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Rochester United 2-1 Canterbury City
Rochester United 2-1 Canterbury City

A narrow defeat for City today, as they were beaten away by league leaders Rochester United by the odd goal in three – the decisive goal coming in controversial circumstances, but more of that later.

It was always going to be a tough encounter for City, who have had a mixed start to the season, going up against Rochester United with six wins from their previous seven matches, but the hosts were far from their best, pedestrian at times and looking far from a side who had just beaten their previous opponents by eight goals without reply.

The first-half was fairly eventless but you could probably argue that City’s Tom Benham was the busiest of the keepers as chances at either end were few and far between. His first save came in the twelfth minute when he denied Harvey Brown with a good aerial block from close range, before debutant Harry Bradford broke for City only to see his ball across the home goal slide away from danger.

In some very warm and sunny conditions there wasn’t too much to inspire the spectators present before City, for the fifth game running, conceded the first goal. A ball played over the defence had a strong suspicion of offside about it but Fjord Rogers wasn’t hanging around to check as he ran through and fired home past Benham, giving the exposed keeper absolutely no chance, for 0-1.

City were endeavouring hard to get forward without making a lot of progress and several times an attacking move just broke down when the player with the ball lacked options or when a loose final pass conceded possession. Bradford was looking the most likely for City but his twenty-ninth minute effort provided a straightforward save for home keeper Ben Nourse.

First-half highlights were limited, but before the break, Benham saved again from Brown as he cut back from the by-line to get his shot off, while as the half ended, Rochester recycled a corner and Hicham Akhazzan saw his effort blocked by a City defender.

Nothing much else to shout about in a tepid first period, but Rochester just about good for their goal lead at the break.

City made a change at half-time as Sam Lawford replaced Tim Marapara adding a bit of zip up front and he was soon in the game, heading over a Bradford cross after Lawford himself had instigated the move.

Benham made a comfortable save to deny Brown again, while at the other end, Nico Cotton’s cross just eluded Lawford and Leo Dodds coming in at the far post. City were nibbling away at the home side keeping them back and Bradford was sprung through but with help arriving, he chose to shoot only to see Nourse save with a combination of his legs and backside!.

City successfully defended a couple of home corners as frustrations were growing on the Rochester bench at their side’s less than impressive play and it was starting to look unlikely that any further goals would be created as Rob Lawrence saw his shot deflected out for a corner, while for Rochester, Rogers was wildly off target with two further efforts.

The pivotal moment of the game came on the seventy-fifth minute when Rochester doubled their lead in unusual circumstances. Following a kicked clearance, Benham obviously tweaked something and went down in a heap and was clearly down injured and effectively out of the game. Now your opinion of what followed may vary depending on whom you support but basically, despite the keeper being out of action, the referee allowed play to continue and Max Morgan took full advantage as he finished off a quick move and slotted home into an unguarded net for 0-2.

A bitter pill to swallow for City, as how often do you see a team play the ball out or the referee stop the game if a player is injured? Neither happened today and City probably got caught flat-footed waiting for something that never came, while for their part Rochester played to the whistle, stuck the ball in the net and debated it afterwards!

The frustrating thing for City was that earlier in the game, Nourse came flying out to punch clear a City free-kick under a challenge from Danny Keyte that the referee immediately judged was fair and played on until he heard the keeper making sure everyone knew he thought he’d been wronged as he cried out in a tizzy and punched the turf in ‘anguish’ so much so that not only did the referee stop the game then but he gave the keeper the ball back for the restart after he’d recovered!

With no replacement keeper on the bench, Benham was forced to carry on and moments later somehow made a great block to thwart Lucas Payne as he thought he sent a header goal-bound from a Rochester corner.

City rallied and after a Lawford break, Liam Cormack saw his shot deflected out for a corner that was originally defended out by the hosts, but Cotton sent the ball back in and Teddy Nelson rose to show Payne how it should be done as he buried a header home to give City a glimmer of hope with just minutes remaining.

In a frantic ending, a City corner was scrambled clear by a suddenly uncertain home defence and Nourse had to snaffle another loose ball down by the foot of his post. With all the pressing now coming from City, Rochester were desperate to hear the final whistle and mighty relieved when it came.

The manner of how Rochester’s decisive second goal was scored might cause some discussion, debate or disagreement, but City might well feel a little hard done by as to how it came about!

Final score: Canterbury City 1 Rochester United 2

City: Tom Benham, Luka Radojevic, Teddy Nelson, Danny Keyte, Jake McCarthy (Harry O’Donnell), Liam Cormack, Nico Cotton, Rob Lawrence, Harry Bradford (Luke Illsley), Leo Dodds (Ben Binder), Tim Marapara (Sam Lawford)

Unused Sub: Alfie Eyles