Croydon 0-2 Whitstable Town - We're gunning for everything. We want to get promoted and we want to win two cups, says Whitstable Town boss Scott Porter

Wednesday 04th April 2018
Croydon 0 – 2 Whitstable Town
Location Croydon Sports Arena, Albert Road, South Norwood, London SE25 4QL
Kickoff 04/04/2018 19:45

CROYDON  0-2  WHITSTABLE TOWN
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 4 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Croydon Sports Arena

WHITSTABLE TOWN boss Scott Porter says he wants to finish the season with promotion and two cups in the trophy cabinet.

The Oystermen extended their impressive unbeaten run to 18 games following a professional 2-0 win over sixth-placed Croydon to keep their promotion bid on track.

Sevenoaks Town are 10 points clear at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with eight games left to play.

Crowborough Athletic occupy the second promotion spot with 59 points in the bag with 10 games left, while Whitstable Town are now level on points in third-place having successfully eaten up their game in hand on Sean Muggeridge’s side.

The Oystermen scored twice in 11 first half minutes through Stuart West’s header from a corner before former Herne Bay striker Danny Williams tucked home his 23rd goal of the season.

Whitstable Town face Sheppey United in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy in Maidstone on Sunday and the Sheppey management team was in attendance here at the Croydon Sports Arena tonight.

“It was a tough call tonight coming up here,” said Porter, who rested Rob Gilman, James Morrish and Shaun Welford.

“They did bop it about but we stayed organised.  We knew if we got a couple of goals in front we can stay organised, we’re decent and we don’t give away goals (22 conceded in 28 games after the game).

“We rested players with one eye on the final so it was a bit of a gamble but I trust my players, I trust the squad. 

“We’ve been stretched quite a lot this season and we’ve come through it. We’re 18 unbeaten now so I rely on the squad but I have brought no one in.  I don’t need to, you cannot now anyway.  I’ve relied on my squad, I trust my squad and it’s paying off.

“Professional job? I thrive on that! We created a lot of chances first half, limited them to chances, ok they came out second half and they’ve got nothing to lose and they did that but we stuck together and worked hard from front to back.”

Croydon manager Harry Hudson has guided his club to sixth-place in the table with 49 points and have six games left to play to try to reach the top-four.

“It was a really disappointing first half for us, especially the manner we conceded the goals,” said Hudson.

“We spoke about it at half-time and second half we really took control of the game, which was far better and we looked far threatening going forward which pushed them back.

“For me we had a big chance when we hit the post from the free-kick and if that goes in with 20 minutes to go, I think we had the impetus and we could’ve kicked on.  I think they were flagging a bit and looked a little bit leggy as the game went on.

“You have to give credit to Whitstable. It’s what they do. We believe in a certain way, they believe in a certain way and today they won, so for them that vindicates why they do it,” added Hudson, on Whitstable’s direct game.

The opening 25 minutes at the Croydon Sports Arena served up an uninspiring stalemate.

Whitstable right-wing-back John Walker was forced off with a knock to his knee, although Porter said afterwards that “he’ll be fine for Sunday,” and two Croydon attempts from 35-yards from the impressive Daniel Hector and Ashley-Paul Robinson sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Hudson admitted:  “That was a problem.  We weren’t progressing enough with the ball so the first half was played in our half. We might’ve had the ball but we weren’t threatening Whitstable and we weren’t pinning Whitstable back and therefore it was only going to take a bobble or a slight mistake, which always happens, that leads to a set-piece and set-pieces for them was a huge goalscoring opportunity and that proved today.”

Porter added: “I think we picked each other off and we were getting to grips to how they play and they were looking at how we played so we’ve come here to do a job, get a result and go.”

Croydon are a side who like to play out from the back and Bryan Akongo (who is interesting Premier Leaguers Huddersfield Town) gave the ball away in their defensive third to Charlie Smith, who cut onto his right foot and flashed a low drive just past the foot of the near post from 35-yards.

Croydon keeper Lochlan Greenwood dived low to his right to tip Smith’s drilled right-footed free-kick from 28-yards around the post – and Whitstable Town scored from the resulting corner, the goal being timed at 28 minutes and 19 seconds on the clock.

Macauley Murray, who played at the base of the diamond, swung in Whitstable’s first corner of the game and West planted his downward header into the bottom corner from four-yards out.

“Charlie’s got that in his locker.  The keeper was suspect to be fair so it was important we got shots off.  It was a long-range effort but you expect the keeper to save it,” Porter said.

And on West’s 10th goal of the season, Porter replied: “It’s what he does, it’s what he does. We’re good at set-pieces and if the balls right, I back my players to do a job and get a goal.  Westy’s got that in his locker, he’s done that all his career.

“It’s a good time to get a goal and you want to get another one because you want to go in at half-time a bit more comfortable so we are a threat when we go forward, especially from set-pieces.”

Hudson added: “It wasn’t a free-kick in the first place so the less said about that the better!

“Lochlan made a great save and then at this level against a side like Whitstable, you can’t defend set-pieces like we did and the first goal is pretty much a free-header four yards out! The boys know that’s totally unacceptable and it gave us an absolute mountain to climb!

“We made ourselves a mountain to climb, no doubt about it. For a side like Whitstable, a 1-0 lead is a huge advantage for them with the way they play. They take zero risks.  You have to do so well to score past them and when they have the ball they kick it as far away from their goal as possible. It’s not easy to break them down and at 2-0 it was pretty much as difficult as we could have made it!”

Murray hit a speculative drive from 30-yards, which was meat and drink for the Croydon keeper.

Louis Sprosen floated over a deep cross in to the Croydon box from the right, the ball was flicked on by Smith and Williams’ header was caught by Greenwood.

Whitstable Town controlled the first half and they doubled their lead with 39 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Josh Burchell whipped in a high-quality cross from the touchline from within the channel and this precise delivery was poked towards goal by an unmarked Williams from inside the six-yard box, which was parried by Greenwood, low to his right but Williams dinked home the rebound to score from a couple of yards out.

Porter said: “They play out a lot, we knew when they try to play out we come alive. We had a game plan to do that. We’ve played them enough times this season already.

“Burchy’s delivery is made for the goal really. Danny’s done well.  The keeper’s saved it but he’s got the rebound. It was nice to get a goal at that time.

“I brought Danny to the club from the league above, like I have done with most of these players to achieve what we’re trying to achieve at this football club.  You have to bring players form the league above to get to that level but Danny has been top drawer, he’s a threat when he faces defenders.”

Hudson said: “We had the ball in the corner and we tried to play, which is what we want to do. In my opinion the players steamed in on Danny Hector. It’s an unbelievably good cross from their left-back, brilliant cross.  To leave a forward unmarked, we actually had a four-v-two overload in the box. We had more players in the box and they had a free header, that’s just criminal at this level!”

Croydon offered very little in the final third during the first half and striker Lauris Chin drew a free-kick some 25-yards from goal.

Hector took the ball off Ashley-Paul Robinson and looked favourite to land the free-kick, but Robinson took control of the situation and drilled a low right-footed free-kick through the wall and Dan Eason made a comfortable low save.

Hudson added: “I think it was comfortable. First half we were sterile, completely so.  We didn’t create anything in the first half and to be fair to Whitstable they deserved the lead going in at half-time. Whether it was 2-0 or not, I’m not quite sure but they deserved their lead at half-time. We weren’t progressive with the ball.”

Porter added: “You’ve got to hit it good from there, he’s got great hands. It was quite comfortable to be fair at half-time.”

Both managers were asked their thoughts during the break.

Hudson said: “We went through how it’s unacceptable to concede the goals we did, which we understood.  We went through four or five different patterns of how we could be more progressive with the ball in the second half and I was really pleased how the boys came out second half in the manner in which they attacked it different with more variety. We got around the side of Whitstable a bit.”

Porter said: “Just stay organised, just work hard. As soon as you don’t work hard they’ll pick pockets because they’re a footballing side, they move it about but we got bodies behind the ball and we stayed organised and we worked hard and everyone done their jobs.

“I just said at half-time this was a massive 45  because one eye’s on the final, the other eye is on getting promoted and going into the Cup Final with a result.

“Croydon’s a difficult place to go and to go 2-0 up, we don’t concede many goals but just stay working hard and if you work hard limited teams to chances and that’s what we did.”

Croydon were the better side during the second half as Whitstable Town soaked up the pressure.

Akongo cut a free-kick back to Nathan Campbell, who threaded the ball through to Hector, who drove a low left-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 25-yards, which forced Eason to dive low to his right to tip around the post for a corner.

Hudson said: “It was a good hit, a great move, free-flowing football, good combination.  Essentially, it’s taken a couple of deflections, same as Saturday, it seems to not be going our way.  It’s one of them where often a shot from the edge of the box, hit well, with a deflection can wrong-foot the goalkeeper but for it just went wide.  It was a great move and you have to work against Whitstable to create chances.”

Porter said: “He was very lively.  When the game got a bit stretched they’ve got nothing to lose.  It was just weather the storm for the first 15 minutes because we knew they were going to come at us.”

Croydon raised their urgency levels after 65 minutes as Akongo released Hector dancing his way past the Whitstable defence to reach the edge of the box only for his drive to deflect past the left-hand post.

Croydon were to be denied a deserved lifeline with 70 minutes on the clock when Robinson stroked a right-footed free-kick against the right-hand post from 30-yards, leaving Eason rooted to the spot.

Hudson said: “Ashley is a fantastic technically and it’s a fantastic hit. The keeper’s beaten all ends up and it’s bounced pretty much inside of the post and worked his way back in.  I thought it was in, I thought most people in the ground thought it was in.  That would have been a massive lifeline to get us back in the game. It was a bit of magic from Ash, he is capable of that.”

Porter said: “I think the longer it went on, we was getting a little bit stretched, we had a few tired legs, the lads who haven’t played a little bit.  We didn’t want to risk people on the bench. We wanted them fresh for Sunday so it was a job well done, a professional job.

“They hit the post from a free-kick, apart from that they didn’t really cause us many problems.

“He (Robinson) was alright. He’s got good feet but they didn’t tear us apart, they didn’t break us down, it was many long-range efforts and free-kicks.”

Robinson threaded the ball through to Chin, who shrugged off Tom Bryant but was denied by Eason diving low to his left to palm away a drilled right-footed effort on the angle on the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Hudson said: “I’m not sure if that’s a penalty or not? Chinny found a lot of space in the second half because we were having runners off him. He was isolating their centre halves more and in my head there were two or three good opportunities. Chinny had to drive at their centre halves inside the box and on another day they get put away and maybe we should have had a penalty.”

Robinson stroked another long-range free-kick towards goal but Eason stepped to his right a few times to make a comfortable catch.

Hudson added: “We should have had more free-kicks than we had but we kept picking up free-kicks and Ash has the ability to hurt teams with them. On another day, he could have had two from set-pieces.”

The Trams were frustrating their fans with a number of short-corners but when they did put the ball in the box (this time through Robinson), the ball was cleared out to Hector, who hit a right-footed half-volley from just inside the box which flashed just past the foot of the near post.

Whitstable Town midfielder Louis Sprosen floated in a deep cross from the right which appeared to be sailing harmlessly past the far post but the Croydon keeper helped the ball go behind for a corner inside the final five minutes.

While Sevenoaks Town are favourites to win the title, Whitstable Town are fighting Crowborough Athletic to join them in the Bostik League next season.

Porter said: “It’s going to be against us, everyone’s been saying that.  What I’ve got in that changing room is togetherness on and off the pitch. The commitment, desire and work-ethic they put in to not lose football games and we’re 18 unbeaten.”

Whitstable Town face Tunbridge Wells in the Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup Final on Saturday 5 May and Porter confirmed his aspirations loud and clear tonight.

“We’re gunning for everything! We want to get promoted and we want to win two cups, it’s as simple as that!”

“I’ve got the desire in the changing room.  Ok people might look at our age and the depth of the squad but everyone at this stage is at that scenario. We’ve got a lot of games but it’s a job. We’re here to win football games. What I’ve got in that changing room, you’ve seen it here tonight, they do not give up!”

Croydon host Cray Valley on Saturday before travelling to Crowborough Athletic next Tuesday night.

“Top six will be a good achievement, top four will be a fantastic achievement,” said Hudson.

“Losing to Tunbridge Wells and tonight has maybe made that more difficult but we’ve got Beckenham (56 points) in our sights, who we’d like to catch.

“I think for our budget and the size and age of our squad a top six finish would be a good achievement and I think that whoever we play against, we’ve got a reputation of playing football the right way and that’s something that we’re very proud of at this club so we’ll continue to do that.”

Croydon: Lochlan Greenwood, Bradley Wilson, Novell Bruce, Nathan Campbell, Nicholas Wilson (Andy Mott 81), Jamie McGeoghegan, Raekwon Bailey-Allen (Gus Lukuni 77), Bryan Akongo, Lauris Chin, Daniel Hector, Ashley-Paul Robinson.
Subs: Otitololuwa Ojo, Daniel Pepple, Martin Sontan

Booked: Daniel Hector 19, Lochlan Greenwood 45, Raekwon Bailey-Allen 74

Whitstable Town: Dan Eason, John Walker (Ricky Freeman 16), Josh Burchell, Tom Bryant, Stuart West, Teddy Nelson, Chris Saunders (Owen Fitt 88), Macauley Murray, Danny Williams, Charlie Smith, Louis Sprosen.
Subss: Shaun Welford, James Morrish

Goals: Stuart West 29, Danny Williams 40

Booked: Chris Saunders 69, Danny Williams 80, Josh Burchell 90

Attendance: 74
Referee: Mr Paul Agboola (Elephant & Castle, London SE17)
Assistants: Mr Abdulaziz Olol (Elmers End) & Mr Sam Hayon (Welling)

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