All Square on Boxing Day at Sheppey United
By Kevin Olver
Points and goals shared in entertaining encounter
Canterbury City 1 Sheppey United 1
Honors were even in this Boxing Day stalemate at Holm Park, but City will probably think that it was two points dropped rather than one gained. They dominated the first-half but only went in at the break all-square despite several chances to have taken a healthy lead and made the game safe, but a much better performance from the hosts after the break meant that neither side could break the deadlock and it ended up at a goal and a point apiece.
City had by far the better of the opening exchanges but an early corner and a couple of free-kicks produced just a single effort on goal by Dean Grant but he could only send his shot wide when well placed. Josh Stirman almost capitalised on some poor control in the City midfield but his low, long range effort was gathered at the second attempt by City keeper Jack Delo.
Kane Phillip then saw his shot deflected over the bar for City while another attack saw some quick give and go play into the Sheppey box end when the ball was just overrun and rolled away to home keeper Aaron Lee-Wharton. City were bossing the midfield and the possession and were finding plenty of time and space and continued to create chances to open the scoring.
A City free-kick was nodded across goal by Liam Quinn for Grant but from a great position he missed the target again - lifting the ball over the bar. An Ollie Lee curler was safely taken by Lee-Wharton, while another two or three City attacks broke down when the final ball couldn't be delivered. Kyron Lightfoot then skipped past three challenges before laying the ball off for Grant but this time he was thwarted by a fine, close-range spreading save by the keeper.
A couple of Clty corners then passed them by while an Adam Woollcott shot flew wide. A Sheppey corner was cleared by City before Oliver Brown's optimistic shot from distance also drifted wide. City continued to press forward though and a Phillip ball in curled away from the goal and the arriving City players, before, in the twenty-seventh minute and very much against the run of play, Sheppey somehow took the lead. A break down the left by Darren Cooper saw the left-back hoist the ball into the box and with a cross expected, the ball wrong-footed and deceived everyone and it flew over Delo and into the opposite top corner of the net for 0-1.
Within a minute, City should have levelled when a Lightfoot cross picked out Grant and with loads of time and the whole target to aim at, his unchallenged header, disappointingly went over the bar. Another chance then came and went for City as Phillip won the ball deep in his own half and single-handedly charged towards the Sheppey box, but just at the vital moment and having done all the hard work so well, he over-ran the ball and Lee-Wharton was out quickly to gather.
Delo then plucked the ball off of Dan Bradshaw's head with a great piece of handling before at the other end, Sheppey's Jono Richardson was yellow carded for hand-ball and preventing a City attack progressing. The resultant free-kick proved a double whammy for the hosts as Lightfoot stepped up to fire the ball round the wall and into the top corner for a terrific strike and to make the score 1-1.
City continued to attack and in the run up to the break created several presentable chances. Although a Sheppey free-kick was cleared, it was City that were doing most of the attacking. An up and over from Phillip found Grant and he held the ball up well for Woollcott to drill a snap-shot that Lee-Wharton did well to dive down and push away to safety, before Grant then cut in from the left only to see his fierce shot beaten out well down by the foot of the near post by the busy keeper. Lee-Wharton was less assured in dealing with the resultant corner however, flapping loosely at the ball as it came across but no-one in a City short was on hand to benefit.
Lee then saw a shot charged down for City with the corner cleared by the hosts before a James Nurden cross on the run just drifted out of the reach of both James Turner and Grant as they raced into the Sheppey box. Grant saw another effort charged down, while on the stroke of half-time and in a rare foray forward, Stirman set Bradshaw up for the hosts but a double deflection saw City end the half with a goal-kick as the whistle blew.
All square at the break, but on the balance of play and chances, City should have been far enough in front to have secured the points.
A much better and tighter Sheppey emerged after the break and the second-half was much closer than the first. Grant almost put half-time substitute Josh Froggatt through for City before Woollcott set Grant up but another effort missed the target with the ball fired over the bar from twenty-five yards.
Sheppey were now much better going forward and an inviting ball right across the face of the CIty goal on fifty-one minutes was just begging to be stabbed home but just eluded two incoming attackers for a lucky City escape. A minute later, Stirman was allowed to turn full-circle before firing in an almost identical cross which again saw no Sheppey player able to turn the ball home before Bradshaw then broke into the CIty box but was halted by a superb sliding, blocking tackle by Quinn at the expense of a fruitless corner.
Delo safely dealt with a glancing goalbound header from a Sheppey free-kick before Luke Medley had a shot charged down for the hosts. City were being starved of chances as Grant tirelessly chased after several through balls, many of which he had no hope of catching. The introduction of Danny Lawrence and Leroy Hlabi for City injected some impetus, but the latter was muscled off the ball in one attack into the box before in another seeing his shot take a heavy deflection and fall nicely for Lee-Wharton to save.
A Froggatt shot lacked the pace to trouble Sheppey's keeper before at the other end, Delo pulled off a magnificent one-handed save to deny Bradshaw. In the last minute of the ninety, a perfectly positioned free-kick for Sheppey had all the build-up and anticipation, but Hitcham Akhazzam's strike was woeful in comparison, going well over the City bar.
A frantic end to end additional period saw Sheppey go closest to bagging all three points as Lee's great defensive header halted one attack and Luke Girt's ball right into the heart of the City box was well taken again by Delo.
A Sheppey shot from the halfway line flew over the bar, while Grant was just inches away from collecting a ball lifted over the home defence and being clean through. Finally, in the last minute of stoppage time, City were reprieved and relieved when Nurden saved his side a point with his brilliant match saving header off the line when Sheppey seemed certain to score.
A decent Boxing Day encounter, probably, on the day, producing the right result.
Final score: Canterbury City 1 Sheppey United 1
City: Jack Delo, Gary Sayer, James Nurden, Laurence Harvey, Liam Quinn, Ollie Lee, Kyron Lightfoot (Leroy Hlabi),Adam Woollcott, Dean Grant, James Turner (Danny Lawrence), Kane Phillip (Josh Froggatt).
Unused Subs: Brett Ince, Josh McCallum