Fisher 1-2 Hollands & Blair
Monday 1st May 2023
SCEFL Challenge Cup Final
Scorer: Isaac Thompson (45 min – pen)
Fisher fell at the final hurdle in their fifty ninth game of the season, going down 2-1 the SCEFL Challenge Cup Final against Hollands and Blair in front of a bumper bank holiday crowd of 755 at Whitstable.
Fisher were boosted by both Jacob Katonia and Cedric Nganga passing morning fitness tests, to return to the starting line-up after several weeks out, playing in a fluid front three with Andres Tobon with Isaac Thompson playing behind in the hole. There was also a start for Prince Imoru, playing an unaccustomed midfield role in the absence of the suspended Lewis Duberry.
Fisher started quickly and virtually from kick-off Cedric Nganga caused problems for Blair down the left winning a corner, but as was to be the case throughout the game Blair were able to quell any aerial threat from the delivery with Fisher ruing the absence of injured target man Eni Amgbaduba or the height of Luke With.
Both full backs, Conor Darwish and Inesh Sumithran, got forward well and sent over several good balls into the Blair penalty area as Fisher continued the bright start making good use of the wide Belmont pitch, by now bathed in sunshine. Further good approach work saw Imoru tee-up Tobon, but his shot from the edge of the area rose well above the bar as Fisher continued to pressure the Blair goal with a series of crosses flashing across the box and Isaac Thompson’s effort from a short corner being blocked off the line, before bouncing away off the post. Ellis in the Blair goal then saved well, low at his near post, as Nganga broke into the area, but despite the game being virtually one way traffic the goal would not come for the Fish.
As the game moved towards the half hour mark Blair finally got themselves out of their own half and Fisher needed to defend a free kick just outside the area and a couple of corners, with Amedu punching clear.
Fisher then went close to opening the scorer as Jacob Katonia elegantly turned his marked on halfway and showing a clean pair of heels to the covering defence, powered to the edge of the box, where he side-footed past the advancing Ellis, but saw his effort bounce away off the post.
All Fisher’s good work and early dominance was undone on 33 minutes when a long ball forward bounced awkwardly and was flicked-on over the Fisher back line with Ben Brown bundling through to shrug off Joseph Adewunmi and clip the ball across the diving Amedu to give Blair the lead.
Fisher should have drawn level minutes later, when good work by Katonia down the right saw him set up Thompson to cross and find Tobon at the back post, but the winger fired his effort into the side netting with Ellis looking unlikely to cover the gaping goal.
Fisher did finally get back on level terms as the game moved into the third added minute of the first half. Michael Sarpong set Katonia free down the right despite being tackled late after getting the ball away, but a good advantage by the referee allowed Katonia to get into the penalty area where he was upended for a very clear penalty. Despite missing with his previous kick Isaac Thompson stepped up and emphatically thumped the ball into the top corner giving Ellis no chance to send the sides into the break level.
Fisher came out well after the break forcing two early corners but Ellis’ handling and Blairs two centre halves confidently dealt with the threat. Blair then went close themselves with well struck effort from outside the box just passing over the bar.
As the sunshine slowly ebbed away behind increasing cloud cover, so Fisher’s fluid football of the first hour of the game faded, not helped by frequent stoppages for fouls and injuries as Blair sought to break up and the game. Fisher found themselves suckered into the strategy and started to get themselves too involved in contesting decisions allowing the game to get scrappier and feistier with both benches becoming more animated.
Amedu was required to save bravely at the feet of several Blair forwards and Katonia fired in a weak shot that Ellis gathered with ease as the sides exchanged attacks. Fisher introduced Darnelle Bailey-King for Tobon as they continued to press for a winner, but despite a lot of promising approach play found a massed Blair defence always eager to get in a block or tackle when required and spent many attack trying to tee up a shot on the edge of the area rather than finding a killer ball into the danger area.
On eighty two minutes Fisher found themselves behind for a second time. A long throw into the box was headed out for what seemed a goal kick but saw a corner awarded and from an inswinging delivery, Ben Brown showed the desire needed to get his head onto the ball and flicked his header past Amedu in a cruel blow to the Fish.
Fisher battled hard for another equaliser, with Manny Shoderu and Manny Brown joining the fray from the bench, but continued to be frustrated by resolute defending around the edge of the box and perfect handling from Ellis in goal who came and claimed everything sent in. Their cause was not helped by several long stoppages breaking their flow and which saw ten additional minutes added and Blair’s tally of bookings rise to five.
Even keeper Sam Amedu’s presence in the penalty area for a late free kick could not see Fisher find a way to goal in a frustrating end to Fisher’s marathon season.