Herne Bay 7-2 Whitstable Town - You want them to show a bit of character and show the supporters they care and don't give up, says apologetic Whitstable Town boss Keith McMahon

Monday 27th December 2021
Herne Bay 7 – 2 Whitstable Town
Location Winch's Field, Stanley Gardens, Herne Bay, Kent CT6 5SG
Kickoff 27/12/2021 15:00

Isthmian League South East Division
Bank Holiday Monday 27 December 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Winch’s Field

WHITSTABLE TOWN manager Keith McMahon issued an apology to his supporters after his side suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals Herne Bay at Winch’s Field.

Back in fifth-place, Herne Bay returned into the Isthmian League South East Division play-off zone with 36 points from 18 games, four points adrift of leaders Hastings United but with a game in hand, while Whitstable Town slip down a place into sixteenth with 18 points from 19 games, six points clear of the relegation zone.

Nine different players got themselves on the scoresheet in a game that attracted a crowd of 1,119 for this eagerly-awaited Kent coastal battle which saw Herne Bay complete the double after beating Lloyd Blackman’s side 2-1 back in August.

Whitstable Town opened the scoring after only 148 seconds through striker Kemo Darboe’s fourth goal of the season, as McMahon’s men were the better side for the first 30 minutes.

However, clinical Herne Bay scored four goals in a devastating eight minute spell and found themselves 4-1 up going into the half-time break as striker Aaron Millbank, left-winger Kieron Campbell, right-winger Rory Smith and holding midfielder Bode Anidugbe all scored.

Herne Bay made it five through centre-half Laurence Harvey’s back-post header following a corner, before Whitstable Town substitute, targetman Harry Goodger hooked in following a set-piece to restore a little bit of pride for the beleaguered away side.

Midfielder Bradley Schafer came off the bench to score Herne Bay’s sixth goal before talisman striker Zak Ansah notched his thirteenth goal of the season with the penultimate kick of the game.

Herne Bay boss Ben Smith inflicted a painful afternoon for his home-town club.

“A mixture of emotions, going 1-0 down so early on massively played into their hands.  I thought we’ve struggled when we’ve gone behind this season and it hasn’t been too often but we have struggled.

“I was a case of could we stand up to it and be patient because there were lots of gaps that we were seeing.  I know we were getting joy but we were setting a lot of gaps going the other way and it was only a matter of time where we picked the right pass and when we did, it’s got to be double figures there?

“Seven-two flatters them, that says all you need to know about it. Seven-two flatters them and for 20 minutes I was stressed sitting on the sideline and then we’ve won 7-2 and it should’ve been a lot more.

“It’s a bit of a crazy game but the crowd went home happy. That’s what non-league football is all about, being entertaining and we’ve done that in abundance today.

“Thanks for the support and thanks for getting behind us and these moments are for them (the Herne Bay fans).  I’m a local boy and I want to win the derby.  We’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground. Yes, I’ll enjoy that more so it’s relief for me.  I hate these games because I don’t sleep the night before, whatever way it goes afterwards I won’t sleep tonight.” 

McMahon described his side’s performance as “s**t” as his first experience of this local derby ended in humiliation.

“I’m gutted for the supporters.  I thought the first 30-35 minutes I thought we were really good,” said McMahon.

“We kept our shape, we played well, scored a really, really good goal and then I don’t know what happened.

“I thought it was a mistake for the goal. The lads said it wasn’t, it was a good save but then we just folded like a pack of cards, not the whole team but we had a bit of a lack of effort and we didn’t fight for the club and supporters.

“It shouldn’t end like that, should never end like that! You need to show fight and I’ve been talking to some of the fans and they thought we really did fight but that’s not one of my sides that fights.

“There were some individuals that gave everything and you could see that they couldn’t even run at the end. 

“It’s difficult when you talk to them because you’ve got to talk to them as a whole team because nowadays people take things a little personal so you’ve got to address that but I thought we owe the club a lot more as a whole team together and that includes me and Steve (Wait, my assistant) and everyone.”

Herne Bay created the first chance of the game after only 29 seconds when debutant right-back Jacques Kpohomouh threw the ball to Anidugbe, who whipped in a great cross from the right and Millbank rose to glance his free header across the keeper and past the far post from 12-yards.

Smith said: “One of many to come, wasn’t it?  I thought it was a great ball in. I thought Bode played some sensational passes today.  I thought he was quietly outstanding, if that makes sense, in the middle of the park today.”

However, Whitstable Town’s travelling supporters were celebrating as their side took the lead with a well-worked goal.

McMahon’s first-half formation had Tom Mills (right), Junior Baker (centre) and William Thomas (left) at the back, Jake MacKenzie and Danny Walder sitting in front of them.  George McIlroy was on the left and ahead of them were Callum Watts with Alex Gaggin playing in a number 10 role behind strikers Darboe and Stephen Okoh, with their four attacking players moving all over the pitch.

McIlroy fed Watts on the edge of the Herne Bay box and he supplied the ball inside for Darboe to place a first-time right-footed drive nestling inside the bottom left-hand corner from inside the D, 20-yards out.

“Listen, with the (large size of) the pitch, we thought we needed Gaggin maybe in a 10 role and running at them.  We played three at the back and it worked. We kept the ball and we looked good and we moved them and we had a couple of chances, even in the first half we missed a couple of very, very good chances to score again,” said McMahon.

“I just think with the shape we were playing, we tried to play quite narrow and then a couple of people didn’t work hard enough and when they got the ball wide we were caught napping.”

Reflecting on their opening goal, McMahon added: “A really good move, exactly what the game plan was.  It was to get the ball and play.  Callum Watts has done well and George McIlroy done really well first.  Callum has come inside and played a really good pass and to be fair it was a really fabulous finish from Kemo. He’s very composed and put it in the bottom corner.”

Smith added: “Suddenly, bang! Listen, it’s always a nervy start in these games. You want to stay in it and get your foot on the ball and bang, that’s taken away from us. Quick counter from them, good move, good finish, fair play to them.”

Whitstable Town keeper Dan Eason kept his side’s lead intact when in the seventh minute he dived to his right to push around Ansah’s right-footed angled drive from 10-yards, after Campbell cut into the box and cut the ball back from the left by-line.

Smith said: “As much as they started off the better of the two teams and got a goal, I thought we had some decent chances earlier on.”

McMahon added: “Listen, they’ve got some good players, Zak (Ansah) and (Kieron) Campbell and you’ve got (Aaron) Millbank and Rory Smith. They’re going to be lively going forward and we knew that.” 

The corner count finished four-apiece and Whitstable Town created an opening following their first one of the game in the 12th minute.

Walder cut the ball back to Gaggin, who whipped in a cross from the right towards the near post where Darboe rose to plant his header past the post from six-yards.

Herne Bay won themselves a free-kick some 28-yards from goal after Thomas slid in to bring down Campbell and was to be the first of three Whitstable players to be booked by referee Rhys Battye.

Smith stroked the resulting right-footed free-kick around the wall and watched the ball bounce just past the foot of the near post.

Whitstable Town missed a glorious chance to possibly change the outcome of the game with 30 minutes on the clock.

They produced a good move down the left inside the final third with Watts cutting in from the left and feeding Gaggin, who controlled the ball inside the box with quick feet before putting it on a plate for Darboe, who took a touch before slicing his shot past the right-hand post from 12-yards.

McMahon said: “Exactly the same move as the first goal. We got the ball, I thought three times into areas and didn’t shoot. Gaggin could’ve done something a bit before and didn’t shoot and we worked it well and Kemo knows that (he should’ve scored).  He should’ve blasted it or set and he’s rolled it past the post and really we should do better.”

Smith added: “They had us 1-0 down, a big crowd there, a lot of expectation and they had us chasing and pushing to get an equaliser and there were spaces that they were able to pick off on the break.

“They had two extra bodies if not three at times in midfield that we just had to deal with because it was one of those, do you stick or twist? We felt it was best to stick as we were because the chances would come, as long as we got ourselves in the game.

“Two-nil suddenly you start change your mindset. As long as we kept ourselves in the game they’ll always be chances at the other end.”

Herne Bay grabbed an equaliser on the counter-attack with 34 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.

Campbell rode a sliding tackle from MacKenzie in midfield before striding forward and slipping the ball on his inside to Ansah, who stroked a left-footed shot across Eason, who dived to his left to push the ball away but into Millbank’s path and he slammed the ball into the back of the net from six-yards to score against his old club.

“It was a tough call to start him. He’s been out with Covid.  I didn’t know how he’d react.  I just see that against his former side, that’s why we signed him.  We signed him to go and get us a goal against the club he’s come from.  You read about it when a player goes back to haunt a club and that’s why we’ve brought him in to do. We’ve brought him in to score those scrappy goals,” revealed Smith.

McMahon added: “Disappointing because that was the turning point because I thought we done well before then.  We were causing them problems and even Ben (Smith) said his team maybe even went a little bit flat for the first part of the game.

“Obviously the goal gave them a lift. From where I was standing Dan should’ve saved it and held it but everyone said it was a really good save so if it was I apologise to him because you say what you see but it gave them a lift.”

Herne Bay doubled their lead with 38 minutes and 24 seconds on the clock through Campbell’s fourth goal of the season.

Left-back Jack Parter released Campbell down the left and he fed the ball to a deep Ansah, whose dinked pass played in Campbell, who kept composed to dink his shot over the advancing Eason to find the bottom left-hand corner from the centre of the penalty area.

“It’s a great goal, great football and suddenly I felt they couldn’t keep up with the tempo that they started the game at. Suddenly we were getting that yard of space in their half, which our players were going to cause problems,” said Smith.

McMahon added: “Listen, a great pass from Zak but we’re saying who went with the runner?  I thought George maybe played him onside as well. He’s a young lad and he ended up playing like a left-wing-back but we just had a mad 10 minutes where we didn’t keep our shape. No one really listened to some of our experienced lads and that was it. From then on we were struggling.”

Herne Bay received a lucky break with their third goal when it came with 40:00 on the clock.

Kpomomouh, who has signed from Hampshire based outfit Hartley Wintney and lives in Slough, Berkshire, played the ball out to Smith, who whipped in a cross from the right-wing, despite there not being a team-mate inside the Whitstable box.

Eason watched in horror as the ball sailed over his right shoulder and into the top far corner of the goal.

“It was a cross, all day a cross,” admitted the Herne Bay manager.

“We’ve had games where we’ve conceded from that so you make your own luck in this game. There’s no way he’s shot from there but we’ll take that all day long. Sometimes you need the rub of the green.”

McMahon admitted: “Sums it up really, a cross that ends up from 45-yards going straight in.  We had one very similar the other week (a 2-2 draw at home to East Grinstead Town) but it was nothing like that, more like getting across your man.  You sit there on another day and Dan pushes it over the bar or catches it.”

Herne Bay scored their fourth goal of the game with 42 minutes and 22 seconds, as Whitstable centre-half Thomas failed to deal with a through ball.

Campbell played the ball in behind the Whitstable back three to put Anidugbe through on goal. Eason came rushing off his line and got to the ball first but a lucky ricochet fell in Anidugbe’s favour as the ball bounced off his knee and looped into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.

“We’ve been working on Bode’s movement. I thought he was everywhere today, the engine on the boy. I think he’s an under-rated player and he’s a real gem for the club. He deserves his luck there. A lung busting run. He was up against four in midfield and he’s making those runs through. It was a great goal,” said Smith.

McMahon added: “It came off Dan didn’t it on a one-v-one. He was favourite and it hit Bode off his knee and it’s gone over Dan and it’s gone in.  We didn’t go with the third man runner again on that one. 

“I know Bode, as you know, he’s a very good player, box-to-box and I just thought we struggled to pick them up for that 10 minute spell in that first half.”

Herne Bay could have scored their fifth goal on the stroke of half-time when Kpohomouh’s long throw was cleared out to Smith, who curled his right-footed shot just past the near post from the edge of the penalty area.

McMahon revealed there was a lot of soul-searching going on inside the away dressing room at the break, while Smith demanded more.

Smith said:  “Don’t let off, do not let off. We were seven out of 10 if that and I think the last 10 minutes changes that.  I said ‘do not stop!’ If anything increase the tempo because gaps will appear more and more because they can’t life with that tempo of the game for long.”

McMahon said: “I said, look ‘we’re letting the club down here!’  We need to show a little bit of work-rate.  Why have we changed from what we were doing for the first 30-35 minutes? Get a goal and you’re back in it but you stop pointing at people and everyone needs to roll their sleeves up and do their own job.

“I didn’t go absolutely nuts because sometimes when you’re struggling like that and you’ve got a point to put across, players don’t listen to you so sometimes you have to talk calmly until they listen so they know what the situation is.

“Everyone who knows me that plays for me knows they need to work hard and that’s what we put across.  We changed the shape at half-time to go a little bit more with wingers and they could’ve scored straight away and then they get another one, another mistake and we get back into it a little bit.”

McMahon reverted to a back-four for the second half with Mills slotting in at left-back and MacKenzie back in at right-back, with Baker and Thomas in the middle.

However, Herne Bay almost scored after only 17 seconds when an unmarked Smith played the ball in behind Mills to put Millbank through on goal but he dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post with only Eason to beat.

“Again, a sign of things to come. Millbank’s getting a lot of joy off their back line, who I think were tiring big time,” claimed Smith.

Eason made a smart double save when he scooped down to keep out Ansah’s 35-yard drive and got back up and made a brave save to flick the ball behind for a corner as Millbank challenged the keeper in the goal-mouth.

Herne Bay’s fifth goal duly arrived with eight minutes and 35 seconds on the clock through Harvey’s fourth goal of the season.

Anidugbe swung in their final corner, from the left, the ball was flicked on from within a crowd of players and Harvey buried his header into the right-hand corner at the back stick.

Smith said; “I felt when we walked out there I felt there was a height advantage for us in the game.  I think that showed in that instance. They had a couple who were strong in the air but player-for-player we had a bit of an advantage on set-pieces.

“Laurence scored last week (a 3-1 win at Three Bridges) from a set-piece so we’re starting to score a few more.  We’ve got set-pieces that we’ve been working on so it’s nice when they come off.”

McMahon added: “We’ve headed it clear, it’s hit someone and it’s bounced down and he’s scored.  Listen, we just looked out and despondent and that’s what’s disappointing. It was to get out and try to win the half and see what we could do and it just fell for them.”

Rory Smith switched the play from right-to-left and Campbell fed Anidugbe, who cut in to poke his shot past the foot of the near post from a narrow angle.

Ansah then played the ball out wide to Kpohomouh, who whipped in a great cross into the box for Millbank, who slid in to poke his shot across Eason and bouncing against the foot of the far post in the 59th minute.

Reflecting on Kpohomouh’s debut performance, Smith said: “I think he had a good game. It was a tough call to throw him in because we’ve had Daniel Carrington who played there last week and done a really good job.  Noel-Reion McFarlane has been playing there recently and he’s done well. 

“I thought they had a lot of pace on the break, certainly in wide areas, they were full of pace so having (Kpohomouh) who is quick, I thought he did well and certainly as the game wore on, he started becoming more comfortable.

“It’s his first game and he’s only trained once with us so knowing how we play and who makes certain runs and who doesn’t and who wants the ball to feet is a lot to take in, especially when you’re thrown in front of a thousand people.”

McMahon had seen enough and had to act and he made three changes on the hour-mark with Goodger coming on up front, with Luke Griffiths and Victor Aiuelabola coming on to sink in the middle of the pitch.

Whitstable Town pulled a goal back with 17 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock, following a set-piece from the right.

Walder’s delivery was on the money and Thomas rose to glance his header onto the far post and with Herne Bay goalkeeper Jordan Perrin flying about, Goodger hooked the ball past him into the near corner with his outstretched left-boot from eight-yards.

“I actually think it might’ve been Will Thomas who got a glancing header and it’s hit the post,” said McMahon.

“Listen, Goodger has experience and he’s turned and he’s finished it really well to be honest. It was a great delivery in from Danny Walder and you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, ‘hold on, look, if we get another one, who knows?”

Smith added: “They brought the big man on. I was surprised not to see him start.  He’s a threat, he’s an old-fashioned centre-forward, always a handful. He’d say himself his best days are past him but he’s still an absolute threat at this level. He’s played at good standards, no surprise when he comes on that he’ll pop up with something.”

The goal lifted Whitstable Town’s spirits for a little while and Goodger laid the ball off for Walder, who smacked a fierce drive from 35-yards, which was gathered by Perrin at the second attempt.

Perrin flung himself to his left to push away Mills’ clipped shot after coming up for a set-piece and meeting a knock-down after Okoh put the ball in from the left.

Whitstable Town kept plugging away and they were denied by a great save from Perrin in the 74th minute.

Walder had a couple of bites of the cherry to put the ball into the box and Okoh’s left-footed shot on the turn was flying towards goal, only for the Herne Bay keeper to dive to his right to push the ball around the post for a corner.

“We had a 15 minute spell. Steve’s turned and hit a great volley and the keeper’s made a terrific save.  We actually thought he scored and ended up 5-3 but then it just summed up what happened in the first-half because they scored and we just gave up again,” admitted McMahon.

This open game continued and Ansah drilled a right-footed free-kick towards the far corner from 25-yards, which was pushed away towards safety by Eason, diving to his left.

Just 36 seconds later, Campbell clipped the Whitstable crossbar with a right-footed shot from 25-yards, after being fed by Ansah.

Smith added: “At this stage it was like the Alamo wasn’t it really. It was chance-after-chance we had.  I’d love to know how many touches we had inside their penalty box certainly from 10-yards in? We had an awful lot of touches and chances in there.”

McMahon added: “You just want them (our players) to show a bit of character and show the supporters that they care.  If they’re losing, don’t give up!

“I brought three subs on and Harry Goodger went up front. I’m not digging them (Luke Griffiths and Victor Aiyelabola) out, they’ve come on thinking they’d run around but they didn’t.  I don’t know whether that was because of their attitude or wherever that was what the whole team was feeling deflated, but I just wanted them to run back and there were some people who really, really ran themselves into the ground.”

Kpohomouh floated in a cross from the right channel, which skimmed Baker’s forehead and Eason dived high to his right to pluck the ball out of the air to prevent the Herne Bay new boy finding the top far corner.

Herne Bay finished the game like a house on fire and Ansah’s deflected pass played in substitute winger Adem Ramadan, but Eason smothered the ball at his feet inside the six-yard box.

Poor defending from Thomas opened the gate for Ansah to run through on goal only to drag his left-footed shot across Eason and past the foot of the far post.

However, Herne Bay’s sixth goal came with 44:19 on the clock, courtesy of an emphatic finish from Schafer.

The outstanding Anidugbe played him in behind Mills and Schafer smashed his right-footed shot into the roof of the net when he only had Eason to beat.

“Five-two the game is done but you don’t want them to go and score another goal,” said Smith.

“We’ve missed an awful lot of chances. I think Bode missed two one-v-ones before that. Suddenly you’re thinking ‘put it beyond any form of doubt’ and actually let’s get another goal that we deserve. 

“I’ve seen it too many times from other sides in this league, they put the foot down and be ruthless.  I’ve got to give credit to my lads today, they did that in abundance.”

McMahon said: “I think it was about six-v-three at that time.  We had Stephen Okoh out injured on the pitch and they were just going forward and that was the disappointing thing.  I don’t think we tried to work back. We just gave up and our club and our supporters deserve more than that!

“If they score a good goal from it you go ‘fine’, but that was part of the game that I was really disappointed with.”

Herne Bay notched their seventh goal of the game with 46:29 on the clock, with Ansah finally getting his name on the scoresheet.

Schafer was the provider and Ansah dug the ball out from under his feet and prodded his right-footed shot across Eason, the ball finding the bottom far corner, via a deflection off a sliding Thomas.

“I thought potentially of bringing Zak off just to rest him,” revealed Smith.

“I felt he was quietly effective. He was popping into little pockets, playing little passes and he was dragging defenders in there where they didn’t want to be in. I just knew there was a goal in it for him so five minutes to go I’m leaving him on. I’m leaving my man on because he will score.”

McMahon added: “It was going wide and it’s hit one of our players and has gone in. That’s what Dan told me. It could’ve been a couple more. They had a couple of more chances and I feel just disappointed with a couple of lads today, not all of them.”

Ramsgate were held to a 3-3 draw by Hythe Town and Smith takes his side to Reachfields Stadium, while McMahon demands a positive reaction from his side against Ramsgate at The Belmont as both sides return to the field on Saturday 1 January 2022.

Ramsgate slipped down to sixth-place with 35 points from 19 games, while James Rogers’ Cannons are in thirteenth-place with 22 points.

“Being a local lad, it means everything, it means a lot. It’s more so for the fans, they want this game more than anything,” said Smith after claiming the local bragging rights in such a manner.

“When you wake up this morning, you want three points. It’s about three points. Whitstable will dust themselves off and they will come back again.  They’ve improved under Keith. They were very confident coming into this game, not Keith, but the local people I know were very confident about them going into this game.

“For quite a few years now Whitstable have looked down their noses at Herne Bay as a club so that one is for my board, my chairman and the supporters.”

Smith added: “Hythe will be a good test for us again. We’ve just won this 7-2, everyone expects us to go and beat Hythe, who are supposedly struggling.  They’ve got some good players there and there’s a lot of experience in their squad. 

“I know Rogo is not an experienced manager but an experienced player himself and that’s not an easy game at all. We’ll go down there looking to get something out of the game but we’ve got to be better than what we were today.”

McMahon had this message for the travelling fans.

“Sorry! We’ve just said that they were unbelievable. You heard them all day, they were absolutely brilliant. We need to learn. We will fight and I will get it right and we will have 11 players, plus extra, that want to play for the club and for them and if not then we’ll have to look elsewhere,” said McMahon.

“We need to show a reaction (against Ramsgate) and I want us to go and fight and get us something and if we lose to the better side and you put the right in, our fans will accept that. If they just jack it in then we’ll have to look at other options.

“Listen, you sometimes have to just brush it under the carpet and hope it’s a one-off. If it ain’t then I’ll react to it and people should know me by now and that’s what I’ll do.

“I’m gutted. I’m so upset for the fans because they’ve been brilliant here and most of my players have been as well, so hopefully we can bounce back.

“The supporters were unbelievable, that’s the only positive.  We all let them down, me, Steve Wait, everyone. We let them down. We win together, we lose together but our fans were brilliant and that’s the only positive.”

Herne Bay: Jordan Perrin, Jacques Kpohomouh, Jack Parter, Bode Anidugbe (Daniel Carrington 90), Daniel Johnson, Laurence Harvey, Kieron Campbell, Hamilton Antonio, Zak Ansah, Aaron Millbank (Bradley Schafer 68), Rory Smith (Adem Ramadan 80).
Subs: Lucas Hanley, Noel-Reion McFarlane

Goals: Aaron Millbank 35, Kieron Campbell 39, Rory Smith 41, Bode Anidugbe 43, Laurence Harvey 54, Bradley Schafer 90, Zak Ansah 90

Whitstable Town: Dan Eason, Jake MacKenzie, George McIlroy (Victor Aiyelabola 61), Junior Baker, William Thomas, Tom Mills, Callum Watts (Luke Griffiths 61), Danny Walder, Kemo Darboe (Harry Goodger 60), Alex Gaggin, Stephen Okoh.
Subs: Tom Carlton, James Brown

Goals: Kemo Darboe 3, Harry Goodger 63

Booked: William Thomas 26, Jake MacKenzie 38, Danny Walder 88

Attendance: 1,119
Referee: Mr Rhys Battye
Assistants: Mr Samuel Everitt & Mr Ryan Chantrill-Smith