Chatham Town 2-1 Fisher
Saturday 26th March 2022
SCEFL Premier Division
Scorer: Own goal 15 mins
Photo Credit: Dave Anderson
Fisher travelled down to the Medway to face a rampant Chatham Town side, who were just two short of hundred league gals for the season and unbeaten in the league since October. With the fixture coinciding with non-league day a large crowd was expect and whilst the good weather may have seen a few head for the beach or get out the BBQ there was still a noisy 692 present in the impressive Bauvill Stadium.
Sam Fitzgerald returned to the back line and there was a place on the bench for Michael Sarpong as he returned from injury. On the wing Esteban Salgado swapped bench duties with Fidan Fejzi.
Chatham started with good intent and the prolific Dan Bradshaw shot over from an early chance. Tommy Taylor was quickly brought into action making an excellent reflex save from a Ryan Hayes header from the game’s first corner, before bravely diving on the rebound amidst a flurry of feet.
However, despite the host’s bright start it was Fisher who were to strike the opening goal on the quarter of an hour mark. Good work on the left flank earned a corner and from Thompson’s inswinging near-post delivery, Vincent Follea pressured a Chatham defender to force him to angle his attempted clearing header inside the near post leaving keeper Andy Walker stranded.
The game became a good midfield battle as Da Mata and Follea denied Jack Evans the space he craves and traditionally uses so well to dictate the game, although Da Mata picked up a harsh booking when trying to hook a ball on and Evans coming in behind him was caught in the follow through. It would be easy to argue Evans came in from behind and fouled Da Mata.
Fisher looked to have carved open another chance when Darnelle Bailey-King twisted away from a Chatham defender with little apparent contact but was flagged by the assistant as he bore down on goal. It certainly looked no more contact than allowed tackles elsewhere on the pitch – a point compounded when Temi Oladejo was clattered having headed the ball forward seeing both him and the Chats player receiving lengthy treatment but no free kick. Oladejo subsequently had to be withdrawn and taken to A and E post-match with a serious looking shoulder injury.
Fisher seemed to struggle to cope with the know-how of the Chatham midfield to draw free kicks through carefully shielding the ball and then going down on contact in the back. From one such free kick wide on the right, with the Chatham player heading to the touchline and presenting no danger, the ball was swung into the box were it evaded everyone and allowed Ryan Hayes to tuck the ball home at the far post, though it may have been squirming in anyway.
Michael Sarpong on for Oladejo at left back was quickly introduced to the game going down again without a free kick in a heavy challenge and received lengthy treatment meaning a 53 minute half ended with the sides level at a goal piece.
The second period saw Estaban Salgado and Michael Sarpong quickly booked – Salgado apparently for repeated foul play when conceding the first free kick of the half and Sarpong, for a clear trip to the edge of the area which required Fisher to defend the free kick well.
Chatham searching for the three points to keep their noses ahead of Sheppey in the title race continued to make the running and Fisher’s goal started to lead a charmed life as Dalton thumped the upright and with the goal gaping the rebound was fired over. There was further threat as Bradshaw was almost slipped in but Fitzgerald was able to get ahead of him and deny the chance taking a painful knock in the process.
On seventy minutes Fisher’s resilience was broken. A long ball forward from Walker allowed Evans to skip free on the left and turning Thomas inside and out, he found space by the by-line and crossed low where Bradshaw’s clever movement had allowed him a miniscule of space and he dutifully slotted from cross range for a classic poachers’ goal.
Fisher had a chance to level almost immediately when Fejzi’s free kick was flicked on at the near post by Isaac Thompson but Walker was well placed to gather. The most likely source of an equaliser came from Jacob Katonia who made two searching runs deep into the Chatham defensive third – the most promising saw him burst clear into the area but he got caught between squaring the ball or lashing it and an alert Walker was able to smoother in a good save. Manny Shoderu replaced a tiring Darnelle Bailey-King as Fisher looked to find a way back in to the game, but found Chatham masters in playing out time with possession based football high in the Fisher half and eating up the clock.
A curious free kick for handball which did not seem to have been noticed by any of the players and saw the Chatham side retreat into their own half to set up defensively before they understood the kick had gone their way also saw Vincent Follea speak out of turn and he was sent to the sin bin, effectively ruling out any comeback as Fisher played ten minutes with ten men. Amidst much confusion Follea seemed to be off the pitch for nearly fifteen minutes as sin bins run for active time only and saw manager AJ Ashanike booked for inquiring about the timing in a confusing and frustrating end to the game as the five minutes extra ‘inactive-time’ did not then appear to be added to the extra time played. If sin bins are to work there needs to be far clearer communication of time served particularly in the final throes of a game rendering it unworkable without a fourth official.
A very creditable performance from the Fish ended in a narrow defeat and plaudits from the Chatham crowd as one of the sterner tests they have faced in their title charge. AJ admitted afterwards he now needs to solve the quandary of why the side reserve their better performances for playing the top sides, evidenced in having also drawn with the other title contenders Sheppey United a few weeks ago but struggled against some of the division’s bottom placed sides. With further games to come against sides in and around or below them in the table they have a chance to put that right in the remaining few games of the season.
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