Whitstable Town 1-2 Herne Bay - We've got to change the mentality of looking to get a win over Whitstable rather than doing well in the league, says Herne Bay boss Ben Smith
Whitstable Town 1 – 2 Herne Bay
|Location||The Belmont, Belmont Road, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1QP|
WHITSTABLE TOWN 1-2 HERNE BAY
Bank Holiday Monday 30 August 2021
Isthmian League South East Division
Stephen McCartney reports from Belmont Road
HERNE BAY manager Ben Smith says his side’s win over Whitstable Town will mean a lot to their supporters after climbing into second-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table after three games.
The Bay kicked off their campaign with a 1-1 draw at Hastings United, before they were knocked out of The FA Cup in the Preliminary Round by Isthmian League South Central Division side Bedfont Sports (3-1).
However, they have bounced back by beating Three Bridges 6-0 at Winch’s Field at the weekend and claiming the local bragging rights with a comfortable win over their bitter-rivals in front of 852 fans at The Belmont today.
This proved to be Whitstable Town’s third straight league defeat, having lost to Sevenoaks Town (2-1) and East Grinstead Town (3-1), but they did progress through to The FA Cup First Qualifying Round after thrashing Alfold 5-0 here last weekend but they remain in the bottom four after a poor second-half performance consigned them to another defeat.
Herne Bay opened the scoring through Zak Ansah’s 17th minute penalty before Whitstable Town equalised through Danny Walder’s 35-yard free-kick just five minutes later during a frenetic first-half.
Ansah, 27, notched his fourth goal in as many games with a classy finish to seal a deserved victory after the break.
“Obviously a great result for us. We knew it would be quite a big game for them,” said Smith, relishing in his best start to a season.
“Obviously it was a massive game for our supporters. We sort of played it down before the game with the players. We said it was another one of the 38 games as we have done in the last two games we’ve played.
“We started brightly and disappointed to concede an equaliser. It made the game tighter than what it should’ve been really.”
Whitstable Town boss Lloyd Blackman added: “Disappointing, wasn’t it? It’s never nice to lose to your arch-rivals. I was pleased with passages of play in the first-half but as I said they’re a decent side and it’s just disappointing in the manner of the second goal to be perfectly honest with you. I thought it was a free-kick on Ryan Flack, but overall it’s never nice to lose.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads up, haven’t we? We’ve got to keep going. We’ve had nine players unavailable, as a manager you can hide behind that, but it has affected us and it’s been difficult.
“I’m full of praise for our boys. I thought they worked their socks off. There are boys that have come in at short notice, fair play to them. It still goes down as a defeat, at the end of the season you don’t look back at it and look who’s played. It’s a defeat and that’s the bit that’s going to hurt.”
Blackman said he had nine players unavailable (seven of them injured) for the game, while Herne Bay were without three influential players in centre-half Laurence Harvey, midfielder Tom Phipp and attacker Adem Ramadan.
Herne Bay started the derby on the front foot with their first opening coming after just five seconds as Ansah attempted to score from the centre-spot, the ball bouncing harmlessly wide of the left-hand post.
Herne Bay winger Samuel Naiwo played the ball down the line and Hamilton Antonio cut the ball back for Naiwo, whose first-time left-footed drive flashed just past the foot of the near post.
Whitstable Town goalkeeper Dan Eason was called into action as early as the sixth minute.
Chinedu McKenzie released Naiwo down the right and the ball was played into Ansah who teed up Kieron Campbell and his left-footed shot was tipped around the post by Eason, who dived to his left to push the ball away to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner.
Blackman said: “It’s always going to be (frenetic), it’s a local derby. We’ve come back off a defeat on Saturday, which wasn’t good enough for us and we demanded a reaction and I thought we got it, especially first half.”
Smith added: “We started brightly. We looked like we were the ones that were going to cause a lot of problems in the game.”
A frenetic start to the game, Whitstable Town went close within 69 seconds when James Brown threw the ball to Liam Gillies and the central midfielder cut inside before cracking a right-footed curler just past the far post from 25-yards.
Whitstable Town missed a glorious chance to change the outcome of the game with only seven minutes and 52 seconds on the clock.
Right-back Jake MacKenzie won the ball inside the Herne Bay half before feeding winger Ryan Flack and he floated in a great cross in behind the two centre-halves (Dan Johnson and Daniel Carrington) but an unmarked Tom Carlton hooked his volley over the crossbar from seven-yards out.
Blackman said: “They had a couple of good opportunities. I thought we grew into the game first half and then we started causing them problems. We missed an opportunity with Tom Carlton there, which was a good chance.
“It was a nice bit of play. Macca gets up and down that right-hand side very, very well and the delivery was good and sadly not the right contact for TC to be able to put it away.”
Smith admitted Carlton should have scored against his old club.
“He’s missed a sitter. He’s got to score hasn’t he? Poor from them. Flack is a good player, a great delivery in, it’s a sitter, isn’t it?”
The game then died down before Herne Bay won a soft penalty following their second corner of the game.
Holding midfielder Bode Anidugbe played it short to Ansah, who skipped past George McIlroy, who made slight contact as Ansah was heading towards the by-line and referee Harry Wager pointed to the spot.
Ansah stroked his right-footed penalty nicely inside the bottom left-hand corner, despite Eason diving the same way, to give Herne Bay a deserved lead.
Smith said: “We thought about their starting line-up and we saw there was a young lad in there, a decent player to be fair, I know the local scene.
“We did pick him out as someone that if we were in those areas we could try to draw something from. Zak’s pulled off a great bit of skill and no matter how old the player is there’s going to be problems with that but a bit of naivety from the young lad, I think on his first start.”
Blackman added: “I thought George was outstanding today, I thought he was really, really good. A seventeen-year-old came in, in a local derby, unfazed but we went to sleep. We identified they were going short so we went to close it down. They looked like they were going to play it in the box so we’ve half-switched off and by then we’ve got caught two-v-one. Yes, you give Ansah an opportunity in the box like that, he’ll create something.
“I thought it was soft. I think he was looking for it. He’s an honest lad Zak. It did look a little soft from where I was.”
However, Whitstable Town showed great character and drew level with a sublime free-kick with 21 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock, although visiting goalkeeper Jordan Perrin was at fault.
Carrington fouled Whitstable Town striker Reece Gillies, whose clever feet saw him turn his marker some 35-yards from goal.
Walder’s right-footed free-kick was whipped towards goal with quality but Perrin stepped forward at the wrong time and allowed the ball to sail over his head and clip the underside of the crossbar before dropping into the net.
Blackman said: “Great. He’s seen the goalkeeper cheating, I think, just perfect execution. Walder has got set-pieces in abundance so it’s a real threat and he can put it on a six-pence. It was a period of the game where we were probably more on the front foot.
“We probably deserved the one-all at half-time from where I was, whether or not anyone else agrees or not, but I thought we did.”
Smith added: “Very disappointing with the way that we conceded. Jordan’s gutted. He sort of gambled the cross and he’s got caught out. Whether Danny Walder meant it or not? We do know he’s a great set-piece taker. He was down at Herne Bay for a long time. I thought Danny Walder had a really good game, rolled back the years.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that Jordan could’ve done better with that. It’s no secret he’s the first one at half-time apologising for it, so he’s taken a step and gambled and once you’ve done that your balance is gone and as a goalkeeper, it’s harder to move backwards than it is forwards so he’s got caught out but it happens to a lot of keepers.”
Ansah ran the right channel and played the ball inside to Naiwo, held fed Anidugbe, who advanced towards the corner of the penalty area before cutting inside and drilling his left-footed shot flashing just past the near post from 25-yards.
Whitstable Town then went close on the counter-attack as centre-half Tom Mills and left-back Brown linked up before slipping the ball into Carlton, who pinged a diagonal from inside his own half to release Jake MacKenzie, who easily cut inside and past Jack Parter and Johnson and curled his left-footed shot just over the top of the far post from 25-yards.
“It was a spell for about 20-25 minutes maybe after they scored that we went on the front foot and created some half-decent opportunities. The rub of the green sometimes doesn’t quite go your own way,” said Blackman.
Perrin launched a long free-kick upfield, which was headed away by Mills and diminutive winger Kieron Campbell played Ryan Cooper on the overlap and the right-back’s first-time angled drive was caught in Eason’s midriff at his near post.
Eason pulled off a brilliant double save to prevent Herne Bay from taking the lead in the 38th minute.
Anidugbe’s out-swinging corner came in from the right and no one picked up Johnson at the back post and he buried his downward header through a crowd of players and Eason got down swiftly to his left and used a strong hand to push the ball to safety, before bouncing up quickly to ensure Carrington’s looping shot didn’t go into the top right-hand corner.
Smith said: “Unbelievable double save. I Watched the highlights of the game against East Grinstead and I’m sure Dan would say he was at fault for one of the goals but wow – he seems to save his best for the Herne Bay-Whitstable games and that’s whether he was playing for Herne Bay or Whitstable. A top-class keeper, reaction saves that are bread and butter for him.”
Blackman added: “It came back to him and Dan sort of jumped in front of it. We’ll get 12-15 points a season from Dan, not today, but it was a great save.”
Both gaffers were asked their thoughts going into the half-time interval.
Blackman said: “Just keep doing what we’re doing really, try to be brave. We probably didn’t get in as good an area as we wanted to second half as we did first half and I think they had a lot more of the ball but we didn’t make enough of it second half to be able to create real good opportunities.”
Smith added: “Lift it. It wasn’t good enough! I thought after they scored we went into our shell and stopped passing the ball. We got drawn into a long ball game with them. I said before the game ‘we haven’t come here to play tennis with them’. It’s about moving the ball quickly. I’m delighted with the response in the second half because it was one-way traffic.”
Both sides created early half-chances with Herne Bay having a wayward shot after just 27 seconds.
Chinedu McKenzie, who was playing ahead of Ansah, played the ball inside to Ansah who released Naiwo, who cut inside and his effort curled harmlessly wide, before a poor touch inside the Herne Bay box prevented Whitstable Town from scoring shortly afterwards.
Eason’s kick was flicked on by Reece Gillies and Brown played the ball inside to Carlton, who reached the by-line and cut the ball across for McIlroy, but a poor first touch saw the ball bounce off his leg and trickle behind for a goal-kick.
Herne Bay’s left-back Parter played a one-two with Campbell before curling his shot around the top of the far post from outside the Whitstable penalty box in the 50th minute.
Smith said: “Parter is an unbelievable signing for us, a quality player. First half he was way under his level. I’m asking for a reaction for the players to step-up a level. Second half he was one of our best players. He was exceptional. He was doing that all second half. His end product could’ve been a little bit better from him but I was pleased with his energy and quality in tight areas.”
Whitstable Town’s only chance of the second half came on the hour-mark, although Perrin wasn’t tested.
Blackman tweaked his formation by playing wingers Flack and Walder as holding midfielders, while McIlroy moved from holding midfielder to wide on the right but they found Johnson and Carrington a hard nut to crack and couldn’t create any worthwhile chance.
McIlroy fed the ball into Flack, who unleashed a left-footed shot on the turn from 30-yards, which sailed over Perrin’s outstretched fingertips and also over the Herne Bay crossbar.
“Probably our best part of play second half. Flack can get into some real good areas in the final third and his quality is good. It was a great strike, just drifted over the bar,” added Blackman.
Smith added: “We knew they’d tire because they worked really hard to nullify us, so we thought they’re not going to be able to keep that tempo up for the game and we upped the levels.
“We restricted them to a couple of chances in the first half and to not many throughout the game. I get they’re missing Millbank and Stannard, good strikers, so it was kind of what we expected.”
A moment of class settled the score, however, and it came in the 64th minute.
Blackman claimed his side should have won a free-kick for a foul on Flack before Campbell was allowed to roam with the ball at his feet straight through the heart of the Whitstable defence before rolling the ball into Ansah, who took a slight touch before curling a sublime right-footed shot into the top far corner of the net from 16-yards.
Ansah played as the number 10 today, behind ineffective striker Chinedu McKenzie, who toiled for 71 minutes, before being replaced by Dean Grant.
Smith said: “What can you expect from Zak Ansah? That’s class, pure class. We gave him the armband on Saturday and he was everywhere and today when we needed players to step up, his touch, his movement, I run out of things to say about him!
“People say ‘he doesn’t do a lot, other than in the box,’ but his link-up play is something else. Ansah gets a free role. The finish for the goal, you’ve got to do something well to beat Dan Eason, certainly when we play him, we do and a great strike!”
Blackman added: “It was a free-kick down here though! Flack’s got hold of the ball, the guy was pushing him from behind, he’s nudged him over and they’ve broke on us. I still think there were a few strange decisions that at times were a little bit frustrating but that’s part and parcel of it, I suppose. They’re fine margins, nine times out of 10, 99 times out of 100 that’s probably given as a free-kick but it wasn’t. Again, that’s very fine margins.”
Whitstable Town didn’t look like they were going to find a way to grab an equaliser as they certainly missed the likes of Aaron Millbank and Harry Stannard in their side and Reece Gillies was often isolated and dropped deep as he received no supply.
Substitute striker Grant came on and was tripped by struggling Whitstable centre-half Jack Miles and Parter’s right-footed curling free-kick from 26-yards was caught at the second attempt by Eason, stepping to his right to prevent the ball nestling inside the near corner.
Referee Harry Wager could have booked Liam Gillies, Jake MacKenzie and Miles, who all attempted to hack down Campbell as he weaved his way towards the edge of the Whitstable box. MacKenzie was the one to be booked, when two of his team-mates should have been, but Ansah wasted the chance to score his hat-trick by drilling his free-kick over the crossbar from 20-yards.
Blackman added: “Campbell causes problems, decent player. Zak drops into the hole and they get confident and they can move the ball and they got a couple of opportunities from free-kicks but second half it was more of a case of we weren’t able to create any opportunities as we wanted to.”
Smith is delighted with his side’s form in the infancy of the season but they must wait until Saturday 11 September for their next game, when ninth-placed Phoenix Sports visit Winch’s Field.
Paul Bryon’s side have collected four points from three games and were held to a 1-1 draw at home to next-door neighbours VCD Athletic today.
Smith said: “Whitstable are our closest rivals in terms of geographical distance but we’re looking – and it’s no disrespect to anyone – we’re looking, our rivals are whoever is at the top of the table.
“Haywards Heath (top of the table with nine points from three games) have got to be the ones that we’re chasing down. We’ve just got to keep looking up and keep plugging away and make sure we keep getting points on the board.
“I’m from the area so it’s always going to be a rivalry between Whitstable and Herne Bay. You can see our fans, they were in good voice today, obviously quite a lot of them. It means a lot to them, it does mean a lot to us but I’d rather we’ve got to change the mentality of looking to get a win over Whitstable rather than doing well in the league and be happy with that, so that’s not an arrogance saying, that’s fact. We have to change that mentality.
“I’ve been desperate for a good start to a season for quite some time. It’s not like we’ve done anything differently. It just happens sometimes. We’ve recruited well, we’ve got strength-in-depth and we’ve got three players out and Tom Phipp. Adem Ramadan and Laurence Harvey are three big players not playing.
“Second half we put in proper performances like this today. Form goes out of the window so to come through games like this, that’s great for us.”
Whitstable Town must improve if they are to send Isthmian League Premier Division side Leatherhead out of The FA Cup here on Saturday.
However, Leatherhead are in the bottom six with one win from their opening four outings and went down to a 3-0 home defeat to Carshalton Athletic today, so a winnable game but Blackman has to put more experienced men on the pitch to cause a cup upset.
“Results speak for themselves but I don’t think we deserved to walk away with this with no points. We couldn’t believe we didn’t get anything out of the Sevenoaks game. Saturday we walked into a game after 35 minutes we’ve got three injuries and a couple of players unavailable and today it’s nine and things just don’t quite go your way.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads up and it’s been tough, difficult but we’ve got a FA Cup game to look forward to on Saturday so we’ll pick the boys up and get ready to go again.”
When asked about the 852 fans attending this game, Blackman replied: “Fantastic! We’ve all missed it haven’t we? It’s what these occasions are about. I think sometimes you need a little bit of reflection on that but the last two years we haven’t been able to have days like this.
“You try to stay positive. As much as the result is going to be painful but you have to dust yourselves off and roll your sleeves up and keep the boys heads up and stay confident.”
Whitstable Town: Dan Eason, Jake MacKenzie, James Brown, George McIlroy, Jack Miles, Tom Mills, Danny Walder, Liam Gillies, Reece Gillies, Tom Carlton, Ryan Flack (Jay Hards 81).
Subs: Nico Cotton, Zak Jobe, Montrell Deslandes
Goal: Danny Walder 22
Booked: George McIlroy 74, Jake MacKenzie 87
Herne Bay: Jordan Perrin, Ryan Cooper, Jack Parter, Bode Anidugbe, Dan Johnson, Daniel Carrington (Callum Adonis-Taylor 90), Kieron Campbell, Hamilton Antonio, Zak Ansah, Chinedu McKenzie (Dean Grant 71), Samuel Naiwo (Reion McFarlane 90).
Subs: Luke Illsley, Danny Lawrence
Goals: Zak Ansah 17 (penalty), 64
Booked: Daniel Carrington 90
Referee: Mr Harry Wager
Assistants: Mr Ryan Smith & Mr Stephen Tymms