Three Points for City vs Hollands and Blair as Tough April Run-in Begins
By Kevin Olver
City move up the table as busy April fixture-list starts with a victory.
Canterbury City 3 Hollands and Blair 2
A close fought encounter on a cold and damp April night saw City fall behind before then twice taking the lead to ensure the points stayed at home.
An early exchange of attacking free-kicks saw City's Kyron Lightfoot strike his over the bar while City blocked and defended H&B's away to safety. Harry Dawes saw his effort charged down by City, while another free-kick for the hosts saw Adam Wollcott curve the ball in but it by-passed everybody and went straight out for a goal-kick.
A chance at either end then saw Lightfoot shoot well off target from inside the box while H&B's Rob Denness lashed a shot into the side netting when well placed. To this point both sides had got themselves into some promising positions, but in truth neither keeper had really been tested so far.
On twenty-five minutes however the deadlock was broken when H&B took the lead. An aerial ball was brought down well by Denness and he struck a first-time, low shot home past City keeper Jack Delo for 0-1.
City weren't behind for long though as just five minutes later, Woollcott threaded a pinpoint pass into the box - splitting H&B's defence open - for Lightfoot to run onto and poke the ball past H&B keeper Ryan Nicholls only to see it rebound off the foot of the post but fortunately, Lightfoot reacted quickest to stab the loose ball home from close range for 1-1.
Having levelled, it wasn't long before City took the lead with an ultimately gifted goal. A corner from the left was played short by Lightfoot to Chris Saunders who returned the pass and Lightfoot's fierce shot was driven straight at Nicholls but the keeper couldn't hold it and just patted the ball down to the ground where Dean Grant prodded it home from right underneath the keeper's nose for 2-1.
No sooner had H&B gone behind then they really should have equalised when a high ball towards the box was gathered in by Denness who cleverly spun past Delo before turning and firing the ball back towards goal but inexplicably, with most of it to aim at, his shot missed the target and rolled wide of the far post.
With just a couple of minutes of the half to go, a clever dummy out wide by Grant left H&B full-back Ed Morant floundering and allowed the striker to whip the ball across the front of the goal just out of the reach of Jordan Casey who came charging in looking for a telling touch for City's probable third, but it wasn't to be and the break arrived shortly after with City still in the lead and a goal to the good.
Denness, who had been looking a handful all night had the first sight of goal in the second half when he drilled a low effort from the edge of the box straight at Delo, before he had a big hand in drawing H&B all-square when he battled his way down the left and into the box before managing to squeeze the ball across to Dawes who had the simple task of sliding it home from close range for 2-2.
The game was now nicely poised and a City free-kick took a heavy deflection off the wall and looped up kindly for Nicholls to take under his bar, while at the other end, a break down the left came over to Justin Ascheri whose stinging shot was palmed up in the air by Delo and then claimed.
In the sixty-fourth minute, City took a decisive and winning lead. A good build up by them eventually came to Lightfoot who wriggled his way past a couple of challenges before being tripped in the box by Steve Dampier - a clear penalty and no dispute from the visitors just a wave of resignation to their fate as Lightfoot got up himself to fire the spot-kick home, low to the keeper's left and just inside the post for 3-2.
Jack Simon then struck a H&B handily placed free-kick over the City wall and on target but Delo comfortably stood his ground and just pushed the ball calmly over the bar to safety whie for City, a left-sided corner was swung in by Lightfoot right into the crowded danger zone but somehow avoided everyone and went straight out for a goal-kick.
Dawes then set up Steve Ratcliffe for an effort on goal but his shot was solidly blocked by Phil Starkey for City before Dawes then broke at speed through the middle and forced a little wide by two City defenders, he wastefully shot well off target and thus forgoing the opportunity to lay the ball off to Denness who was free to his right and had an open goal in front of him.
City then made their first couple of changes bringing on Rob Lawrence and Ollie Lee as Casey and Saunders departed as they sought to just manage the game out. Lightfoot struck a thirty-five yarder over the bar while Keiran Sharp fired wide from the edge of the box for H&B.
In the few minutes that remained, either team could have scored. City had a couple of chances to make the game safe when firstly, a lovely ball through from Rob to Danny Lawrence saw the latter cleverly find Grant in space but he blazed the ball over the bar from about fifteen yards and then Rob did well to feed Lightfoot this time who couldn't get a shot off but Grant pounced and hammered a hurried shot just wide from twenty yards.
For their part, H&B had their chances too as firstly Denness attempted a low shot through a crowd that took a couple of deflections and just trickled through to Delo, while following a quick counter-attack, Denness tried to bundle a cross home but was thwarted by an excellent and timely block from Michael Turner before as the ball came back out, Dawes struck a firm volley back but straight at Delo for a straightforward and relatively comfortable save.
An entertaining game and a very good win for City and although H&B have their issues at the wrong end of the table it's difficult to see how they've got there if they'd have played that well all season!
Match sponsors 'The Sleepy Dave Appreciation Society' selected Danny Lawrence as Man-of-the-Match but there would have been several contenders on a great night for City as they completed game one of nine in April to eventually complete what has been a most memorable and historic season.
Final score: Canterbury City 3 Hollands and Blair 2
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, Gary Sayer, Chris Saunders (Ollie Lee), Ben Gorham, Phil Starkey, Kyron Lightfoot, Adam Woollcott, Jordan Casey (Rob Lawrence), Dean Grant, Danny Lawrence.
Unused Subs: Renford Tenyue, Michael Dowling, Mark Taylor.