City Beat Hollands and Blair To Make it Three League Wins in a Row
By Kevin Olver
Its all Christmas Three's with third win, three goals and three points against Hollands and Blair
Canterbury City 3 Hollands and Blair 1
City continued their recent league revival with a third win on the trot defeating Hollands and Blair away in this last fixture before Christmas. The game was untidy and scrappy at times, but City dug in for the victory and the City faithful also had the added bonus of seeing a club legend return to action in a City shirt for the first time after a long injury lay-off.
Although the first effort on goal came from City when Kane Phillip's shot on the run was well beaten away at close quarters by H&B keeper Shaun Wickes, it was the hosts that created most of the early openings. They won themselves a couple of corners and a free-kick - all of which failed to trouble the City defence and a second attacking free-kick was badly wasted when Reiss Crimmen struck the ball well over the bar.
City withheld these situations well, but their game plans were disrupted early on when forward Jordan Casey limped off after only seventeen minutes to be replaced by James Turner. Kyron Lightfoot's free-kick was then curled in but safely taken by Wickes as he moved across his goal while at the other end, City keeper Jack Delo thwarted Jason Fregene.
A bumpy pitch was making close control and slick passing somewhat difficult for both sides and so it was the long ball that brought the opening goal when City took the lead in the twenty-fourth minute. Hoisted forward from the back, Dean Grant and defender Charlie Plummer were in a stride-for-stride race to chase the ball down, but just at the crucial moment, Grant was a bit quicker and his low first-time strike on the run flew past Wickes as he dallied in coming out to close the situation down and the ball nestled in the back of the net for 1-0.
A brace of useful free-kicks came and went for City but it was one for their opponents that provided H&B with an equaliser just a few minutes later. The ball was sent high into the City box and wasn't cleared and as it bounced it sat up nicely and Fregene pounced to thump the ball into the roof of the net for 1-1.
The rest of the half was scrappy and laden with stoppages and produced little goalmouth action. Adam Woollcott struck a long shot over the bar for City while James Nurden saw his effort blocked, while for the hosts, two further corners failed to create an opening and as the break arrived, a long throw from them caused a couple of anxious moments in the City box but the ball was eventually scrambled clear.
Little to note so far except all the petty little stoppages disrupting the game and a 1-1 scoreline being about right at the break.
The start of the second half showed little change although H&B thought they had taken the lead early on when the ball was cleared off the City line, but despite home claims to the contrary, neither of the on-hand officials could say otherwise with any clue or surety and waved play to continue.
A couple of City corners and a handily placed free-kick could then only produce a Phillip shot deflected away, but in the fifty-ninth minute, City struck again to take the lead. Yet another free-kick for City - a by-product of all the fouls and stoppages - was lined up by Lightfoot and he sent the ball around the wall and it just sneaked inside the post - perfectly placed to beat Wickes as he dived across at full stretch but in vain for 2-1 to City.
The foul and card count was now beginning to mount and although nowhere near off the scale, the irritation levels were rising, while meanwhile a fierce strike by Fregene was brilliantly blocked by Michael Turner's perfectly timed sliding tackle.
On seventy-two minutes, City made a change with Lightfoot being replaced by Danny Lawrence for his first minutes back in a City shirt after his long injury absence - a move that was warmly applauded and he was soon getting himself into the game. Phillip miscued a shot high and wide while Woollcott saw his charged down, but Lawrence was soon to make his mark when in the eighty-third minute he won a tight challenge and slipped a lovely ball through for Grant to run onto and whip it low across Wickes and into the far side of the net for 3-1.
With the game now surely secured for the visitors it was just a case of seeing it out. A H&B corner was safely cleared while a melee involving many players from both sides eventually fizzled out and after some discussion between the two officials on that side of the pitch and the doling out of a few lectures from the referee play continued with no further action deemed necessary.
Just a couple of minutes later though, the referee was left with little option but to act and show Plummer a straight red card for an elbow incident against Lawrence and H&B were forced to see out the rest of the game with ten men.
Then with a minute of the ninety to go, City thought they had scored their fourth when the ball was drilled into the net from wide right by Brett Ince with Grant in very close attendance, but although initially given, the officials then decided between them that Grant had got the final touch and had been offisde in doing so, so the 'goal' therefore did not stand and a hat-trick was denied.
The next City attack saw Grant with another opportunity to bag his third when with H&B pushing up, he broke free and with Wickes coming out to close him down, he slid the ball wide of the keeper but also wide of the post.
H&B continued to battle right to the end as Jordan Gallagher tried to find himself some space on the edge of the City box, but closed down and under pressure could only shoot well wide while a free-kick was launched deep into the City area and somehow avoided everyone to fly past the upright for a goal-kick.
In the last minute of added time, it was great to see Laurence Harvey and Nurden chasing back at full pelt to defend against another home attack as if the cup-final itself depended on it leaving City with a deservedly hard fought and battling win.
All good for City today, three points and three goals and DL is back!
Final score: Canterbury City 3 Hollands and Blair 1
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, James Nurden, Laurence Harvey, Gary Sayer, Ollie Lee, Kyron Lightfoot (Danny Lawrence), Adam Woollcott, Jordan Casey (Michael Turner), Dean Grant, Kane Phillip (Brett Ince)
Unused Subs: Josh Frogatt, Josh McCallum