Chatham Town 1-3 Whitstable Town - I'm confident in the players' ability that we've got more than enough to get our of the position that we're in, says Chatham Town boss James Collins

Tuesday 14th November 2017
Chatham Town 1 – 3 Whitstable Town
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 14/11/2017 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 14th November 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

CHATHAM TOWN manager James Collins says he has confidence in his players’ ability to avoid the club suffering back-to-back relegations.

The club lost their Isthmian League Division One South status under previous boss Paul Piggott in April and have struggled in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

Chatham Town suffered their third defeat in nine under Collins and they remain in the bottom three in the table with 13 points from 15 games, eight points clear of Rochester United, who have three games in hand, while another Medway outfit, Hollands & Blair are rooted to the foot of the table with two points from 15 games.

Scott Porter’s Whitstable Town, meanwhile, climbed up three places into ninth with 21 points from 11 games, 10 points adrift of leaders Sevenoaks Town, who have played a game more.

Whilst Whitstable Town kept the ball in the air for the majority of the game, their three goals were of a decent standard.

The Oystermen took the lead through Charlie Smith’s thumping first half header, before Chatham Town levelled early in the second half through a long-range cross-shot from left-back Danny Smith.

The outstanding Stuart West, who played at the heart of Whitstable’s three-man defence, rose to plant his header into the top left hand corner, before Charlie Smith showed composure to slot in his third goal of the season to make it three wins out of three for Whitstable Town.

“I’m massively disappointed, I thought we done ok,” said Collins, who was controversially sacked by Cray Valley despite being unbeaten at the top of the league earlier on in the season.

“I don’t normally speak (to the players’) after games and I spoke to them in there. Ok is just not good enough for me and that’s from the position I was at the beginning of the season, I was expecting to win things and I watched that tonight, we’re alright.

“I think we’ve improved, I think we’ll pick up points.  I thought we had a lot of possession, I thought we got into better areas than them but I thought they got into the positions they had quality and I didn’t think we had the quality they had and that’s frustrating me.

“I felt we got back into the game, gave a goal up straight away and after that we weren’t brave enough to get onto the ball, lacked belief to get back into the game and that’s got to change.  I know that’s going to take time, that’s why I’m disappointed.”

Whitstable Town’s assistant manager Brendon Cass, 34, said: “It’s a good win. We said to the boys before the start of the game we’ve got three big games coming up and we need to start creeping up the league.  The first one was tonight.

“We knew it would be tough because James has done a good job turning around Chatham and they beat us at our place a few weeks ago.  He does a good job and he’s got them playing well, knocking the ball about well but I thought we were tremendous tonight.  I thought we were back to our best, dug-out a result and it was a big three points tonight.

“It’s still early days. We’ve had a bit of a blip. We’ve had three or four games where we didn’t play very well, results didn’t go our way. Hopefully now we’ve won three games on the spin and we can get ourselves back up the table.”

The League title should be contested by Sevenoaks Town, Crowborough Athletic, Sheppey United and Whitstable Town this season.

“We just have to be up there by Christmas and still be in and around it and hopefully we’ll kick on after that,” added Cass.

Chatham Town created the first opportunity, following their first of only three corners, inside the opening five minutes.

Russell Bedford swung in a corner from the left and Justin Ascheri’s near post header deflected past the left-hand post from inside the six-yard box.

Whitstable Town’s left wing-back Josh Burchell punted one of many long balls into the Chatham box and Charlie Smith’s header was palmed away by goalkeeper Ryan Nicholls, who was put under pressure from Danny Williams.

Chatham Town were trying to keep the ball on the deck, while Whitstable Town deployed a more direct style of football.

“It’s a problem that we had, it’s not just the strikers, it’s not just the front three, it’s the balls into them,” said Collins. 

“The build-up play is neat and tidy, it’s side to side.  I have to say it because it drives me mad, it’s a bit like watching England play.  You keep the ball, it’s nice but you don’t really feel like anything is going to happen whereas when they got the ball, they got into good areas.”

Cass added: “I thought we started the game brightly, I thought we were the best team for 10-15 minutes.  Our wing-backs were getting on the ball pretty well and we started the game pretty well and then Chatham started to come into it but I can’t remember Chatham having many chances on our goal.”

But Whitstable Town grabbed the lead  - timed at 18 minutes and 57 seconds - with a quality move, quality cross and a thumping header that someone like Alan Shearer would have been proud off.

Right wing-back John Walker flicked his pass to release James Morrish down the right and he whipped in a quality cross from the right on to Charlie Smith’s head and he buried his header across the keeper into the right-hand corner from six-yards out.

Cass said: “It was a brilliant team goal, two or three passes, got the ball out wide. John Walker looks like he’s never been away.  It was a brilliant cross and Charlie has been brilliant tonight. He’s been our best player up front, especially after going into extra-time (in our FA Vase win over Epsom & Ewell) on Saturday.  It was a great header and a great ball.  It was one of our best team goals this year.”

Collins said: “I thought we could’ve done a little bit better.  I thought Russell (Bedford) lost his man but I was trying to say from the sidelines, I haven’t got a problem with that, it’s a good goal.  I’ve not got a problem losing a goal like that.  He’s made a run of his man, they’ve got the ball out wide, it’s a quality ball into the box, the striker has got in front of his man and put in a header, which weren’t a freebie, so I’ve got no problem with that.  That’s a good goal and that’s what good teams do.”

Chatham Town were to be denied an equaliser on the half-hour mark.

Billy Brown, who impressed down the left, swept a sublime diagonal pass out of defence to release Justin Ascheri through on goal but Dan Eason narrowed the angle and used his legs to make a crucial save.

Collins said: “I don’t think Justin did too much wrong there.  You’re in that position you want to score. That was probably a good save. He struck it sweetly, he took his time, he probably should score but it’s a very good save.  Again, he’s a quality goalkeeper.”

Cass added: “That’s probably one of their few chances tonight.  Justin is still a livewire but Dan’s done well again tonight. He’s big and brave coming out of his box and made a good save to keep us in it.”

Whitstable Town went route-one in the 37th minute, missing a glorious chance to double their lead.

Keeper Eason launched a big kick upfield, the ball was flicked on by Charlie Smith and his strike partner Williams hooked his shot across keeper Nicholls and past the far post.

Cass said: “Dan was a little bit unfortunate tonight.  He had two or three chances that didn’t quite fall for him. You get those nights, he’s had days where he's put two or three goals in but tonight just wasn’t his night. It didn’t quite come down for him that one.”

Collins added: “I think that took a ricochet of Freeman (Rodgers’) head.  It eluded Laurence (Collins).  I thought their front two ruffed us up. They won a couple of early headers and they moved us about. They fancied their chances against our back four, which to be fair the one thing we have done since we got here, we’ve been very good defensively, so we’ve had a bit of an off-day there.”

Chatham Town called Eason into action inside the final three minutes of the first half.

Danny Smith played the ball across the pitch into the middle and right-back Danny Grant was given acres of space to cut onto his left-foot before drilling a low 30-yard drive towards the bottom right-hand corner, which was held by Eason, diving low to his left.

Grant clipped the ball forward, which was knocked down by Danny Smith and Taylor McDonagh bent his left-footed shot around the far post from 25-yards.

“That’s two shots and that’s what we’re trying to say,” explained the Chatham manager.

“Try to get shots off, shots become half-chances, half-chances become chances and chances become goals. It was decent enough.  Like I said, it was alright but we got into better positions, I felt, than they did, but they took their goals.”

Both were asked their thoughts at the break.

“I actually felt more confident of winning the game at half-time than when I did before the game if I’m honest,” revealed Collins.

“I made a couple of tactical changes (putting McDonagh in defence for Rodgers and putting Michael Hagan out wide on the right), because I thought we could just go for it a little bit more.

“We had three box-to-box midfielders in there to break play up but I felt we had a bit of time in there on the ball so I brought Grant Brown on for a bit of creativity but we know by bringing Freeman off then we’ll lose crosses into the box.”

Cass added: “One-nil up we weren’t really troubled that much. We expect Dan to save shots from outside the box from 20-30 yards and I thought we did well tonight to restrict Chatham to shooting outside the box and not really creating many chances.

“We said to the boys we’ve got to keep going, we’ve done ever so well.  In hindsight really at half-time our only downfall is we really should’ve been two or three-nil up.  Danny missed a couple of chances, half-chances going into the box.

“We said to the boys we expected them to come out because James will get them going, try to keep them quiet because we know Chatham will come out which they did and we had to withhold the storm for a little while.”

Chatham Town got themselves back into the game by scoring a lucky equaliser eight minutes and 29 seconds into the second half.

Bedford rolled the ball out to Danny Smith, who cut down the line before drilling his left-footed cross across Eason, the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner from around 30-yards, out on the left.

“I thought it was an own-goal but he said it went straight in,” said Collins.

“I thought Danny Smith was our best player tonight. What was pleasing was it started with Danny Grant and we had a bit of a passage of play and all off a sudden we usually have a passage of play and it goes in there, we whack it long and hope someone gets on the end of it.

“It was nice because we played it into Russell, into Danny and I thought it was a really good goal and that’s why I’m disappointed because I thought we got it in areas but it’s not enough.”

Reflecting on the strange goal, Cass said: “It was a bit of a nothing goal really. We spoke to John Walker afterwards and he thought he engaged the central midfielder too early to get the ball out wide for them.  Dan Eason doesn’t normally get beat from that sort of angle and that sort of shot. I think it’s a bit of a surprise for everyone that it went across the box and went in.”

However, it took Whitstable Town only 104 seconds to regain the lead, as Stuart West scored from a trademark header.

Macauley Murray swept in a free-kick from the left and West came up from the back to rise to plant his header into the top left-hand corner from 12-yards.

Cass said: “When Chatham scored we were a little bit concerned that they might push on but to then go down the other end of the pitch and score straight away, it’s a brilliant time to score because it them nullified them a bit.  Their heads went as soon as that goal went in.

“That’s why Ports brought Macca Murray to the club.  His deliveries from set-pieces are second to none and Stuart was outstanding tonight. I thought he was brilliant at the back and that’s what Stuart does. He’s a threat when he goes forward into the box and gets on the end of things. It was a great header.”

Collins added: “Well, one thing I wrote down at half-time and said ‘don’t give away silly free-kicks’ because they’ve got quality into the box and every corner and set-piece they looked like they were going to score. 

“I didn’t think it was a free-kick personally, I thought it was a very, very cheap one. It was a good cross and I want us to defend a little bit better but it’s a good cross and a good header. 

“Sometimes you can be too critical of your own players and not give the other team credit.  I thought the first two goals were good quality goals.”

Chatham Town striker Jesse Darko endured a frustrating night in front of goal. He had one chipped effort which was plucked out of the air by Eason.

Whitstable’s back three of Rob Gilman, Stuart West and Tom Bryant gave nothing away all night as Chatham Town struggled to trouble a well-drilled machine.

Cass said: “All three were brilliant tonight, particularly Stuart West.  He’s been out for three games, he’s come back from suspension. He hasn’t really played at the back that much this season. He’s been our holding midfielder at times but I thought he came in and he was outstanding tonight but in fairness to Rob Gilman and Tom Bryant, all three at the back were brilliant.”

Collins said: “They’re good players, they’ve won things, they’ve done things.  I’ve said it before and it will probably annoy people, they’re better than us. They’re a better team than us. We’ve lost to a better team.  I’ve got to sort that out because I don’t like teams being better than us and the thought that we’ve improved since I’ve come in is nowhere near enough.  I need to be where they are.”

Whitstable Town midfielder Chris Saunders was lucky not to pick up a second yellow card for a foul from behind on Miller.  Referee Jordan Whitworth spoke to him and Porter substituted him immediately.

Collins added: “The first yellow card he got was never a yellow card in the first place so I don’t know why he got booked for that because there wasn’t a bad tackle in the game.  The second one is definitely a yellow card.  I haven’t really got a real problem with that because I don’t think the first one was.  I don’t want to see players sent off.  If he done a bad first one and then the second one, yes I want him sent off but the first one he shouldn’t have been booked.”

Cass said: “I thought it would’ve been harsh for a second yellow.  There wasn’t many challenges, bad tackles in the game but to be fair to Saunders we said to him does he have to make that tackle on a yellow card, on the edge of the box when there’s no threat? Probably not. It was in our best interests to take him off before anything else happened. I don’t think he deserved to be sent-off.”

Whitstable Town wrapped up the victory with a third goal, which was scored on the break, timed at 36 minutes and 13 seconds on the clock.

Laurence Collins, who was partnered by McDonagh for the second half, gave the ball away to Williams, who broke down the right, before crossing low towards the near post to Charlie Smith, who kept composed to skip around the keeper to slot the ball into the bottom corner from inside the six-yard box.

“It was a good finish. Danny works hard, like he’s done all night, like he’s done all season, he’s a pest,” said Cass.

“Danny Williams gets in and around people, he’s quick, he causes defences problems and he did that leading up to the goal.

“But in all fairness to Charlie, it’s a great finish, nice and composed around the keeper and he deserved his two goals tonight, because I thought his hold-up play was brilliant. I thought he dominated their defence back there and it was a well-taken goal and fully deserved for Charlie.”

Collins added: “Disappointing from Laurence that he gave the ball away in that area. They’ve still got a bit to do and I’m saying it’s a mistake from us. I don’t think if their player gives the ball away there and we get the ball and I don’t think we score, that’s the problem we’ve got.  They took their chances.

“I don’t really remember Ryan Nicholls making saves. I don’t remember him making a save.  Dan Eason has made more saves than Ryan has yet I think they deserved to win.”

Whitstable Town sub Louis Sprosen played the ball out to Williams, who cut inside two Chatham men to sting the fingers of Nicholls, who plucked the ball out of the air above his head.

Cass said: “I think the game was finished then in all fairness after the third goal went in. We were more than confident that we were going to hold out.  Chatham didn’t cause many problems. It was a good strike from Danny at the end, two or three yards either side it would’ve troubled the keeper, but it was a half-chance.”

Collins said: “I think it was a long-ranger. If people are going to shoot outside the box and we’ll be fairly happy with that.”

Billy Brown cut in from left to the edge of the box before he was fouled by Jack West but the resulting free-kick from just outside the box from sub Grant Brown was comfortably caught by Eason inside time added on.

Collins said: “It’s nothing.  We’re not going to beat a goalkeeper of that quality with a shot like that. It was a free-kick and I’d like to work the keeper a little bit more.”

For Chatham Town to suffer back-to-back relegations and join Erith & Belvedere and Fisher in the SCEFL First Division next season would be nothing but disastrous for them.

Collins said: “We need to get out of it! I think we’re ok, I think we’re alright.  I think we’re an average side.  I think we’re ok. We played against a good side today and they should be better than us with the turmoil that we’ve had. They’ve had a bit more time to get a team in.

“We’ll be fine, I’ve got no doubts about that. I don’t feel any pressure at the moment. I’m confident in my ability. I’m confident in the players’ ability that we’ve got more than enough to get out of the position that we’re in.”

Next up on Saturday, Whitstable Town travel to fourth-from-bottom Tunbridge Wells, who have claimed 14 points from 13 games, while Chatham travel to Rusthall, a side in the bottom six with 15 points from 14 outings.

“I don’t really like going overboard after games but there’s going to be changes,” revealed Collins, ahead of their trip to Jockey Farm.

“It was alright but alright is a six out of 10 but I need sevens, eights out of 10.  People have been left out so I’m going to try to bring another one in for Saturday and now people on Saturday have got a chance to stay in.”

Looking ahead to their trip to Culverden Stadium to play Tunbridge Wells, Cass said: “It’s another tough game. I played for Tunbridge Wells and they’ve got a good crowd there.  It’s a tough place to go, it’s not always the best pitch in the world. They’ve got some good players, I know some of them down there.

“It will be another tough game for us but we need to kick on now. We’ve got a good win here tonight, there’s no point winning here tonight if we’re not going to follow it up with a win at Tunbridge Wells.  That’s the pressure we’re putting on us but we’ve got another two big games now before we go into two Cup games but we need three big performances in the league games.”

Cass agreed that Chatham or Whitstable shouldn’t be playing in the ninth-tier of English football.

“Two good club’s and we’ve come here tonight and the pitch is looking good. It’s a good ground and Whitstable is the same. It’s two club’s who probably will think they shouldn’t be in this league but at the same time it’s a tough league to get out of.

“Hopefully we’ve had our blip and we’re back on it now and hopefully we can go to Tunbridge Wells on Saturday and put on another good performance.”

Chatham Town: Ryan Nicholls, Danny Grant, Danny Smith, Russell Bedford (Michael Habte 83), Freeman Rodgers (Grant Brown 46), Laurence Collins, Billy Brown, Taylor McDonagh, Jesse Darko, Jamie Miller, Justin Ascheri (Michael Hagan 46).
Subs: Josh Bray, Kyron Lightfoot

Goal: Danny Smith 54

Whitstable Town: Dan Eason, John Walker, Josh Burchell, Stuart West, Rob Gilman, Tom Bryant, Chris Saunders (Louis Sprosen 77), James Morrish (Jack West 83), Danny Williams (Reece Brain 90), Charlie Smith, Macauley Murray.
Subs: Brendon Cass, Ryan Birch

Goals: Charlie Smith 19, 82, Stuart West 56

Booked: Chris Saunders 49, Jack West 90

Attendance: 146
Referee: Mr Jordan Whitworth (Catford, London SE6)
Assistants: Mr Matthew Sell (Rochester) & Mr Harry Graham (Orpington)

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