Whitstable Town continued their fine form of 2018 with an extra time victory against their SCEFL rivals Sheppey United to win the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy.
The Oystermen were the favourites going into the game after so far being unbeaten in 2018 in all competitions, but even their charismatic boss Scott Porter was first to admit after the game, this wasn’t their best, but they did the job! “I’m immensely proud of the boys this afternoon – we did it the hard way; its wasn’t our best performance but that’s because Sheppey made it hard for us all afternoon,” the Whitstable boss admitted. “My boys just don’t give up and to win a first trophy for the club for me personally makes me immensely proud – that’s one out of three (Whitstable are still involved in the SCEFL promotion race and the League Cup Final) – lets move onto the next one!”
For Sheppey boss Ernie Batten, it was a different feeling to the one he experienced two years ago when his side beat Ashford United to lift the Trophy. “Very disappointed on the day,” he told KSN, “it was a game of two halves on the day – we couldn’t have given anymore and that makes me pleased against a side Like Whitstable who you know are going to be direct and tough to beat. We’ve given them two goals from set pieces which is disappointing.”
The game itself was not a classic and took a while to get going – a question perhaps of the occasion or even the Gallagher’s artificial surface but whatever the reason, the Final took a while to get going.
Whitstable had an early chance through Ricky Freeman from 20 yards which was comfortably dealt with but Sheppey keeper Joshua Glover, whilst Sheppey’s first chance saw Timmy Babbington attempt a bicycle kick ala Ronaldo but that was as close as it was to the Portuguese magnificent midweek effort – sadly, Babbington’s looped wide.
There were just ten minutes of the half left when the Islanders had their best chance - Omari Hibbert’s drive coming back off Whitstable keeper Dan Eason’s chest straight to Remell Davis whose shot from 10 yards came back of the post before being scrambled clear. Sheppey clearly upped the tempo and Hicham Akhazzan forced Eason into a stunning save – full length to his left – but from the corner the deadlock was broken. Jono Richardson was fouled by Tom Bryant and Hibbert stepped up to send Eason the wrong way from the spot.
The second half exploded into life on the hour when Whitstable levelled with a goal good enough to win any game. Before the goal, substitute Dan Williams – on for the experienced Shawn Welford – headed just over, before on sixty-six minutes providing the delightful flick onto Chris Saunders’ cross for Josh Birchall to level the scores on the volley. The superlatives for the control that the former Folkestone Invicta and Hythe Town defender showed as the ball dropped to him as he magnificently and glorious volleyed the ball past Glover really was a joy to behold!
Ten minutes later, Chris Saunders was put through and from 15 yards his low cross was spilled by Glover, but the following up Saunders rebound hit the side netting. It was Whitstable now in the ascendency, as Saunders again went close – this time from Freemans graft Three minutes later another chance came Whitstable’s way when Freeman on the left drilled his low cross to Saunders, but his side foot effort went wide as the game went into the extra period.
Extra time was only two minutes old when Whitstable scored – or did they? A corner to the back-post saw Bryant head “home” off the post, but the goal was only awarded by an assistant’s flag. “My keeper and defender were adamant the ball didn’t cross the line, but the assistant though otherwise so be it,” shrugged a very sporting Batten after the game. The Sheppey boss tough would have been lifted by the response with Eason pulling off another brilliant save as Ian Batten’s free kick was headed goal wards.
Sheppey dominated possession in the last 15 minutes but messers Gillman, West and Bryant were outstanding at the back and indeed Whitstable almost added a third when sub substitute Lewis Sprossen was brilliantly denied by Glover.
So, part one of the Whitstable treble is complete and manger Porter left the Gallagher with a warning to their rivals. “Yes, I’m so proud today of everyone, but I won’t call this season a success for us unless we get promoted!”
SHEPPEY UNITED – Glover, Brunt, Cooper, Saunders (Cox 96), Richardson, Girt, Babbington, Davis (Bradshaw 89), Hibbert, I Batten (G Batten 108), Akhazzan
Subs:Amoah & Clark
WHITSTABLE TOWN – Eason, Walker, Birchall (Sprossen 72), West, Gillman, Bryant, Saunders, Moorish (Smith 107), Freeman, Welford (Williams 54), Murray
Subs: Ofitt and Ruddy
REFEREE: Mr POLLINGTON
ASSISTANTS: Mr SCOTT and Mr ANNANDALE (4TH OFFICIAL: Mr D. PROCTOR)