City and Whitstable All Square in Entertaining Game
Superb late strike gives Whitstable a share of the spoils in enthralling encounter
Canterbury City 2 Whitstable Town 2
It ended honours and points even in this local derby as City and Whitstable went toe-to-toe at the Charles Ground. No quarter was asked or given and Whitstable's high speed, in your face, launch the ball forward at every opportunity style of football was more than matched by City's own version and a tough and bruising, but exciting and enthralling game ensued.
The pattern of the game was established from the start, everything done at a tremendous pace, plenty going on but as chances went, nothing was happening. The two teams exchanged free-kicks and a couple of corners came and went, but the first real effort on goal did not arrive until the twelfth minute when Wayne Wilson curled a free-kick over the Whitstable wall but it also cleared the bar. Just a minute later though the deadlock was broken when City took the lead. A rapid and incisive break through the middle saw Jordan Casey surge forward and having played a flowing one-two with Luke Griffiths, Casey rammed the ball home low from twenty yards for 1-0.
Whitstable tried to respond immediately, firstly a bouncing ball was volleyed over the bar by Ricky Freeman on the run and then Stuart West glanced a free header just wide of the City post when well placed.
City almost doubled their lead when a wide left free-kick was sent into the box and nearly deceived Town keeper Dan Eason who was forced to backpedal furiously and just managed to tip the ball onto the bar and was then lucky enough to see a Whitstable boot first to it to clear.
Both teams were buzzing but it was City that were creating the chances as frustration grew from the visitor's bench and players. Casey pounced on a hooked ball forward but under pressure could only stab the ball wide from outside the box while a Matt Martin dash into the box saw the ball run loose and Wilson swept the ball goalwards only to see Eason go down well to make a smart low save.
On thirty-two minutes, Whitstable drew level when Shaun Welford went down in the box and the referee awarded a penalty which the same player got up to strike firmly past the diving Jack Delo for 1-1.
The rest of the half saw little to note, but a Jamie Maxted tackle right in front of the Whitstable bench saw the player shown a yellow card and raised the temperature and the blood levels, but apart from that and despite much toing and froing the half ended with no further chances and still a goal apiece.
The early pressure after the break came from Whitstable. Two free-kicks posed no threat to City while the visitors then introduced a long throw into their armory - one flicked on needed Delo to stretch to his right to paw the ball away from goal, with a defender completing the clearance. Despite the pressure and the barrage of balls loaded forward, the City defence was holding firm with centre-backs Laurence Harvey and Will Hadler excelling.
Whitstable continued to push forward and a wide left free-kick was sent in and a header at the far post was clawed out by Delo and after a bit of a scramble, City were relieved to see the ball go out for a goal kick. That was followed shortly by another huge ball into the City box, but this one flew straight onto the grateful grasp of the City keeper.
All Whitstable's high octane pressure counted for nothing though as it was City that then retook the lead. A ball into the box fell into space and popped up nicely for Wilson to hook over the back-tracking Eason's despairing flailing dive and drop in perfectly over him and just under the bar for 2-1.
The visitors were stunned to be behind and for a moment or two City sensed victory. Wilson fired a centrally placed free-kick just over the bar, while Rob Lawrence pounced on a loose ball in midfield before taking a couple of paces forward and firing a low shot a foot wide.
Suddenly Whitstable sprung back into action and roared on by their partisan support the onslaught began. Ball after ball rained in on the City defence, but still they stood firm. A corner was headed away at the near post and John Walker fired just over the City bar. City continued to defend as Whitstable desperately sought an equaliser.
With a minute of normal time remaining City defences were finally breached when a free-kick was floated into the box and knocked on for Charlie Smith to pull off a sublime, flying overhead kick connecting perfectly to strike the ball home for 2-2.
There was little time left for either side to grab a decisive third, so the game ended all square, which on the night was probably about right except it took something special from Smith to end it that way.
Final score; Canterbury City 2 Whitstable Town 2
City; Jack Delo, Gary Sayer, Jamie Maxted, Wayne Wilson, Laurence Harvey, Will Hadler, Pat Nzuzi, Luke Griffiths, Jordan Casey, Rob Lawrence, Matt Martin (Tom Barton).
Subs unused; Robel Grant, Billy Lewins, Josh McCallum, Ryan Catmull.