It was an afternoon at the Maidstone Road Sports Ground that sadly highlighted not only the difficulties facing Chatham Town but also sadly the standards of officiating at this level.
Whilst the Chats 16th home defeat of the season wasn’t solely down to the decisions and the actions of the officials, it has to be said that referee Marsh had an afternoon he will surely not look back upon with any relish.
The Chats slipped to defeat after playing over an hour with ten men following the first half dismissal of full back Abdul Lyobi for two quick innocuous looking offences that were to sadly set the officiating tone for the afternoon.
And just as the Chats ten men looked to be getting the upper hand, they were caught with the classic break allowing Purdy to roll the ball wide of a hopelessly exposed Chats keeper Lewis Lawlor for the game’s only goal.
When we spoke to Paul Piggott about the send-off that undoubtedly changed the game, the Chats boss was pragmatic when he admitted, “I can see the first booking – just – but the second one?” the Chats boss shrugged his shoulders and held out his arms.
“Abs gets beaten by a fantastic bit of skill and trickery and tries to tackle the guy. OK the skill of the winger meant that he missed, but if you take tackling out of football where does it go? I think he was too hasty with the card, and have had a chat with him after the game when I told him how I felt. It was tough on Abs it really was.”
“I’ve bemoaned officials before this season in some games and I know at times it sounds like sour grapes when we lose. But today I defy anyone who saw this game not to agree that the officials made decisions that have totally killed the game. I accept that our start didn’t help and I was disappointed to say the least as we didn’t reach the levels that we set ourselves on today of all days!”
“The effort however that we put in after we went down to ten I cannot and won’t fault – it was fantastic commitment from everyone and we just didn’t get the luck that we desperately needed. Things happen in football that make you adjust, and I am sure that with a full team over the course of the 90 minutes there’d have been only one winner – but that wasn’t to be!”
The Chats start was so slow indeed that before Lyobi’s sending off, keeper Lawlor had made two fine saves to deny Bunyan’s header and Wheeler’s clever free kick. Then came the young full back’s two rapid indiscretions that left the Chats a man down, but yet Godalming failed to capitalise and the Chats could have had an unlikely lead on the stroke of half time when Justin Ascheri’s corner almost embarrassed keeper O’Niel whose blushes were saved by his defenders as the Godalming stopper didn’t get anywhere near the ball before it was bundled behind.
At the start of the second half, Ascheri did well to play in Ricky Gundry who shot wide and really should have done better, before the Chats were caught out as Quarshue played in Purdy with a fine pass and the Godalming striker did the rest.
The home side should really have then been put out of their misery when an unmarked Musgrove somehow headed wide from three yards after Bunyan’s flick at a corner. Try as they might, Piggott’s side just couldn’t find a way through although just how Ascheri’s thunderous drive missed O’Niel’s right post is really beyond belief.
As the home side piled forward becoming more and more desperate, the visitors had one last chance as Bunyan ploughed through on goal only to run out of steam at just the wrong time for him allowing Lawlor to block.
Next up for the Chats are a midweek trip to South Park – a side who are playing three times a week at the moment, but still harbour Play Off dreams – followed by surely what has now become a winner takes all clash with Guernsey in seven days time.
Final word to the Chats boss, “There’s no point looking over your shoulder at teams and games that you don’t have any control over. I’m glad that we can get this game out of our system before we face Guernsey, but we’re now at the stage where we have to start winning football matches and have to start now!”
Over the 90 minutes, you could see why these two sides have been at the wrong end of the Ryman South table for most of the season, but in a game where so much was on the line – and both sides are to be complimented for their endeavour – for the match official to show nine yellow cards in a game that didn’t have one “bad-foul” cannot be right.
All players, club officials, supporters and reporters alike crave for is consistency – it’s just a shame that on such an important afternoon, the match official had such a big say on the outcome…
CHATHAM – Lewis Lawlor, Cameron Heffernan (George Benner), Aboul Lyobi, Chris Saunders, Freeman Rogers, Jon Difford, Josh Bray (Ada Batula), Leonardo Mazzone, Ricky Gundry, Justin Ascheri, Jordan Gallagher (Caleb Bearman-Dyce)
Subs – Josh Gibson, George Ackland
Pictures courtesy of Steve Grout