Canterbury City 0-1 Chatham Town
Canterbury City 0-1 Chatham Town

City exited the SCEFL Challenge Cup with this quarter-final, extra-time defeat to Chatham.

It was a tight and competitive cup-tie which Chatham will probably believe they had done enough to win in the ninety, but with the game goalless and with extra-time looming, City should have snatched it at the death but unfortunately, a golden opportunity to break the deadlock with just a minute or two left was missed.

It was a fairly open game early on with play rapidly moving from one end to the other. City keeper Jack Delo had to be alert to make two quick clearances whilst Adam Woollcott’s long range shot was easily blocked away.

Matt Bodkin was on the end of a decent Chatham move but could only lift the ball over the City bar when well placed, while another Chatham shot took a heavy deflection and bounced up kindly for Delo to grasp.

A Jordan Casey long throw caused some confusion in the Chatham defence and ended with Liam Quinn’s flying overhead kick clearing the visitor’s bar, while the defender then did well at the other end to break up a Michael Hagan led Chatham attack. Another Hagan attack saw him find Byron Walker right in front of the City goal, but he couldn’t get a significant touch on the ball and again, it popped up nicely for Delo to claim.

A Bodkin shot from the corner of the City box arced just over the bar while at the other end a Woollcott free-kick into the Chatham box found Ollie Lee, but stretching and running in at speed he couldn’t divert it goalbound, then a low ball speared in by Chatham was brilliantly defended out by City’s Gary Sayer whilst chasing back and facing his own goal to thwart Walker who was bearing down on him and would have been on hand to stab the ball home.

The visitors were probably just edging it in attack, but in truth both sides were seeing forward moves breaking down with a misplaced pass or a poor final ball. Lee defended another Chatham attack away at the expense of a corner from which Bodkin, who looked dangerous all night, tried to bulldoze his way through into the box but found the City defensive door well and truly slammed shut.

After a bit of a hit and miss first half, the game went into the break goalless and with little to warm the fans on a bitterly cold night.

Chatham made two changes early in the second-half as the game continued to move from end to end. A couple of low crosses into the City box failed to provide a Chatham chance, with one going straight out and the other being safely gathered by Delo. City responded when Danny Lawrence found Ryan Cross in the box and after a neat piece of control he saw his shot deflected out for a corner, whilst Lawrence himself them volleyed well over the bar from inside the Chatham box.

There was no questioning the effort to find a goal from either side, but the quality continued to elude both. Bodkin’s overhead kick ballooned up into the air and well over the City bar, while Woollcott failed to make the most of being on the end of a break from Dean Grant. A Casey long throw from down by the corner flag was won by Quinn in the air, but City couldn’t capitalise and in fact found themselves on the end of a scintillating break by Bodkin that saw him charge upfield from box to box and lay the ball in for Jon Pilbeam, but in keeping with the theme of the night, he dillied and dallied in front of goal before completely fluffing his lines thus allowing City to clear.

Two City attacks fizzled out, while Chatham were also guilty of not making enough of some of the more sustained and better possession they were enjoying. A City corner eventually fell to Chris Saunders but his attempt to dribble the ball through was crowded out by the Chatham defence while another dynamic break from Bodkin breached the City ranks but was halted by Quinn’s well timed last ditch defensive tackle deep inside his own box.

Chatham saw a couple of corners and an attacking free-kick pass them by while some pressure from City saw visiting keeper Dan Ellis make his first proper save of the evening as he dived to parry a shot away and in the mini scramble that followed, City appeals for a penalty for a handball were waved away.

Matt Parson’s intervention prevented Saunders getting on the end of a powered ball in from Grant, while Quinn’s header from a City corner ballooned up and was safely taken by Ellis. A wide left free-kick from City was sent over to the far post but worked back across to Casey in space near the opposite post but his free header was mistimed and weak and went wide.

The game was still swinging from end to end and Quinn made two vital defensive interventions to keep City in it including one cleared off the line. A Chatham corner was well over-hit as was the second ball when it was eventually retrieved, while at the other end, a Casey attacking long throw was cleared and Cross then fired over the Chatham bar from twenty-five yards.

Quinn made another superb defensive interception as the game ticked into the last minute of the ninety and then on into six minutes of added time before City’s golden opportunity to snatch the tie came and went when Lawrence and substitute Kyron Lightfoot picked their way through into the Chatham box and found Lee on the right, but from eight yards out, the keeper flat-footed and the goal at his mercy, he agonisingly struck the ball over the bar.

In what little time that remained, City surged forward. One attack was halted when Lawrence was dumped on the ground by a late challenge as they built up with pace, a corner and another long throw were both cleared by Chatham while finally, a Lightfoot shot was blocked and spun out of play as the final whistle blew and the game therefore moved into extra-time.

After a ninety plus minute stalemate, the deadlock was broken just after the restart when a ball in from the left, after City had twice blocked it away, was floated towards the far post where Paul Vines drifted in and unchallenged, nodded a header back across goal, away from Delo and into the far side of the net for 0-1.

City had a quick chance to reply but a carefully placed and thought about free-kick from Lightfoot was fired straight at the Chatham wall while the rebound was then struck back wide of the goal and out. Grant then took advantage of a fortunate deflection and from the edge of the box he tried to curl a low shot around Ellis but the keeper got down well to palm the ball away, while a dangerous ball in from Lawrence was strongly claimed by Ellis, while a free-kick and a corner were successfully defended by City as the extra-time, half-time whistle blew.

City pressed hard in the last fifteen to send the tie to penalties but without success. Substitute Josh Froggatt saw a header stopped by Ellis and Cross had a fierce shot blocked. Meanwhile, a Chatham shot was deflected out for a corner and yet another great piece of defensive work from Quinn halted Chatham again.

A collapse into the net by the big and strong Ellis while awaiting a City corner provided a comical, if ridiculous moment and served it’s only genuine purpose in wasting some valuable time, but the final whistle soon blew and it was Chatham that had made it through to the semi-finals.

Disappointment on the night for City, they battled hard, could have won it towards the end of normal time but in the end they were seemingly lacking a bit of bight upfront and just didn’t test keeper Ellis enough.

Final score: Canterbury City 0 Chatham Town 1 (aet)

City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner (James Nurden), Ryan Cross, Ollie Lee, Gary Sayer, Liam Quinn, Chris Saunders, Danny Lawrence (Josh Froggatt), Jordan Casey, Dean Grant, Adam Woollcott (Kyron Lightfoot).
Unused Subs: Rob Lawrence, James Turner