City End Year With a Closely Fought Victory Over Chatham Town
Tight and competitive game ends in a single goal win
Canterbury City 1 Chatham Town 0
It's just one defeat in nine league outings for City as they finish 2017 on a high with a third consecutive victory. It was a tight, competitive and sometimes physical game which City nicked with the only goal before a dramatic goal-line clearance kept their advantage intact.
A scrappy and stuttering start from both sides saw several unforced errors and little of real note created early on. Dave Pilcher hit a bouncing ball over the Chatham bar, while Russell Bedford replied in kind for the visitors after Jamie Maxted had calmed City with a great defensive header under pressure from a dangerous cross. Billy Lewins headed wide from a Pilcher cross, before Chatham were inches from taking the lead when a speculative low shot from about thirty-five yards almost caught City keeper Jack Delo napping, but the ball struck the inside of the post before rolling across the goal and being hacked away by Maxted.
Chatham were starting to control the game and several times they got forward and threatened the City goal. A long throw deflected off a City head and Delo had to tip it over his own bar for a corner before Josh McCallum headed away the ball back in before seconds later, Justin Ascheri had sent in another cross that fizzed past the City goal and out at the far post.
City responded with Dan Keyte firing over from distance and Pilcher lobbing the ball too high from the corner of the box, but Chatham pressure was looking likely to bear fruit and almost did when they broke from a loose City pass and ended when Aaron Jeffrey, on the overlap and clean through was foiled by Delo - standing tall and strong and saving from point blank range with his feet.
A Chatham corner was swung in and headed over the bar by an attacker, yet much to City's annoyance, another corner was awarded, which again was swung right into the danger zone - City doing well to clear once more.
On forty-one minutes and against the run of play at that point, City took the lead. Some great play by Maxted down the left for City saw his cross loop over and Chatham keeper Ryan Nicholls could only watch it sail over his head to the far post where Rob Lawrence had pulled away into space. Before the keeper could adjust his position or compute what was happening, Lawrence had cleverly and deliberately planted the neatest of headers back past him and somehow, squeezing it into the net from the tightest of angles for 1-0.
Nicholls saved comfortably from Pilcher as the break arrived with City leading and a rather hard done by looking Chatham trudging off a goal behind.
The second half was more physical as play flowed from one end to the other. It was also more fractious and threatened to boil over at one point when a stray elbow felled a City player in his own box, but thankfully, things soon calmed down. A Lawrence cross-come shot flew out just past the far post, Delo made two fairly straightforward stops from a couple of optimistic long range Chatham efforts and then Maxted fired wide from the left.
As time wore on, City dug in. Once again they defended stoutly and the back four were well backed up by the players in front of them. A Chatham free-kick, in a very handy position was wastefully hit against the City wall, while at the other end Laurence Harvey headed over from a corner.
On seventy-nine minutes a cross from the right was pushed over his own bar by Delo for another of numerous Chatham corners, but this one was swung right in and an acrobatic goal bound header from Reece Butler was brilliantly headed off his own line by Lawrence. Chatham were pressing forward and chasing the game and a back header from a long throw was an inch away from being headed home for an equaliser.
City made all three of their changes and as time was ticking towards the ninety, the visitors became more and more desperate, piling forward in huge numbers at every opportunity, but leaving gaps for City to potentially exploit at the other end. This they almost did when substitute Connor Hendricks ran onto a loose ball and struck a low shot that Nicholls had to dive across and just get enough on the ball to push it past the post.
Now into a frantic stoppage time, Dan Gonzalez-Bello saw his shot pushed out by Nicholls and in what little time that remained, twice the keeper ventured forward only for the final whistle to be blown just as he and two other attackers all went for a long throw launched into the box, only succeeding in heading the ball out for a goal-kick.
City rode their luck a little at times, but they defended strongly whilst scoring the decisive goal and earning themselves three valuable points.
Final score; Canterbury City 1 Chatham Town 0
City; Jack Delo, Pat Nzuzi, Jamie Maxted, Dan Keyte, Laurence Harvey, Josh McCallum, Billy Lewins (Dan Gonzalez-Bello), Joe Nelder, Rob Lawrence (Tom Barton), Dave Pilcher (Connor Hendricks), Sam Lawford.
Unused Subs; Will Hadler, Ben Smith.