Chatham Secured Unwelcome Double
By Dave Morgan
Poor League Run Continues With Home Defeat To Long Term Rivals
Barely a month ago, City manager Ben Smith probably referred to his sides home as fortress Salters Lane. 6 games played and 6 victories. Since then he has seen his charges struggle to find the form that had them on the edge of the top 3 and this home defeat to Chatham was a fifth successive league loss, four of them coming at home.
With Liam Quinn, Michael Turner and Brett Ince serving suspensions, Adam Woollcott unavailable through injury and Remell Davis a late withdrawal, City gave a first league start to young full-back Harry Barkaway and first starts this season in the league for Josh McCallum and Ollie Lee.
This wasn’t a game that will stick long in the memory of the 115 supporters that witnessed it with neither keeper having a huge amount to do but the visitors deserved their victory just for looking the more controlled and incisive.
It was the Chats that threatened first with a sweeping move from left to right that saw Matt Bodkin lay the ball back for James Fray whose cross just eluded the head of Byron Walker thanks to a flick off a City defender.
City took ten minutes to find their feet in an attacking sense with some neat passing allowing Dave Pilcher the time and space to dink a dangerous ball in to Jordan Casey but the visitors defence were alert to the imminent peril and were able to clear.
James Turner was back helping out his defence on 14 minutes blocking a shot from distance wide for a corner. Bodkin’s ball into the penalty area caused a degree of chaos but City reacted the quickest and Ollie Lee found safety.
It took 22 minutes before either keeper had a shot to deal with and when it arrived Jack Evans’ effort proved to be little more than a routine gather for Jack Delo. At the other end Dan Ellis found Dave Pilcher’s free kick equally easy to deal with but rapidly launched his side forward enabling the Chats main threat Michael Hagan to advance on goal. With Delo coming out to close him down Hagan failed to lift the ball over the City stopper. Barely 60 seconds later and Chats again broke quickly with Delo getting down sharply to push Hagan’s effort from 20 yards past his post.
The visitors took the lead a minute before half time and it was mainly down to hesitation in the City six yard box. A Chatham corner was met powerfully by the head of former City player Corey Walters- Wright. The ball crashed down off the underside of the bar and after Delo got a slight hand to it Walters-Wright reacted quickest calmly placing the ball into the corner as City players waited for someone to clear.
The referee brought the half to a conclusion moments later with the goal having a major impact upon the respective manager’s team-talks.
Chatham came out of the blocks the quicker of the two sides and were rewarded on 49 minutes with the doubling of their lead. City lost possession and Byron Walker broke through the middle. With Bodkin free to the right it looked as though he had chosen the wrong option when his pass left pushed Evans wide. With Rob Lawrence appealing in vain for a free kick, Evans cut inside and curled the ball past Delo from 20 yards.
City needed to respond with some urgency and after Barkaway was fouled by Walter-Wright, Pilcher’s 63rd minute free-kick was met by Laurence Harvey’s downward header but the ball bounced softly off the rain-soaked surface into Ellis’ grateful arms. Little more than five minutes and City managed to find a way back into the game. Substitute James Nurden’s left wing cross was deflected behind for a corner and from Pilcher’s set-piece Ollie Lee headed past Ellis with the aid of a slight deflection.
In fairness although City had the lion’s share of possession in the last quarter of an hour they failed to really threaten an equaliser despite pushing Harvey into a more advanced role and Delo had to be alert to block Jon Pilbeam’s late effort.
An unfortunate way to round off a weekend where the club were looking for a positive result to celebrate 50 years since City's FA Cup First Round visit to Swindon Town. Still matchday sponsors the Sleepy Dave Appreciation Society enjoyed their day with Sleepy Dave himself nominating defender Josh McCallum as the City Man of The Match.
City will need to regroup ahead of a long midweek trip to inform, high-flying Fisher before facing Chatham again in the Kent Senior Trophy next Sunday and then Southall in the third round of the FA Vase on December 1st.
City: Jack Delo, Harry Barkaway, Gary Sayer, Ollie Lee (Dan Keyte), Laurence Harvey, Josh McCallum, Josh Froggatt (Kane Phillip) , Dave Pilcher, Jordan Casey, Rob Lawrence (James Nurden), James Turner. Unused Subs: Liam Middleton, Charlie Cairns