Whitstable Town 2-2 Horsham - We're not finishing teams off, says Whitstable boss Justin Luchford

Tuesday 11th September 2012

Ryman League Division One South
Tuesday 11th September 2012
Stephen McCartney reports from The Belmont

WHITSTABLE TOWN boss Justin Luchford says his players did not win their personal battles during the second half and ultimately had to settle for their first point of the season.

The Oystermen stormed into a deserved 2-0 lead within the opening 23 minutes courtesy of goals from striker Stuart Vahid and a 35-yard screamer from 40-year-old midfielder Nicky Southall.

But Whitstable Town remain at the foot of the Ryman League Division One South table after four league games after they let Horsham back into the game.  The impressive Darren Lok pulled a goal back from close range in the 59th minute, before Whitstable’s debutant, central defender, Rob Gillman scored an own-goal with eighteen minutes left.

“We should have been out of sight at half-time, it should have been over,” admitted Luchford afterwards.

“Even in the second half they had more possession than us but we still had enough chances to win the game.

“The only difference was first half, only did we play fantastic football, we won our personal battles and in the second half we didn’t win our personal battles.  They squeezed us a little bit, stopped us playing, but I told them to stretch them and we didn’t do what I asked them to do in the second half.

“That’s disappointing because sometimes they think they’re better than anyone else but at the end of the day we’ve just had a look at the stats again.  We’ve had far more shots on target than they have. We should be sitting here five or six goals again and that is the story of every game at the moment.

“Someone is going to get battered by us, but 2-0 is the most precarious scoreline.  The next goal is the big thing but we’ve done well to make sure we kept the draw at the end so it’s a point.”

Luchford, who meets fans at The Belmont in a Meet the Manager session on Thursday evening where he said he will honestly answer supporters’ questions, added: “We needed to stop the rot.  We’ve lost three on the spin.  People forget that. It’s all very well going 2-0 up at half-time.  People are saying ‘you blew it’, but we’ve got a point and at the moment I’ll take it.”

Whitstable Town got off to a flying start, taking the lead with only 132 seconds on the clock, with a fine sweeping passing move which resulted in Jake Beecroft playing the ball into the Horsham penalty area and Vahid got a lucky break off a defender before turning and stroking a right-footed shot from 12-yards across visiting keeper Michael Hunter and the ball nestled inside the bottom far corner.

Luchford said: “I think it was something like 16-17 passes and Stuart’s got a bit lucky in the box with a ricochet and then finished it brilliantly. 

“Both goals were fantastic goals for two different reasons. One was a fantastic footballing goal and the other was a bit of individual brilliance, which we know that he’s got in his locker.”

Horsham called Whitstable Town keeper Nick Shaw into making a flying save to his right to tip Billy Medlock’s left-footed drive around the post and Ryan Marriott’s resulting in-swinging corner from the left was met by a powerful header at the near post by Gary Charman, which sailed across keeper Shaw and wide of the far post.

Horsham, who made three changes to their side that scraped to a 1-0 win away to Kent League side VCD Athletic in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round at the weekend, went close in the fourteenth minute.

Another corner from Marriott was headed towards goal by Matthew Simpson and Medlock – who scored the winner at Oakwood – flicked the ball just wide of the foot of the near post with his back to goal.

Simpson then cracked a speculative left-footed drive from 25-yards, which Shaw saved low to his left, before Whitstable Town doubled their lead with a strike of pure quality in the 23rd minute.

Hitting Horsham on the break, Southall swept the ball forward to his central midfield partner Micheal Everitt and the former Folkestone Invicta skipper played the ball back to Southall, who looked up and noticed Hunter off his line before cracking a stunning right-footed dipping drive from 35-yards, which dipped underneath the crossbar into the top right-hand corner leaving the gobsmacked Horsham keeper rooted to the spot.

Luchford added: “You can’t give him that much space from 35-yards from goal. He’s got it in his locker.  That’s what he’s here for, his passing and that tonight, but then again in the second half he got closed down. He’s got to learn he’s got to play the ball a bit quicker and turn them a little bit.”

Medlock tried to replicate Southall’s classy finish from the edge of the centre circle but all the Horsham striker could do was to screw his shot wide and Shaw gathered the ball before the ball went out for a goal-kick.

With Southall pulling the strings in the middle of the park in only his second appearance for Whitstable Town, the Kent side performed much better than a side languishing at the foot of the table – in the first half.

And they squandered an excellent chance to double their lead when Everitt’s quickly taken free-kick on the edge of the box played in Vahid but the ball ricochet off defender Jamie Brockhurst and Hunter was able to make a comfortable save.

There was concern for Horsham stalwart Charman after he was left flat out inside the Whitstable Town penalty area after Shaw clattered with the number 8 after both players rose to meet Simpson’s free-kick into the area.

With left-back Billy Joe King forced off with a nasty cut earlier on, the first half lasted 64 minutes and 27 seconds.

Whitstable Town created three decent chances to put the game beyond Horsham’s reach during that extended period.

Southall’s long ball picked out Dane Luchford out on the right and he cut the ball back to right-back Scott Heard, whose right-footed angled drive was plucked out of the air by Hunter at his near post.

A long punt up field from Shaw resulted in striker Damian Abel setting up Beecroft, whose right-footed drive screamed wide of the far post.

And Beecroft played in Abel but the hardworking striker lacked the killer instinct after he rounded the keeper but his shot lacked power and failed to cross the line.

Reflecting on the first half, Luchford said: “You saw first half that’s how we’ve been playing. We were fantastic and teams can’t live with us, but we’re just not finishing that end product and we’ll look to address that.

“You’ve seen how many chances that we’ve had tonight.  How many times have we gone through on goal in the first half?  How many times have we haven’t made the keeper work when we should have? 

“We’re playing good football. It could have been four or five at half-time and no-one would’ve argued but that’s the problem at the moment – we’re not finishing teams off!

Horsham certainly changed their tactics during the second half and ensured Southall could no longer influence the game.

Marriott did unleash a speculative right-footed drive from 30-yards, which went wide of the left post inside the opening three minutes of the second half.

Horsham issued their hosts a warning in the 51st minute when winger Tony Nwachukwu swung in a corner from the right and Whitstable failed to clear and substitute Wayne Clarke hooked the ball wide of the far post.

Horsham upped their game and Medlock wriggled his way free down the left and played a good cross towards the far post where substitute Qudus Bolaji ghosted in and took a touch before stroking his left-footed shot across Shaw and wide of the far post.

Whitstable thought they had weathered that early storm and Vahid’s header found Beecroft, who hooked the ball forward for Abel to cut inside before sending his right-footed curler just over Hunter’s crossbar from 20-yards.

But Horsham pulled a deserved goal back in the 59th minute.

Marriott delivered a free-kick into the penalty area from the left touch-line and Medlock played the ball towards goal and Lok applied the finishing touch from close range.

Luchford added: “What disappointed me second half, we didn’t win the personal battles and we suffered from it and ended up getting a point from it instead of three.

“It was an ugly goal.  It’s one of them. We dealt with the first thing and didn’t deal with the second and it’s ricochet around a little bit and he’s poked it in.

“We’ve got to deal with the second ball. We did it well in the first half but for whatever reason second half we didn’t deal with the second ball and it cost us.”

Shaw was called into action when he made a comfortable save at his near post to thwart Nwachukwu as the alarm bells started ringing for the home faithful in the low crowd.

A pass from debutant Jack Parter, a left-back on work-experience from League Two neighbours Gillingham, played a fine reverse pass for Abel, who took a touch but his right-footed drive from 25-yards brought a comfortable save from Hunter.

Luchford explained why he has brought in Parter, who was watched by his coaches at Gillingham, to the club.

He said: “I’ve brought Jack in and I thought he did well, especially first half.  I thought second half he didn’t get our enough, perhaps pegged back a little bit by their players. He’s a young lad and I wanted two full-backs who get forward.  We’re missing Shane Hamshare (through work-commitments) so we had to play Scott Heard at right-back, which was enforced on us a little bit. I thought Scott done tremendous and he does tremendous wherever I ask him to play.”

Horsham should have equalised when the impressive Lok was freed down the right channel and he played a delicious low ball across goal towards the far post but all Marriott could do was guide his left-footed shot straight at Shaw at his near post from a tight angle.

However, the inevitable happened in the 72nd minute when Horsham secured a point that their second half performance deserved.

Once again it was Lok that caused Whitstable right-back Scott Heard problems as he burst down the left channel before whipping in another dangerous cross, which bounced off Gillman’s leg and found the far corner.

Considering that former Dover Athletic Gillman played Conference South football for both Bromley and Thurrock last season, Whitstable Town have pulled off another major transfer coup to land the defender.

Luchford said: “It’s a big signing. He’s done well tonight I thought. I think with his experience we’ll certainly go a long way.  I’m pleased we’ve finally got him down. I’ve been chasing him for a little while. He’ll bring that bit of experience in for us. He done well tonight and I think he’ll be a good signing for us. He’ll only get better.”

Whitstable Town were on the ropes for the remainder of the game and managed to hold on to a point.

Lok – who impressed Gillingham’s director of football Andy Hessenthaler – whipped in yet another dangerous cross which Whitstable defender Josh Hare did well to clip over his own crossbar, with Medlock ready to pounce behind him.

But Luchford refused to praise Lok – Horsham’s most impressive player on the night.

He said: “I don’t think any of their players stood out for me. I thought they had a lot of possession in the second half because they were winning the personal battles.  I don’t think they played anywhere near the football that we played. I think they just huffed and puffed, in the end our house blew down.

“I don’t think there were any necessarily great performances from them. I thought they did alright but I don’t think they were worthy of a point personally.”

Whitstable should have won their first game of the season in the final six minutes when Everitt’s hooked pass put Vahid through on goal but Hunter advanced swiftly off his line to nod the ball away but the ball was put back into the box by Vahid and Abel stooped at the near post and headed the ball agonisingly wide of the foot of the near post from two-yards.

Luchford believes Abel will open his goalscoring account when Eastbourne Town visit The Belmont on Saturday.

He said: “He needs a goal. I feel for him at the moment.  He’s been brilliant tonight again. He’s always available, he always gets into holes. He creates so much. He keeps the ball well and he’s had a couple that he’s fired over the bar, he’s had one that’s trickled past and he’s had a one-on-one and the keeper’s saved. He needs a goal.  I’ve got no problems with Damian.”

Horsham had the game’s final chance – Simpson, who slotted in at right-back following their first injury, cut in and curled a left-footed shot into Shaw’s gloves from 25-yards.

Luchford takes this point as something to build on for their next game.

He said: “The league table is a league table. It’s four games gone yes, so I can’t even look at the league table. Let’s not worry about the league table!

“We’ve not lost tonight, which is good. It gets us up and running.”

Looking ahead to meeting the club’s fans, Luchford added: “I just want them to ask me any question that they want to ask.  I’m open and upfront, always have been honest as they come.  I’m sure they’re not happy at the moment results wise – nor am I!

“If they want to ask me lots of questions, it’s the perfect time to do it. You hear all these things on forums and people in the crowd, this is their chance to front up and ask me what they want and Richard (Langley) as well.”

Whitstable Town: Nick Shaw, Scott Heard, Jack Parter, Micheal Everitt, Josh Hare, Rob Gillman, Nicky Southall, Jake Beecroft, Stuart Vahid, Damian Abel (Jake McKenzie 90), Dane Luchford (James Morrish 79).
Subs: Sam Groombridge, Laurence Harvey, Kevin Readings

Goals: Stuart Vahid 3, Nicky Southall 23

Horsham: Michael Hunter, Jamie Brockhurst, Billy Joe King (Wayne Clarke 28), Ian Varley, Tom Gilbert, Matthew Simpson, Tony Nwachukwu, Gary Charman (Qudus Bolaji 45), Billy Medlock (Jeff Okirie 90), Darren Lok, Ryan Marriott.
Subs: Kery Kedze, Jamie Ampleford

Goals: Darren Lok 59, Rob Gillman 72 (own goal)

Booked: Ryan Marriott 67, Billy Medlock 67

Attendance: 101
Referee: Mr Paul Yates (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Simon Finnigan (Maidstone) & Mr Philip Rowley (Canterbury)