Canterbury City 0-4 Tunbridge Wells - I ask the fans to stick with us. We're basically working with no budget now and a lot of young players are going to play, says Canterbury City boss Chris Woollcott

Friday 29th October 2021
Canterbury City 0 – 4 Tunbridge Wells
Location Salters Lane, Faversham, Kent ME13 8ND
Kickoff 29/10/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Friday 29 October 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Salters Lane

CANTERBURY CITY manager Chris Woollcott asks supporters to stick with his young side after being thrashed by fellow midtable side Tunbridge Wells at Salters Lane.

Tunbridge Wells were without their manager Richard Styles, who didn’t make the Friday night trip to Faversham as he was stuck at home with Covid-19.

The Wells put in an impressive high-tempo first-half performance and lead 3-0 at the break, courtesy of a three-goal blitz in a 16 minute period.

Striker Matthew Gething opened the scoring with his eleventh goal of the season, before the recalled Connor Pring, who dominated the middle of the park before hobbling off with a tight calf, doubled their lead before right-back Frank Griffin drilled in a third following a well-worked set-piece routine.

Tunbridge Wells wrapped up this convincing win when substitute striker Miles Cornwell rifled in a fourth goal inside the final 12 minutes to move into eighth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 19 points from 11 games, leaving Canterbury City in eleventh-place with 15 points from 14 games.

Tunbridge Wells’ assistant manager Dan Morrin said: “I thought the boys were good, they were disciplined in what we wanted to do, the way we set-up.  It’s a tough place to come, especially Friday night.  I think the pitch played a little bit heavy so I thought the way we set up was really perfect in the first-half and the start we had set us up nicely really.

“I’m not sure we got out of second gear, which is nice. It’s pleasing to know there is more to come. We’ve come here, we’re away from home, got three points and we move on.”

Canterbury City made five changes to their side that lost 4-1 at Crowborough Athletic last time out. Make that six as centre-half Danny Wisker failed to turn up and was replaced by David Senga.

Tom Cousins slotted in at left-back, while the two centre-halves were Ethan O’Donnell and Joshua Dorling, with Alfie Whitnell at right-back.

However, Cousins and Whitnell struggled to cope with the pace of Tunbridge Wells’ wingers Euan Sahadow (left) and Regan Corke (right), with Pring linking them up in midfield, as Canterbury City’s Adam Turton lost the midfield battle.

Woollcott said: “Obviously it’s a disappointing result. We conceded sloppy goals. The actual overall performance, considering the young lads we had, was ok in spells. It was just that consistency to be switched on to perform for 90 minutes because I think some of the goals that we gave away, you can’t give away goals like that to a team like Tunbridge Wells.

“We had to make a late change, which did change the formation, which wasn’t ideal obviously, last minute but just one of those things that happens at this level.

“David Senga came in and did quite well. I don’t think the formation made much of a difference today. It was just the quality on the ball. We did create some good chances in the first half, we created a few chances to score. We’ve hit the post from a free-kick, maybe that changes the game if we nick one in the first half.”

Tunbridge Wells started the game on the front foot, playing at a high tempo, which Canterbury City couldn’t cope with.

They should have taken the lead after only 178 seconds when Pring released Griffin charging down the right and he whipped in a cross towards Corke close to the penalty spot but the unmarked winger looped his shot over the crossbar.

Morrin said: “That’s one of the things we said before the game, we played them in the FA Vase and one of the strengths we had was out wide.  We also said the known troubles that they’ve had, they’ve almost got nothing to lose now in every game that they play, so why not would they come out and have a go?

“We knew we had to start fast and with a good high tempo. What we didn’t want to do is start sluggish and find ourselves chasing the game because you look at Canterbury’s results in the past few weeks and they’ve been in games for long periods so it was important that we start on the front foot.

“Regan gets in some good positions and Frank’s done well. Frank’s been a bit of a handful, he’s been good all night. He got forward in advanced positions and he’s put the ball over and Regan’s unlucky there and he’s disappointed with himself that he’s not done better with that one.”

Woollcott added: “They have a lot of quality on both sides (of the pitch), a lot of pace and two of their goals were counter-attacks when we gave the ball away and they have got electric pace on both flans today.”

Canterbury City kept giving the ball away and holding midfielder Jake Munday gave the ball to Griffin, who fed Jordan Wells in space and he dragged his shot past the far post.

Canterbury City did create an opening in the tenth minute on the counter-attack as Whitnell whipped in a low cross from the right but a poor touch inside the penalty area from David Senga (a very late replacement for Wisker) enabled visiting keeper Aaron Lee-Wharton to pick the ball up.

Tunbridge Wells hit Canterbury City on the counter-attack of their own as Pring’s sublime first-time diagonal pass released Corke down the right-wing and he cut into the box before his left-footed angled drive was tipped around the post by Tom Benham, smothering the ball low to his left.

However, Canterbury City almost snatched the lead totally against the run of play in the 18th minute after Danny Keyte committed the first foul of the game for a challenge on often isolated lone striker Joshua Strouts.

Turton stroked his right-footed free-kick from 35-yards against the outside of the left-hand post and seconds later the ball fell to Joshua Strouts, whose shot was cleared off the line by Tunbridge Wells’ left-back James Nurden.

Woollcott said: “The game’s different if that goes in, if the free-kick goes in or the follow-up goes in. We were probably on the back foot even at that point but goals will change games at any point and they’ve gone at the other end and nicked on and all of a sudden they’re in control of the game.”

Morrin added: “That was a hell of a strike and from where we were standing it really did move and he was unlucky. 

“One of the things I said at half-time was you can’t give away free-kicks on the edge of the box.  They’ve clearly got armoury to do something with it and he was unlucky not to score but luckily the rest of the game we didn’t give anything away in those areas.”

Tunbridge Wells swiftly raced at the other end and just 62 seconds later, Pring poked the ball out to Corke, who sped past O’Donnell and his left-footed drive was saved low down by Benham, who came off his line to narrow the angle.

Tunbridge Wells deservedly took the lead in the 20th minute, courtesy of another free-flowing attacking move.

Sahadow swept a diagonal from left-to-right over to the outstanding Cork, who cut inside and put it on a plate for Gething at the near post to poke his shot past the keeper and into the bottom right-hand corner from inside the six-yard box.

Morrin said: “It was a typical poachers goal. Matt’s a goalscorer and he’s been doing really well lately. He’s in a rich vein of form, he’s in a bit of a purple patch and long may it continue, although he hasn’t hit a worldy from 40-yards, he’s got to be in the right place at the right time and he seems to be popping up with those at the moment.”

Woollcott added: “Again, that’s the quality, when you’ve got that pace that they’ve got, Regan Corke out on the right, that pace is just very difficult to deal with.  Again, we’ve given the ball away and it’s just the quality of the pass and a great ball in and it’s a pretty easy finish for him.”

Canterbury City failed to work out Tunbridge Wells’ attacking patterns of play, which often included Pring linking up well with Corke and Sahadow.

Gething played the ball inside to Pring, who played the ball out to Corke, who still managed to drill his shot past the near post despite a poor first touch, as Cousins wasn’t up to scratch to stop the wing-wizard.

The Wells went close again when Pring released Sahadow down the left and he got to the by-line before whipping in a cross towards the near post, which was cleared away by Turton but Pring’s right-footed curler only just cleared the top of the far post.

Dominant Tunbridge Wells doubled their lead in the 31st minute, however.

Gething played the ball out to Corke and centre-half Jack Hope joined in with the move inside the Canterbury City half of the pitch to feed Gething down the right and he put it on the plate for Pring, who was left in space to slot his right-footed shot across the keeper and into the bottom far corner from 10-yards.

“A good finish by Connor.  I didn’t know where Gething’s got that turn of pace from. He seemed to burst through and put it on a plate for Connor and Connor’s done well to finish it and he’s found the corner and he’s struck it well,” said Morrin.

“Connor’s been really unlucky this season with injuries, he’s been in and out and we’ve had to manage him really, really well and this is the first start he’s had since Fisher (on 4 September).

“He’s had minutes here and there and he didn’t get on last Saturday in the FA Vase (a 3-2 win over Hillingdon based side Hilltop) and he felt unlucky but tonight we’ve started him and it was a good game for him to play in and the injury is just a reoccurring injury really, just a bit of tightness in his calf where he’s just not played for so long but I’m sure he’ll be absolutely fine.”

Woollcott added: “I think we’ve created our own problems again, unnecessarily given the ball away. There’s going to be times when you give the ball away in a game of football but we were doing it in silly areas and against a team like Tunbridge Wells they’re going to punish you and that’s exactly what they did.”

Poor Canterbury City were left with a mountain to climb as they leaked in a third goal in the 36th minute, following a well-worked set-piece routine.

Nurden launched his only long throw into the box, which was flicked on by an unmarked Sahadow and fell to Jordan Wells, who laid the ball back to Griffin, to drill his first-time right-footed shot through a crowd of players into the bottom left-hand corner from a central position from 22-yards.

Morrin said: “That’s a good strike. Frank doesn’t score many goals at all and when he does, he doesn’t score tap-ins but that’s probably his one for the season now.”

Woollcott added: “Again, disappointing one because you’ve got opportunities to deal with that.  It’s a long throw out from the left and it’s a free header, which should never happen at that position in the area and we’ve had chances to clear the ball and we didn’t manage to deal with that and it’s a good finish from him, drilled into the bottom corner.

“That goal has killed us really because we looked like we could’ve nicked one just before that and then we concede and the third goal kills you really.”

Tunbridge Wells produced another slick attacking move on the deck when Nurden, Pring and Sahadow linked up down the left before feeding Gething, who skipped past O’Donnell at ease and cut inside left-back Cousins before dragging his shot across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post.

The only player who impressed in an attacking sense for a toothless Canterbury City attack was Harvey Brown, who is on loan from league rivals Chatham Town.

Wingers Senga and Sammi Takalobighashi (the son of former Maidstone United and Ramsgate striker Mo Takaloo) offered nothing for often isolated lone striker Joshua Strouts (son of Jimmy) but Brown had an opening on the stroke of half-time.

Turton’s corner from the right was cleared – Tunbridge Wells also dominated the corner count by 12-3 – and Senga took too many touches of the ball and it fell to Brown, whose shot was charged down and Lee-Wharton stepped to his left to gather the ball.

When asked about Brown’s performance, Woollcott replied: “I think he got man-of-the-match in the end. He was lively at times. That’s why he’s here, he’s here to play. He’s a dangerous player, still got lots to do. He can still get himself on the ball a lot more but as we’ve seen tonight the quality he’s got particularly when he’s got the ball and driving at players, he’s got a lot of quality so that’s why he’s here, to get minutes, get experience playing at the level and I thought he did ok tonight.”

Morrin said: “We were pleased with the first half but what we did say at half-time was going forward they look quite dangerous.  It was hard to pick up their shape going forward, they really did break in numbers and what I said at half-time was we’ve got to be aware of that but at the same time, we can counter-attack that.

“The second half wasn’t one for the spectators, that’s for sure. You probably got your value for money out of the first-half, not the second. You want a refund for the second half, I think.”

The Canterbury City boss added: “The third goal really takes the stuffing out of you because we were trying to get one back. If you go in at half-time, even at 2-0 down, it’s ok. If you go in at 2-1 maybe we nick one but it’s a totally different talk at 3-0 down and then it’s a real uphill battle from there to get back into the game because Tunbridge Wells can sit in and control it and that’s what they did.

“We knew we could create chances to score so it was very much can we nick one, match them all over the park for desire, for work-rate and if we nick one early on you never know what might happen.”

The second half wasn’t as lively as the first but good goalkeeping from Benham denied the away side from racing into a four-goal lead after only 140 seconds.

O’Donnell, with his left-knee strapped up, gave the ball away to Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Robbie Bissett, whose ball split him open to put Gething through on goal but Benham rushed off his line to smother the ball at the striker’s feet.

O’Donnell lasted 58 minutes on his debut so Woollcott made another tactical change to his back-line with Jake Munday switching to partner Dorling at the heart of defence to maintain the home side’s 4-2-3-1 formation, against Tunbridge Wells’ 4-4-2.

Tunbridge Wells had to wait until halfway through the half to create their next opening, following their tenth corner of the night.

Corke’s deep out-swinging corner came in from the right and Bissett clipped his shot straight into Benham’s gloves for a comfortable catch as the centre-half aimed for the near corner.

“We’ve done well on set-pieces this season, getting ourselves in good positions and we work on them quite a lot and Rob will feel like he should’ve done better from that,” admitted Morrin.”

The away side’s next corner, swung in from the right by Sahadow was met by substitute striker Cornwell at the near post but he steered his header over, with keeper Benham flapping.

Joshua Strouts’ frustrating night lasted 73 minutes and he was replaced by Robert Lawrence, who played on the right and O’Donnell’s replacement, David Falako played as the lone striker, with three men behind him in Lawrence, Brown and Takalobighashi.

Canterbury City produced a good move in the final 12 minutes when Lawrence released Falako, who charged down the heart of the pitch before cutting the ball back to Lawrence, who drilled a first-time shot high over the crossbar from 30-yards out.

Woollcott said: “We had a couple of good chances. That one was laid back to him on the edge of the box, it’s bobbled up and he’s skied it over the bar but we didn’t create a lot of chances but chances if they go in who knows what can happen?

“That’s what we’ve got to be better at. We’ve conceded some sloppy goals but we’ve got to punish teams. We didn’t create a great deal tonight but we created enough to get two or three goals and we haven’t punished the opposition and that’s something that we’ve got to work on.”

Tunbridge Wells sealed the deal by scoring their fourth goal in the 78th minute.

Morrin was impressed with substitute left-winger Johnny Phillips, who was making his first-team debut, having been plucked out from their Suburban League side.

Phillips charged down the left-wing, easily beating Dorling, before crossing the ball into Cornwell, who lashed a right-footed shot on the turn into the top left-hand corner to score his third goal of the campaign.

“Johnny’s been doing well in the under 23s and we’ve seen him a couple of times and he’s been playing well and he deserved his little chance today,” said Morrin.

“We put Zack Wolvey on the bench today, I feel sorry for Zack, he wasn’t able to come on but Johnny’s come on and impressed on his first appearance for us.

“Miles is an experienced player, played at this level and above for years and for him to get the ball at his feet, swivel and turn and it was a good shot and finish. It was good for Miles and it will do him the world of good because he’s not had a lot of minutes lately.”

Woollcott added: “I think one of the big differences today was the physicality of the two teams. That was another moment when they got the ball and driven forward, a load of pace and power and we haven’t been able to match it and it was quite a good finish from him.

“We know we can be susceptible when you’ve got the pace that Tunbridge Wells have got. They take one winger off and put someone who is just as quick as him.  That was a threat that they have that we weren’t able to deal with today.”

Bissett hit a long ball out of defence and Nurden flicked the ball over Whitnell’s head before cutting into the box and flashing a cross over towards the unmarked Corke at the back stick, but he lost composure with only the keeper to beat and dragged his shot back across goal and past the far post.

Morrin added: “I’m not really sure what happened there! Nurden flashed it across and Regan knows he should’ve done better from there.  That would’ve been the icing on the cake.”

Canterbury City took 87 minutes to create their best chance of the night when Turton released Falako down the left and he ignored Takalobighashi, who wanted an overlapping run. Instead, Falako cut from the left into the centre and dragged his right-footed shot just past the foot of the left-hand post from 20-yards.

Woollcott said: “It was a good bit of movement from him, maybe could’ve had a touch there but it was a good effort. It was a good move. There were a few good moves that we put together but it didn’t result in any goals unfortunately today.”

Phillips was given two bites of the cherry inside the Canterbury City box, his first shot was blocked before drilling his left-footed shot just past the foot of the near post at the end of a very good night for Tunbridge Wells.

Morrin said: “Johnny is a young player coming into the first-team and having the confidence to drive and shoot, it’s great, it’s nice to see and he’s bedded himself well tonight with the rest of the lads and they’re taking him on as the boys do and embraced him and he’s fitted in great tonight and I’m really pleased with him.”

Tunbridge Wells welcome ninth-placed side Kennington to Culverden Stadium in their next game on Saturday 6 November, while Canterbury City travel to Gravesend to play bottom-four side Punjab United.

“Kennington are doing well, they’re in and around us and we’ve seen them a couple of times so it’s going to be a really tough game. I think it’s going to be a good game,” said Morrin.

“I saw them at Sheppey the other night and they were unlucky really (losing 2-1), so we’ve got to be at the races to make sure we get something from that game.”

Styles and Morrin then return to their former club Lordswood on Tuesday 9 November.  Neil Hunter’s side are struggling in the bottom two having collected five points from 11 games.

Hunter has won only four of his 31 games in charge of Lordswood since the start of last season, losing 20 and has kept only five clean sheets during his time at the club.

“It’s a joy going back to there and we had a really good time there. We opened up our management careers there so we’ve got nothing but good things to say,” added Morrin.

“I get on really well with Neil Hunter so it will be really nice to see Neil, so really looking forward to going back there.”

With three defeats on the spin, Woollcott is keen to bounce back against Chipie Sian’s men next weekend.

He said: “They’re always a tricky side. The last time we played them I think we won 3-2 here and it was a tight game so I expect the same.

“All games in this league are hard, all teams are going to have work-rate so we’ve got a lot of young boys who are learning their trade. We finished with six or seven teenagers on the pitch today, at least. They will take some time to adapt to that but they need to do it pretty quickly because the games are coming thick and fast and we need to pick up some points.

“I ask the fans to stick with us. We don’t have a massive fan-base. The ones that do come here are loyal. They’re always here and are always cheering. They know the situation the club is in. We’re basically working with no budget now and a lot of young players are going to play.”

Canterbury City: Tom Benham, Alfie Whitnell, Tom Cousins, Jake Munday, Ethan O’Donnell (David Falako 58), Joshua Dorling, David Senga, Adam Turton, Joshua Strouts (Robert Lawrence 73), Harvey Brown, Sammi Takalobighashi.
Subs: Danny Wisker, Jacob Strouts, Harrison Avery

Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Frank Griffin, James Nurden, Danny Keyte, Jack Hope, Robbie Bissett, Euan Sahadow (Johnny Phillips 76), Jordan Wells, Matthew Gething (Miles Cornwell 70), Connor Pring (Kyron Lightfoot 65), Regan Corke.
Subs: Ryan Cheek, Zack Wolvey

Goals: Matthew Gething 20, Connor Pring 31, Frank Griffin 36, Miles Cornwell 78

Attendance: 140
Referee: Mr Michael Butcher
Assistants: Mr Christopher Spalding & Mr Bsave Gurung