I bloody hate August.
It was a first visit in 12 seasons to Chatham for the Hillians but unfortunately, it wasn’t a very happy return to the Medway as a first half blitz from the Chats blew Hill away and condemned the Green and Blacks to a third straight defeat.
Our hosts started the match like a house on fire and almost took the lead inside 10 minutes. A ferocious shot from distance was only parried away by Will Huffer but as the rebound fell to a Chatham attacker, Huffer produced the most magnificent reflex save to thwart him and keep the scores level. The Hillians first chance of the day fell to Hayden Skerry. Hayden cut in from the left and took aim from 25 yards but what should’ve been a routine save for Chats stopper Dan Ellis was anything but. The GK let the ball through him but very fortuitously for him, the ball dribbled wide off the far post and not inside it. Chatham’s two wide men were causing our full backs all sorts of issues and they almost took the lead. A cross from the left which was far too easily allowed into the box, fell kindly for a Chatham striker 10 yards out, unmarked, but thankfully he powered his header past the far post. Let off. Warning. We didn’t heed it. Just a minute later, Chatham took the lead. This time the move came down the right wing, Matt Bodkin crossed the ball in for Emmanuel Oloyede to get to the near post and sweep a first time finish past a despairing Will Huffer to give the hosts the early lead. The Hill were simply being blown away by how fast and direct Chatham were. Even when the Hill tried to get a foothold in the contest, Chatham won it back and countered, again down the right flank, the Chatham man cut inside but with only Will Huffer to beat he fired over the bar. The second goal which the hosts had been threatening did arrive on the half hour mark. What a goal it was as well, Jack Evans curled a delightful free kick right into the postage stamp leaving poor Will Huffer with absolutely no chance. A big ask for Hill now. Burgess Hill did threaten once in the first half, a short corner was played to Martyn Box on the right who drove inside and looked to curl past Dan Ellis but the stopper palmed it away neatly. It was almost 3 before the break when once again a Chatham man had a free header and once again Will Huffer bailed us out, before the resulting corner was belted over to end the first half action.
Things could only get better for Hill, with over 225 minutes of Isthmian League Football played without scoring, surely a goal would come in this half… right? It was the hosts who were looking to build on where they left off, once again dancing their way down the flanks and forcing Will Huffer into another superb point blank save to just about keep Hill alive. Burgess Hill had to throw some caution to the wind if we were going to get back into this, a free kick on the edge of the box allowed Lewis Finney to try and halve the arrears, his dipping effort was goalbound but Dan Ellis was equal to it to tip it over the crossbar. More last ditch desperate defending was needed at the back for Hill to keep us in this, Nic D’Arienzo cleared a goalbound effort off the line. With around 20 minutes to go, Jay Lovett introduced Max Miller and his pace and energy completely changed the momentum offensively for Hill. Within minutes of that change, Lewis Finney had an effort well blocked before we kept it alive and Miller found Jeff Duah-Kessie who turned and shot, it was heading for the bottom corner until Matt Bodkin threw himself in the way of it to block a certain goal. Truly wonderful defending. With 3 minutes left, The Hill thought we had one back as substitute Brad Santos had a shot which deflected into the path of Charlie Pitcher who headed home, only for the linesmans flag to be correctly raised. As the clock ticked into adding time, the Hill never gave up and when a Reggie Ward cross was palmed into the ground by Dan Ellis, Martyn Box reacted quickest to smash the ball into the roof of the net to ignite a very late comeback. As you can imagine, the next few minutes was Hill. We mustered a couple of late corners and some crosses which Lewis Finney nodded wide in a terribly tough chance but it wasn’t to be for Hill and Chatham deservedly took all the points.
An encouraging last 15/20 minutes and some never say die attitude but it’s yet another single goal defeat in this Isthmian League season.
No time to dwell! We are back in action on Bank Holiday Monday when we welcome Littlehampton Town to paradise for a 3pm KO.