City Stun Beckenham Town with 3-2 Away Victory
By Kevin Olver
Superb Jordan Casey hat-trick inspires City to victory at second-placed Beckenham Town
Canterbury City 3 Beckenham Town 2
A superb performance from City at Eden Park Avenue saw them stun second placed Beckenham Town with a thrilling victory courtesy of a brilliant Jordan Casey hat-trick as the game swung one way and then the other before CIty came out on top with a late winner.
With three changes from Saturday's FA Vase win including two debutants and some traffic issues to deal with en route, playing high-flying Beckenham on their own lush and 'bowling green' pitch midweek was hardly ideal for City but they went toe-to-toe with their opponents and were deservedly victorious after a closely fought and tough match.
Both sides attacked from the off and both keepers were kept busy. Beckenham's Michael McEntegart was quick off his line to thwart Leroy Hlabi as the City man attempted to chase down Brett Ince's through ball and as it ran loose Casey was first to react but a heavy first touch took the ball away and it was cleared. A couple of attacks led by Kane Phillip were both defended well by the hosts while at the other end, they failed to prosper from an early corner and a shot from Richard Atkins which was straight at City keeper Jack Delo for an easy save.
On twenty minutes, City missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when Casey turned well to feed Phillip with the ball and his pin-point pass had Hlabi through on goal but, well placed, his firm shot could only find the side netting.
City would soon rue that miss when just a few minutes later they went behind. A left-sided attack saw the ball fed forward and Jessy Darko sprinted through and thumped the ball past an exposed Delo for 0-1.
City tried to respond quickly as Adam Woollcott's twenty-yard shot fizzed just wide and while City were getting forward fairly often, time after time they were being halted just short of the home goal either by the Beckenham defence or by some poor decision making and final ball selection.
The hosts were looking forward as well though and Delo did well to smother a low ball speared in at his near post from wide right. McEntegart then cut out a couple of City crosses while Casey saw his shot deflected out for a corner. Kyron Lightfoot swung the ball in and it bobbled about not quite falling to a city shirt to make a clean strike on goal. The ball was only part cleared though and City worked it back in and Hlabi did well to beat a couple of challenges under pressure and get to the by-line before pulling the ball back for Casey to stroke it home from the edge of the box for 1-1.
In the run up to the break, Liam Quinn executed a perfectly timed, sliding, blocking tackle to deny Beckenham a probable second as they broke through in numbers as City looked in vain for a missing offside flag,while Casey was given time to trap the ball and turn but fired it wide of the opposite angle before Beckenham's Luis Medina rushed effort from distance flew well over the City bar.
Half-time duly arrived following a decent first period with the sides evenly matched and all to play for in the second half.
City were forced into a change at the break as Josh Froggatt replaced Phillip and he was soon in the action breaking down the right but just failing to get the accuracy on his cross. The first real opportunities after the restart fell to the home side when Billy Bennett fired straight at Delo from wide left and then sent in a lovely cross which Stefan Wright could only tamely head straight at Delo again for another comfortable save.
The first goal after the restart however fell to City. Brett Ince fed a ball through the home defence and Casey and Hlabi both chased after it. Casey won that race and then with a lovely piece of skill he stopped, turned back and from the left corner of the box crashed an unstoppable shot past the stationary McEntegart curling it into the opposite top corner for 2-1 - an exquisite strike.
Beckenham were starting to fray at the edges and some frustrated tackling duly followed. Hlabi and Lightfoot were both fouled in dangerous areas with the latter's being particularly late and cynical as City sought to increase their advantage. Ince struck the first free-kick straight at McEntegart, while Lightfoot flashed his inches the wrong side of the upright.
The home side eventually managed to get their act back together and for the next twenty minutes or so put City under considerable pressure. Bennett fired over from twenty yards and then the hosts had a 'goal' disallowed for offside.
On seventy-one minutes, the pressure told as Beckenham were awarded a penalty and Atkins stepped up to blast the ball into the roof of the net giving Delo no chance for 2-2.
The home side continued to press forward in search of a winner buoyed on by a partisan home crowd and seemingly getting the majority of the referee's decisions, some rather puzzlingly. Delo saved from Atkins' header and a corner hoisted into the City box was eventually scrambled away as it ricocheted around the area. City were standing tough at the back though as Quinn, Delo (twice) and Ollie Lee all made vital clearances while a header from Adam Wadmore lacked any pace and was saved by Delo - well positioned again.
As the clock ticked by, City introduced James Turner and Rob Lawrence into the fray, but the team had their work cut out defending to try to break though at the other end. Another half-chance came and went for the hosts as Medina's firm shot rose steadily away from the angle.
As the game moved into four added minutes, Casey saw his header saved by McEntegart but the keeper could do nothing a minute later when a break down the left by Turner pierced the home defence and his perfectly placed pull back found Casey, who took a moment to take aim and then rammed the ball home from the edge of the box for his hat-trick and to make the score 3-2.
In what little time remained, the home side surged forward, again getting the benefit of a couple of dubious decisions that should have both stopped play. One ended with a corner sent in that Quinn cleared with a giant, match-saving header while the last action of the game saw Delo dive in to pluck the ball away from a Beckenham striker right infront of goal. The final whistle blew straight after and City had pulled off a remarkable and well deserved victory.
Final score: Canterbury City 3 Beckenham Town 2
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, Michael Dowling, Ollie Lee, Liam Quinn, Adam Woollcott, Kyron Lightfoot (Rob Lawrence), Brett Ince, Jordan Casey, Leroy Hlabi (James Turner), Kane Phillip (Josh Froggatt)
Unused Subs: Harry Barkaway, Dan Lawrence.