Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk
Division One East
|Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road|
|Great Wakering Rovers||1||Danny Scopes 73|
Agony and ecstasy
DANNY Scope's headed goal seventeen minutes from time secured Great Wakering Rovers' Southern League status on the final day of the season at Maidstone Road today.
The skipper met Danny Pitts' cross from the right hand side to plant a header which sailed past Louis Green and into the far corner of the Chatham net.
And after eight minutes of stoppage time - I don't know where East Grinstead referee Andy Legg found them from - the Essex side were able to celebrate their great escape.
Meanwhile, at Wivenhoe Town, Erith & Belvedere's 2-0 defeat meant Steve Robinson's side fell through the trap door and will be playing Kent League football next season.
Chatham boss Steve Binks felt for his counterpart at Park View Road. "I am very sorry for them," he said. "We worked hard and tried to do the right thing today. We didn't go out and throw a lot of young kids in to look at them. We went out and tried to win the game. I thought we were by far the better side in the first half."
Chatham had the better of the first half but the visitors - knowing Wivenhoe were also being held 0-0 at half time - took the game by the scruff of the neck after the interval and were rewarded by maintaining their league status.
And Great Wakering had their experienced goalkeeper, Dave Hudson to thank for preventing Brendan Cass to score his seventh goal from onlyeleven games when he tipped the former Tonbridge Angels' striker's shot over after only 81 seconds.
Chatham's best chance to break the deadlock came in the 22nd minute when Tom Binks' 20-yarder sailed over the bar after good play down the right hand side from Steve Searle and Frannie Collin - whose expecting to move to neighbours Gillingham in the summer.
The home side came close again seven minutes later when Cass' 25-yarder clipped Hudson's crossbar on its way over, despite appeals from the home dug-out for a corner.
With seven minutes remaining before the interval, the Essex side issued a warning when Gary Ewers' snap shot had Chatham goalkeeper Louis Green clutching thin air and he was relieved when the shot went the wrong side of the post, but only just.
Iain O' Connell, the former Dover Athletic and Margate star, who took over as Rovers' player-manager in February must have read his side the riot act during the break as they came out with much more purpose in the second half and fully deserved their vital victory.
A good spell of pressure should have resulted in a goal after 56 minutes but Dan Trenkel, in trying to curl the ball into the top far corner, blazed high over the bar when he should have scored.
Chatham's only real chance of the half came from Cass, after he combined well with Mark Brooks, but Cass' was wayward with his long range shot.
One minute before the winning goal, Chatham had goalkeeper Green to thank for a breathtaking double save from Gianni Franks and Dan Trenkel.
But when Rovers headed the winner with 17 minutes left, their followers were kicking every ball, urging on their team, calling Wivenhoe frequently and when the final whistle blew - despite eight extra minutes - they were able to celebrate their survival.
A much different scene from the depressed faces inside the visitors' dressing room at Wivenhoe's Broad Lane ground.
When asked if Great Wakering deserved their victory, Chatham boss Binks added: "I think so overall. I think they had a little bit more to play for, they fought hard all the way.
"I thought in the first half we gradually ground them down and we were looking stronger and stronger but we came out in the second half too sloppy - not sharp enough and than put us on the back foot and they knew they could get something from the game.
"I think they were closing us down a little bit better in the final 25 minutes. I made lots of team changes to shuffle things around to try and get back into it, which didn't help because we lost our rhythm a bit.
"But although it's a disappointing result today, overall I think it's been a good season and there's a lot of things to build on. We've done well this season, finishing 11th.
"We've finished the highest we've ever done and there's a lot of good things to build on for next season."
Chatham Town: Louis Green, Tom Binks (Capt), Matt Bourne, Andy Boyle, Andy Larkin, Matt Solly, Mark Brooks (Danny Larkin 87), Steve Searle (Jimmy Lyons 84), Brendan Cass, Frannie Collin, Israel Amadi (Darren Adams 75). Subs: Luke Mortimore
Great Wakering Rovers: Dave Hudson, Danny Pitts, Adam Holmes, John Heffer, Iain O'Connell, Danny Scopes (Capt), Gary Ewers, Ross Parmenter, Dan Trenkel, Joe Illet, Gianni Franks. Subs: Matt Hambleton, Marc Smith, Brendan Walsh, Matt Reade
Referee: Andy Legg (East Grinstead)
Assistants: C Brook (St Leonards) & S Croft (Seddlescombe)