This football match I am about to describe to you will not live long in the memory of the 406 in attendance at the More Than Tyres Stadium.
The Hillians made a bright start to this contest against our shellfish visitors, a Martyn Box in-swinging corner caused problems for custodian Dan Eason, but he was nudged by the onrushing Harry Pollard, who somewhat bundled Eason and the ball into the back of the net – free kick Whitstable. The last time these two sides met earlier in the season it was a very tight and cagey affair which the Hillians only edged through a Lewis Taylor penalty. The start of this match was very similar, little chances, most of the time the ball was off the pitch for set pieces. Very stop start. Not conducive to free flowing football Jay Lovett likes his team to play. Whitstable, who are fighting for their Isthmian South East lives were feeding of the Greens sluggish start and perhaps should’ve done better when the ball fell to Will Thomas on the edge of the box but he could only scuff an effort wide of Will Huffer’s goal. The very well nicknamed Oystermen came close again when some good football down the right saw striker Stephen Okoh slipped in, but he fired way over Huffer’s goal. This spell of opposition pressure midway through the first half continued, a corner was played short to the edge of the area where George McIlroy looked to curl one goalwards but a fantastic block from Josh Spinks prevented the effort from reaching its destination. Down the other end, Hill were feeding off half chances. Recalled to the starting XI, Connor Tighe is known for rather special long range strikes but he couldn’t add another to his repertoire here when he smacked an effort over the crossbar as frustration was starting to seep into the play. With 5 minutes to go in the first half, the Hillians fashioned their best chance. It was a lovely ball from Harry Pollard that sent Tom Chalaye away down the right, he managed to get inside the box and cut inside his man but from a tight angle he couldn’t fire it past the legs of Eason. The Greens were finishing the half strong. A long free kick was nodded down by the kangaroo leap of Martyn Box, Mo Kamara could only clear his header into the path of Pat Harding but he got his volley all wrong and it dribbled past the post. The final chance of the half did fall to Lovett’s men and it was a very good one. Another Martyn Box corner was this time met at the near post by Nic D’Arienzo, he flicked his header across the goal but it just rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.
One thing is becoming a theme here, the Hillians start and finish halves strongly. They certainly did start strong in this second half as Lewis Finney latched onto a loose ball on the halfway line and just kept running, eventually finding himself one on one with Dan Eason but once again, we failed to beat the Whitstable stopper as he saved well with his feet. Tom Chalaye had 2 attempts to break the deadlock as the Hill began to push, firstly he unleashed a rocket of an effort that flew past Eason and unfortunately flew past the post also before moments later, the young striker showed a fantastic first touch to get in behind the back line but the angle was always against him and all he could do was fire an attempt across the box and out of play. The longer the visitors could hold on, the longer their belief they could be the ones to take the points grew. George Whitelock came close to giving them the lead when he powered a 30 yarder that arrowed just over Will Huffer’s goal. Another really good opportunity, probably the visitors best of the day, was squandered by McIlroy. Some good link up play saw McIlroy receive the ball 18 yards out but he fired an attempt well over in what was becoming a theme, with the Hill number one still yet to be properly tested. Not for very long however as the next foray forward, Huffer was certainly called into action. A long free kick was brought down by Charlie Heatley, cries of handball fell on deaf ears as he shifted it onto his left and thwacked a rocket which nearly knocked Huffer off his feet. As the time ticked by, you started to feel it would be a moment of brilliance which would decide this match. Lewis Finney almost produced that moment but Dan Eason got across superbly to tip away his goal destined free kick and frustrate the Hill some more. Perhaps the last and best chance came with 10 minutes to go. Lewis Finney intercepted a pass and Michael Uwezu slipped in Max Miller, he beat the offside trap and beared down on the goal but once again, nobody could beat Dan Eason as he saved another certain goal. The Hillians must’ve set a season high record for corners won but a lot of them were very disappointing. Not this one however. Josh Spinks met it with his head, Eason could only parry it to Finney who controlled it but slammed his rebound over the bar, to the agony of all in attendance. For all the chances the Hill squandered, they were absolutely indebted to Will Huffer late on. A rare foray forward led to a wicked volley from a set piece and the ground audibly gasped as it looked destined for the net until Huffer produced a strong right hand to tremendously tip the effort over the crossbar. Was there time for one last chance? Almost. Max Miller was almost put through down the left but 2 Whitstable defenders did really well to hunt him down and snuff out the danger and ensure there would be no goals in Mid Sussex today.
Both teams will feel if they had been a touch more clinical they could’ve taken the spoils, ultimately, nobody could provide the necessary quality to win the game.
Yesterday’s matchday sponsors 117 Builders Ltd gave the Man of the Match award to Josh Spinks.
Next up, it’s another Sussex derby as we head to East Grinstead!