposition proved hard to break down. Winger Alex Brownett and striker Jake Salisbury were tireless in their efforts but the Dover keeper and his defence appeared to be in a bullish mood.
Dover created a number of good chances themselves with Town keeper Stanley Allom making a fantastic one on one save in the first half and the visiting side shooting wide on a couple of other occasions. In fact, Allom and the backline of Wade, Mantle, Callum Groom, Will Knoupe (who replaced Groom in the second half) and Ollie Bunn deserve special mention as they helped the team achieve what was their 10th clean sheet in the league so far with another well-drilled and organised performance.
Whitstable continued to press in the first half with Salisbury, Richards, Brownett, Alfie Hill and captain Archie Rumball all seeing their efforts either saved by the Dover keeper or sailing wide. Whitstable varied their corner kick and free kick takers as well with Groom and Wade seeing their respective efforts repelled by the Dover defence.
Half time 0-0
Although Whitstable enjoyed the better of the first half, visitors Dover grew in confidence as the game went on and they came out strong in the second half. Whitstable had to maintain their focus and a sterling performance from central midfielders Hill, Derby and Rumball kept up a steely resilience to stop Dover getting a foothold in the game.
Joshua Thomas-Wright and Knoupe came on for the start of the second half with Brownett and Richards coming off. There was some further re-shuffling as Groom moved to midfield but then had to drop back into defence when centre back Mantle came off injured later in the game.
Whitstable continued to press and create chances though and in the 54th minute they made their breakthrough. Salisbury had enjoyed an excellent game up front already with the Dover backline only just managing to contain him. But as he received the ball 15 minutes into the second half he worked himself into an excellent position, turned and put his shot just out of reach of the stretching Dover keeper. The goal clearly meant a lot to the U15s who celebrated wildly together. Whitstable may have been in a commanding position but there was still a long way to go in the game.
The game then got quite nervy as Dover began to create more openings. It had been a similar story earlier in the season when Whitstable had gone 1 nil down, then put three past Dover before Dover then made it 3-2 and continued to press looking for an equaliser. It was looking like this return fixture would be equally competitive.
But although it was a more disjointed second half it was yet another assured performance from goalkeeper Allom who made a series of stunning saves and brave blocks. In fact, just prior to Whistable’s opener he had tipped a Dover shot onto the post and then wide to safety as the ball ghosted into the area. He then made another dramatic and brave one on one save when the Dover centre forward looked certain to score.
Brownett and Richards returned to the pitch as the need for some fresh legs became apparent and Town dug deep in order to keep their slender lead intact. But despite Whitstable’s strong defensive performance they still created chances from free kicks and shots as Rumball, Thomas-Wright and Wade all put the Dover keeper to test. And when the final whistle blew it was clear it had been a good competitive workout for both sides.
Whitstable have only three games left to play as the season begins to draw to a close and the team know those games will be equally well contested in this strong division of the Kent Youth League.
Full time 1-0