Canterbury City 1-3 Sheppey United
Canterbury City 1-3 Sheppey United

The disappointment was palpable as City trudged off a wind and rain soaked pitch having seen their hopes of a place in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final swept away by Sheppey.

A first-half hat trick from Dan Bradshaw had the game really won by half-time for the visitors and despite some spirited effort from City after the break, their only goal in response came far too late and was nothing more than a consolation.

It was a tight and tentative opening few minutes as both sides tried to get to grips with the awful conditions as blustery winds and relentless rain made it difficult for both sets of players. Each team had a shot comfortably saved by the opposing goalkeepers, while a City corner was easily defended, before on fourteen minutes Sheppey took the lead. A corner from their left was curled in and seemed to swirl in the wind as it bypassed both City keeper and defenders alike and was bundled home by Bradshaw from close range despite desperate attempts by City to clear the ball as it fell over the line.

City had opportunities to equalise but they all passed without troubling the scorers or indeed Josh Glover in the Sheppey goal. An attacking free-kick came to nothing, while a ball in from Darren Marsden was headed down by Rob Lawrence but Matt Martin arriving late could only hurriedly lift the ball over the bar from close range and then shortly after, Jamie Maxted fired wide of the angle from twenty-five yards.

On twenty-nine minutes, disaster struck at the back for City as a poor clearing ball out from Jack Delo left Cory Walters-Wright in trouble and Bradshaw, closed him down and stole the ball before rolling it into an empty net for 0-2.

City tried to respond but a Dave Pilcher shot was blocked and then debutant Wayne Wilson hoisted an attacking free-kick well over the bar.

On thirty-five minutes there was a possible turning point in the game when a City corner was sent in and clearly hit an aerial Sheppey hand knocking it away from a City head. Despite everybody seeing it and loud appeals from both on and off the pitch nothing was given – the fourth official explaining to the City bench that the referee had obviously had the best view – I hope he was being ironic!

With two minutes to go before the break, Sheppey then scored their third when Timmy Babbington split City with a ball forward into the corner of the box and Bradshaw pounced again, taking a couple of paces before stroking it past Delo and into the far side of the net for 0-3.

Another attacking free-kick came and went for City in what little time remained, but the visitors, looking far more sparkling going forward got to half-time deservedly in the lead.

An early change for City saw the introduction of Sam Lawford which undoubtedly gave them some extra impetus upfront but despite Marsden driving them forward from midfield, disappointingly, given the occasion, they rarely looked likely to get back into the game. Martin cut inside and curled a shot wide of the Sheppey post, but City despite a lot of effort were devoid of any clear cut chances, while Sheppey despite sitting back on their three goal lead, always looked dangerous and likely to break at any moment.

Delo saved from Babbington at the second attempt, while Hicham Akhazzan struck a long shot well wide and Ian Batten also fired another effort wide of the City goal. In between times the lively Babbington broke free and sent in a fierce low cross which somehow flew past attackers and defenders alike to safety.

Play was being interrupted constantly as a flow of free-kicks, pointless offside decisions and substitutions played right into the visitor’s hands, while City could justifiably claim that they failed to get the benefit of any of the fifty-fifty decisions, or any decisions come to that – except maybe for a Sheppey foul throw!

On eighty-nine minutes, City grabbed a goal back as Laurence Harvey, sent up as an emergency forward, flicked on a long ball from the back allowing Lawford to be one-on-one with Glover before sliding it past him for 1-3.

Hopes of a comeback were minimal but City were throwing everything forward in a forlorn last ditch effort. Further proof that it just wasn’t going to be City’s day came when the extra three minutes went up on the board which was criminal and barely covered all the substitutions let alone all the time that Sheppey had wasted.

In the final analysis, Sheppey were by far the better team on the day, created far more than City and probably coped with the conditions much better too and deservedly therefore, went through to the final.

Final score; Canterbury City 1 Sheppey United 3

City: Jack Delo, Gary Sayer, Jamie Maxted, Dan Keyte, Laurence Harvey, Cory Walters-Wright (Will Hadler), Darren Marsden, Wayne Wilson (Sam Lawford), Rob Lawrence (Tom Barton), Dave Pilcher, Matt Martin.

Unused subs; Pat Nzuzi, Ben Smith