Saturday 15th January 2011
By Richard Tapsfield
Our first league game in 7 weeks (only our 7th so far!) saw us away to league leaders Wickham Park who had won every game I believe, since we had beaten them 2-0 in the Kent Cup at the beginning of October. We therefore knew we were in for a tough test against a much improved side.
With everyone there before 1pm the mood was good and everyone was up for the game, which was in stark contrast to last week, after the 1 hour plus drive to a Canterbury recreation ground had pretty much killed most people's enthusiasm! In case you are wondering we lost that game 2-0 to a team of giants, who unsurprisingly scored both goals from set-pieces, although I can honestly say I'm glad to be out of that cup!
We decided to match Wickham's 5 across the midfield and lined up as follows:
(GK) Sam Clarkson
(RB) Ben Dutton
(CB) Matt Ellis
(CB) Luke Johnson (C)
(LB) Dave Martin
(RM) Joe Hussey
(CM) Nigel Johnstone
(CM) Louis Hussey
(CM) Russell Nethercot
(LM) Dan Head
(CF) James Learmouth
The game started quite evenly with both sides struggling to hold on to the ball and no real chances created. Wickham had two big guys up front and another couple in midfield so it was no surprise that the looked to play the long ball up to their top two every time they had it. This meant they were a threat from set-pieces and with the token long throw chucked in (which everyone bar us seems to have these days) we found ourselves beginning to get penned in towards the end of the first half, defending numerous corners and throw ins. However unlike last week we defended these incredibly well aided by some excellent goalkeeping from Sam. We did have one let off though when Wickham's captain rounded Sam but rolled the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
Soon after this we got back in to the game a bit more and started to play some nice stuff with most going through the boys in the middle and some excellent distribution from the right with Ben and Joe. It was from a move down the left though that we got our first good chance with a great cut back from James being met by Joe who unfortunately couldn't keep his shot down. Soon after Dan Head went close with an excellent strike from the edge of the box which the keeper saved well down to his left.
Right on half time Sam came to our rescue when Wickham broke down the right and a square ball saw their captain with the goal at his mercy but somehow Sam got down low to block his shot at point blank range in the six yard box. So 0-0 at half time in a very even contest.
The second half saw us shooting down the slope which we knew would help us a bit, as with Wickham going up the hill, their long ball tactics would hopefully not be as effective! We came out brightly and were much the better side and Louis was the first to go close with a great strike from outside the box which rattled the crossbar. Shortly after this our possession paid off with Russ doing some neat work down the right and pulling the ball back in to the middle. For a split second I thought it had gone behind everyone but then I saw a flash of lilac as James connected with his right foot to smash the ball in to the net, 1-0! Great goal, terrible boots. It's fair to say these are worse than Al's purple numbers that were seen earlier in the season, mainly because they have a camp lilac bag to match them!
After the goal we continued to take the game to Wickham and were unlucky not to increase our lead with their keeper making another fine save from Louis and Dan Head missing with a free header, although it was a difficult chance. At the other end Sam made another great save tipping a goal bound effort on to the underside of the bar which thankfully then bounced back out. Shortly after Wickham created another chance which saw their striker through on goal but as he rounded Sam he strangely opted to pass to his strike partner who was clearly in an offside position and as he knocked it home the offside flag went up. At first I assumed there would be no way the referee would give a goal and as he went over to Stu I assumed he was just double checking. Unfortunately not though and after a rather mumbled attempt to explain himself to Stu we were still none the wiser. There was no one playing him onside, as it was just Sam in goal left and there was also no way it was a square pass either, which is what I think he tried to say later on.
From here the game descended into chaos a bit with Dave being sent off for dissent and one of their players following shortly after. The remainder of the game was played out with little activity with both sides perhaps happy to settle for a point.
All in all it was a decent point for us, against a good side who sit above us in the table and if we're honest it was probably a fair result. However when you've been in front and looked comfortable it is difficult to take when you lose two points to a goal that clearly should not have stood!