Whitstable Town 3 Swans 2

Saturday 15 March 2014.                               Ryman League, Division One South.

 Whitstable Town 3    Walton & Hersham 2.

Swans’ four match unbeaten run under new manager Tony Reid came to an end with a disappointing display in a match that was distinctly winnable, but was lost through some poor defending and profligate finishing. They twice got back into the match against a lively home side that was quick on the break, but time ran out on their efforts to grab at least a draw, although Andrew Mensah went desperately close to doing so in stoppage-time.

Sacha Mbaye was unavailable, but Tom Mudge was fit to return in central defence, as was Nehemiah Adams up front. Matt Reece also returned with Mensah not fully fit and starting on the bench, along with Vernon Francis. Aaron Watson was due to start, but he injured his knee in the pre-match warm up and had to drop out.

Swans had an early opportunity when Jack Battie played Andy Lomas down the left, and his driven, low cross was taken by home goalkeeper Luke Watkins at his near-post. But as in the previous match at Ramsgate Swans went behind after nine minutes following a free-kick. Steve Hafner drove the ball in low from the right and Jake MacKenzie deflected it past keeper Dan Coles from just inside the right of the box.

Swans quickly had a chance to hit back when Lomas sent over a high cross from the left and the ball ran to Peter Wedgeworth inside the box on the right, but he dragged his shot wide of the far-post. Battie then took a corner from the left and the ball just glanced off the head of Mudge.

The home side were being awarded a lot of free-kicks in Swans’ half, and when one was harshly given against Sean Bradley outside the box on the left Hafner drove the ball well over the bar. Louis Clark was then penalised just outside the right edge of the box, and this time Hafner drove the kick across and the ball went harmlessly out of play on the far side of the pitch.

With half an hour played Lomas played Adams into the right of the home box, and although he beat keeper Watkins he was adjudged just offside.

Swans had settled down after an uncertain start, so it was somewhat against the run of play when Whitstable doubled their lead after 34 minutes. Battie lost possession close to halfway and Mudge could not cut out the through ball, leaving Matt Martin to get clear into the left of the box and drive a low shot into the far corner.

Reece tried to lob Watkins from out on the left, the ball dipping over the bar, but at the other end Swans were soon grateful to their keeper Coles for keeping it at 2-0. Coles pushed away Jack Parter’s shot from outside the box on the right, and when Scott Heard followed up Coles made a terrific save from a goal-bound effort.

With a minute of normal-time left of the half Swans went close to halving the deficit. Battie took a corner from the left, and when Adams got in a strong header at the far-post the ball seemed to have gone over the line before it was nodded away, and a follow-up header suffered the same fate. But with a minute of stoppage-time played Yinka Salami crossed from the right, and Reece was beyond the far-post to send a fine header over Watkins and into the net.

The home side again threatened as Swans started the second-half uncertainly, and Joe Kane headed wide at the far-post from Hafner’s left-side corner. Parter cut across the edge of the box from the left to drive a shot wide, and when Heard made a fine run forward through a square Swans’ back-line Coles had fortunately anticipated well and dashed out of his area to just kick the ball clear.

With ten minutes of the second-half played Swans brought on Mensah for Bradley, and Battie was soon picking him out on the right with a long diagonal ball from the left. Mensah drove the ball low across to present Reece with a chance at the far-post, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.

Coles again had to be quickly out to save at the feet of Charlie Smith, while at the other end his opposite number Watkins was soon doing likewise as Mensah’s nod-on sent Reece through.

Adams had a great chance to pull Swans level from the edge of the box on the left when Battie crossed from the right, but he drove a left-foot shot wide of the near-post. Watkins then took Mensah’s header on his line when Salami got over a cross from the right. Midway through the second-half Watkins denied Swans the equaliser they had been threatening. Lomas sent a free-kick from deep into the box, and when Reece made room for himself inside the right of the box he struck a left-foot shot that looked certain to find the net, only for the home keeper to push the ball wide with a superb save.

But instead of equalising, with 72 minutes played Swans went two behind again with a soft goal. A mistake by Mudge let Martin get clear into the right of the box, and although Coles tried to close him down he slipped the ball past the keeper and just inside the far-post.

Kwabena Osei came on for Wedgeworth, and he helped get Swans back into the game again with just under a quarter of an hour left. Osei got the ball to Mensah on the left, and he cut inside before driving a fine shot low into the far corner.

Whitstable’s Oliver Brown drove a shot over after making space outside the box, but in the first minute of stoppage-time Swans looked to have the chance to salvage them a draw. A nod-on sent Mensah bursting clear, but the ball was just plucked off his toe as he was prepared to score.

 Swans’ Team: Dan Coles, Yinka Salami, Andy Lomas, André Scarlett, Tom Mudge, Louis Clark, Sean Bradley (Andrew Mensah 55’), Jack Battie, Nehemiah Adams, Matt Reece, Peter Wedgeworth (Kwabena Osei 73’). Subs. not used: Martin Beard, Chris Grayland, Vernon Francis. Scorer: Reece (45+1’), Mensah (76’). Caution: Wedgeworth, foul (32’).                          

Whitstable Team: Watkins, Hafner, Parter, Brown, Kane, Wells, Heard, Keyte (McGuire 69’), Smith (Humphrey 73’), Martin, MacKenzie (Raggett 77’). Subs. not used: Guest, Cobb. Scorers: MacKenzie (9’), Martin (34’ & 72’).