The U16s put in another impressive display on Sunday beating Chatham Town with goals from midfielders Callum Groom and Archie Rumball and an own goal after good pressure from winger Jamie Lartice.
The game had looked anything but certain at half time when Chatham equalised with what was almost the last kick of the half but the U16s pressed on and put two second half goals past the visitors to cement their second place status in the league and continue their winning run.
Whitstable started the game in determined fashion with striker Jake Salisbury having a shot as early as the first minute, after a good ball from Groom, and left back Will Knoupe lofting in a series of free kicks in the opening minutes as the home side looked to get an early goal.
Chatham were looking for openings as well though and centre back Harrison Wade had to be strong and alert as the visitors tried to thread balls through to their on rushing strikers. Chatham conjured a shot in the eighth minute but it didn’t trouble Stan Allom in the Whitstable goal.
Whitstable continued to press and after shots from captain Rumball following a Leo Cornhill corner and an ambitious overhead kick from centre back Ollie Bunn from another corner, the U16s took the lead in the 14th minute when hard-working Alfie Hill received a knock on from Salisbury, raced to beat the Chatham centre back and on coming keeper, before squaring it to Groom who rolled the ball into an empty net.
After netting his first goal of the season last week away at Chatham, Groom once again stepped up to haunt The Chats with another fine strike.
Whitstable started to purr after taking the lead with wingers Sonnie Hemmings and Jamie Lartice working hard to create chances along with Salisbury who went on a mazy run in the 19th minute taking it around several Chatham players but losing his footing at the vital moment when he was looking to pull the trigger. Hill then had another effort from distance before Rumball had an effort following a Cornhill free kick.
But the home side then had to contend with a series of changes that seemed to upset their rhythm.
First Cornhill had to come off with a bloody nose following a challenge and was replaced by Ioannis Gayle before left back Knoupe came off due to illness resulting in a reshuffle with Groom switching to left back as Will Derby came on in the middle of the park.
Chatham started to get back into the game and in the 28th minute they were through after a lovely cross into the box but somehow Allom pulled off a miraculous save at the Chatham striker’s feet.
The game became more of an end to end affair as the first half wore on with chances falling for both sides. Hill and Lartice combined well in the 33rd minute whilst the visitors tested the Whitstable keeper just a minute later. Then Sonnie Hemmings, who was warming to the game, took a shot before Harrison Wade put a good free kick into the box.
Then there was another change for Whitstable as Alex Brownett came on for Hill. Brownett was immediately pressing the Chatham left back as the U16s reorganised themselves after the changes.
But just as the first half was coming to a close, Chatham equalised.
They lofted a long ball into the Whitstable half and after a mix up between the U16s back line and their keeper, Allom came out but didn’t win the ball. He looked on despairingly as the Chatham striker took the ball in his stride and finished the move by levelling the game with a close range finish.
Half time 1-1
Another change for the home side at half time with winger Dylan Richards coming on for Lartice but it was Chatham who started the second half better putting the home team under pressure with free kicks into the box and looking to get their strikers in behind the Whitstable defence again. And they nearly benefitted from a scramble in the Whitstable box in the opening minutes before the home side got the ball clear.
But despite the pressure they were putting on Whitstable, Chatham were their own worst enemies committing several cynical fouls that earned them a series of yellow cards. Several Whitstable players needed treatment as the game started to get fractious.
Unlike the visitors though, Whitstable let their football do the talking as Salisbury had a shot following a through ball from Derby, Brownett had a go as well and a number of free kicks were taken after Whitstable players were felled by Chatham defenders once they knew they wouldn’t be able to get in a fair tackle. Richards took a wonderful free kick - after another bad Chatham foul that saw another player’s name enter the referee’s notebook - that crashed against the crossbar as the home side continued to ask questions of the Chatham defence.
The U16s had got themselves back into the game and just before the first 20 minutes of the second half had been played, a number of tactical changes were made that helped the game swing in Whitstable’s favour.
Hemmings and Richards swapped wings before Hill and Lartice came back on to the pitch.
Shortly afterwards, Groom put an excellent cross into the box. And as Hemmings followed its trajectory to nod it into the back of the net he was pushed unceremoniously onto the ground by a Chatham defender and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty.
Captain Rumball stepped up to take it but his effort was well saved by the keeper who dove down to his right hand side. However, the Chatham celebrations were short lived as the keen-eyed referee spotted a Chatham player inside the box before the ball was struck. Rumball got another chance to put his team ahead and made sure of it this time with a clinical finish down the middle and into the back of the net.
Chatham felt aggrieved and it gave them a renewed sense of purpose as they strove to get an equaliser. Gayle, Wade, Cornhill and Bunn were excellent as usual at the back for the U16s with Bunn showing his skill and strength to win the ball and then get the team playing. Derby, Brownett and Rumball were working hard in the middle of the park while Hill, Hemmings, Lartice and Salisbury continued to press the Chatham backline and create openings.
But once again the U16s had their keeper to thank for keeping their lead intact.
In the 66th minute, Allom made a finger tip save to push the ball into the side netting that had some of the Chatham supporters thinking it had gone in. Chatham then headed over from the resulting corner before they played some lovely football, winding their way into the box in the 70th minute but finding again that Allom was more than equal to it as he pulled off another outstanding save.
A few minutes later Whitstable had a third goal and for the third meeting this season, Chatham had no way back.
The goal came after a period of excellent passing from Whitstable as Derby and Richards combined to feed Salisbury who played a deft flick to give the ball back to Richards. Finding himself in the box, it looked like Richards was sure to score but he was halted by a Chatham defender and instead dug the ball out and crossed it towards the far post. Lartice was putting pressure on the Chatham defender as the ball came in and the defender turned the ball into his own net to make it 3-1.
Chatham realised the game was up and the final minutes of the match became quite tetchy as personal battles threatened to spoil the game. But the match petered out and the referee’s whistle brought proceedings to an end.
It was the third victory on the trot for Whitstable in all games, their fifth straight win in the league and it’s now been eight games since they were last defeated in the league. That defeat was against league leaders Deal who sit just above Whitstable in the table seven points ahead but having played one more game. Whitstable now sit firmly in second, six points above Chatham who have also played more games than them.
The U16s have a few weeks off now before they entertain Hastings at The Belmont at the beginning of April.
Full time 3-1