CITY AND SHEPPEY END ALL-SQUARE
Canterbury City 2 Sheppey United 2
A pulsating and entertaining game ended all square as City and Sheppey shared the goals and the points meaning City start the new season with two draws from two games.
It was a loose and tentative opening few minutes from both sides but the game suddenly burst into life when a sweeping move from the hosts saw Liam King twice involved and a darting run from Callum Emptage lay the ball inside for Matt Day who flicked the ball goalwards only to see Sheppey keeper Aaron Lee-Wharton dive across and push it away to safety with both hands before, almost immediately, Sheppey broke themselves and Dan Bradshaw flashed a shot just wide of the City goal.
Bradshaw was then quickly involved again finding Billy Bennett whose shot was superbly beaten away by a flying City block, before Sheppey opened the scoring on twelve minutes. An Ian Batten corner was fired in at the near post and Emptage, attempting to clear, saw the ball fly off his head back towards goal and straight into the net via keeper Joe Mant's desperate attempt to beat the ball back out for 0-1.
City almost responded immediately when a long ball forward to Dean Grant down the left saw his cross eventually find Brett Ince who volleyed powerfully - but just wide. On sixteen minutes, the hosts did find an equaliser when Grant was again sent down the left, but this time his lovely first touch wrong-footed his marker and sent the striker inside and through on goal where he calmly slid the ball past the approaching Lee-Wharton and into the far side of the net for 1-1.
It was end to end stuff as they say and an ambitious long shot from King flew well over the Sheppey bar while at the other end a snap shot from Bennett was well saved by Mant diving smartly down to his left. An Emptage cross from the right then spun towards the Sheppey goal but was well taken by Lee-Wharton, before Grant scooped a soft shot straight at the grateful keeper.
Corners were exchanged as Lee-Wharton showed some good handling to thwart City while Emptage firmly cleared one from Sheppey while in between times, Bennett saw his mis-hit long shot go high and wide before the unfortunate Emptage hobbled off to be replaced by Georgio Rosso for City.
Sheppey then regained the lead on thirty-nine minutes when a quickly taken free-kick inside their own half started a move down the left which saw Greg Benbow surge forward before exchanging passes and firing low, past Mant and just inside the far post for 1-2.
In the run up to the break, City pressed forward determinedly in search of a second equaliser but a couple of corners saw just a Day header going wide before muted appeals for a penalty when the same player went down in the box failed to prompt any interest from the referee and the half ended with City a goal behind.
An early Ola Williams ball that dangerously flew across the City goal showed intent from Sheppey not to just sit on their lead while City saw Lee-Wharton successfully deal with both a free-kick and a corner before Dave Cook headed another just wide for the home side.
With an hour on the watch, Mant then pulled off an early contender for save of the season when Bradshaw's fabulous all-in-one turn and shot saw the ball heading for the top corner before the keeper leapt across and turned the ball past the post with a brilliant, one-handed, flying save. The subsequent corner also needed Mant's intervention as he pawed the ball - arrowed in on goal - away to safety.
On sixty-eight minutes, City levelled when a Ben Wilson corner swung in from the left and ricocheted about in the Sheppey box before Joe Denny pounced on the loose ball to slam it into the roof of the net, from close range, for 2-2.
Shortly after, there was then a long stoppage as Lee-Wharton was unfortunately injured following a heavy fall after an aerial challenge with Grant and had to be replaced in goal by Ritchie Hamill.
In a rather frantic last twenty minutes or so both sides threw everything at finding a winning goal. A thirty yard lob from Sheppey saw Mant caught in no-man's land but fortunately for City and rather unluckily for Sheppey, the ball bounced high off the top of the cross bar and landed back in play only to be hacked clear to safety. King then saw a shot blocked out for a corner while a header from Rob Denness found Mant well placed to save with ease before Hamill then comfortably saved a shot from Day that bobbled tamely towards the Sheppey goal.
In eight-plus minutes of stoppage time, passion and commitment almost overflowed with two yellow cards for City and a melee involving several players of both sides which was becalmed by the referee before a last moment corner from Sheppey was well taken out of the air by Mant just as the final whistle blew.
A thoroughly absorbing and exciting game therefore ended all square which was probably just about the right result on the night.
Final score: City 2 Sheppey 2
City: Joe Mant, Callum Emptage (Georgi Rosso), Ben Wilson, Dave Cook, Joe Denny, Will Thomas, Charlie Dickens, Matt Day, Dean Grant, Liam King (Clark Woodcock), Brett Ince (Robbie Dolan).
Unused Subs: Jack Healey, Renford Tenyue.