Canterbury City 2 Crowborough Athletic 3
A desperately disappointing afternoon for City as their league losing streak stretched to four matches after this defeat at home to Crowborough Athletic. After an electrifying start City were soon outgunned and outmanoeuvred by their opponents who were quicker to the ball and out passed the hosts and eventually came from behind to take the victory.
City got off to the best of starts as they attacked straight from the kick-off and with just seconds on the watch, Dave Pilcher let fly from the edge of the box and Crowborough keeper Ryan Burbridge had to be alert to hurriedly tip the ball over the bar for a corner. Nothing came from that but just a couple of minutes later, City took the lead. A long throw from Jordan Casey was hurled into the box and found Brett Ince whose accurately flicked header went up and over Burbridge and into the net for 1-0.
They couldn't hold the lead for long though as on eleven minutes they gifted an equaliser. The ball was played forward into City territory and with keeper and defender converging on it, the keeper called but failed to clear and Luke Leppard nipped in to roll the ball into an empty net for 1-1.
The game was soon quite open with both sides looking to attack. City were using Casey's long throw to varying degrees of uncertainty in the defence, but having produced the opening goal, they never really came close to repeating the feat with the same tactic although Burbridge did somehow manage to punch one out for a corner. Crowborough though, were shifting the ball much quicker and starting to retain possession better and although Pilcher saw a free-kick into the box bounce through and get scrambled back to the keeper, the greater goal threat was at the other end even though three corners and an attacking free-kick from the visitors were all successfully shut out by the City defence.
Jack Funnell powered another Crowborough free-kick in from fully forty yards plus straight at the City goal but the ball rose steadily and went well over the bar while City responded with some promising moves from Casey, Kane Phillip and James Turner as he chased a lost cause, but one by one they just fizzled out.
With four minutes of the half remaining, a rapid counter attack from Crowborough saw them break through with two against two but having ridden one challenge Kieran Scantlebury went for goal himself despite having available support, only to see City keeper Jack Delo stand tall and produce a decent blocking save.
In the run up to the break City had chances to retake the lead. Another long throw was just about shoved out for a corner as the defence struggled to cope with it and from this the ball came back in by James Nurden and a Casey header deflected off the foot of Burbridge with the keeper somewhat fortunate to see it ricochet past the post and not into the goal. Then with the break looming, Casey got through on the right but his powerful shot from the edge of the box, cannoned off Burbridge as he closed him down and ran loose across the goal, Casey then unable to pursue it as they both crashed to the floor each claiming the foul! The officials weren't interested and the half duly ended with the teams all square at a goal apiece.
Crowborough restarted the better and within a couple of minutes, a low shot had scooted across the City goal just missing the far post via a deflection and a header from Scantlebury was kicked of the line by Michael Turner guarding the post. City responded well as a quick break from James Turner saw Burbridge just snaffle the ball before Casey arrived on the scene and then a ball in from Ince was almost poked home by Pilcher, but running through and at full stretch he couldn't get enough on the ball and the keeper made the save.
Laurence Harvey then fired a long shot well over for City before on fifty-five minutes Crowborough took the lead. A regulation attack from Scantlebury saw him play the ball inside and from the edge of the box, Funnell took aim and buried a low shot into the City net for 1-2. The visitors then forged ahead looking to extend their lead and came close twice, firstly as Ansu Janneh fired into the side netting and then Scantlebury just cleared the angle having cut inside from the left.
City then made all three changes within a few minutes as Liam Middleton replaced the injured Casey, Rob Lawrence came on for the unlucky Nurden following a formation reshuffle and Josh Frogatt was introduced for Phillip. Despite this, it was Crowborough who crucially scored the next goal when on seventy-one minutes, Funnell was allowed too much space and he rifled his low shot through bodies and past the diving Delo for 1-3.
There was little City could now do except throw everything they could at their opponents and with Harvey now in attack as a emergency centre-forward, they were lucky not to go further behind when Lee Jules somehow managed to scoop the ball high over the City bar when very well placed right in front of City's goal.
Undaunted by this City swept forward - finally with some purpose. Harvey headed a Pilcher free-kick over the bar, who then had two shots blocked in quick succession. A dangerous Frogatt ball in was safely pouched by the keeper before at the other end Harvey Killick was denied by Delo as Crowborough temporarily relieved the pressure.
With three minutes of the ninety remaining, City were handed a possible lifeline when Pilcher turned on the run on the edge of the box and crashed home a great shot that dipped over the keeper and into the net for 2-3 and to reduce the deficit. Try as they might though, with Crowborough running down the clock at every opportunity, City could only fashion two more chances in the time that remained, firstly when Frogatt flashed a shot over the bar from wide right and then Pilcher curled a long range free-kick past the wall but also the wrong side of the post.
City were beaten by the better side on the day, but with some tough fixtures just played and more coming thick and fast a return to some league form is desperately needed.
Final score: Canterbury City 2 Crowborough Athletic 3
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, James Nurden (Rob Lawrence), Dan Keyte, Laurence Harvey, Gary Sayer, Kane Phillip (Josh Frogatt), Dave Pilcher, Jordan Casey (Liam Middleton), James Turner, Brett Ince
Unused Subs: Ollie Lee, Harry Barkaway