Report: Whyteleafe 4-3 Hythe Town
Hythe Town arrived at Church Road last Saturday on the back of two successive defeats although Leafe boss, Harry Hudson saw the game as a pivotal one and rated Hythe highly viewing this as a must-win game.
By contrast, Whyteleafe came into the match unbeaten in four games and on the up again following the minor blip in November. Things were made more difficult though as we were missing our first-choice centre backs, Nathan Campbell and Corey Holder. Any team would miss two players of their quality but when faced with arguably the Bostik League South East’s top striker, Zak Ansah, the task was made harder.
The home fans, who braved the terrible weather, were treated to a superb display of football from The Leafe, with several commenting that the first half was the best 45-minutes they’d seen thus far this season.
They certainly tore out of the blocks and didn’t give Hythe any time to settle and even though the 3G playing surface was greasy, thanks to the persistent rain, some of our football was breathtaking at times. The Leafe went one up in the thirteenth minute, after a great team move saw the highly impressive, Matt O’Donoghue, find himself through on goal before finishing the move calmly.
We stretched our lead in the 24th minute with a lovely finish from right back, Harvey Bland, who ended the move he’d started by firing a low right foot shot into the net past a helpless, Harry Newcome in the Hythe goal.
Three minutes later and we were three up, after another free-flowing move that saw Lauris Chin slotting the ball home in a very accomplished manner. I’d love to know his 100-metre sprint time because he appears lightning fast. Several times Chinny gave the centre backs a five-yards start and still blew past them.
One thing is for sure, centre backs, especially cold and soaking centre backs at that, aren’t happy when faced with explosive pace like Lauris possesses. It definitely gives Harry Hudson an added dimension in games, as sometimes a simple well-placed through ball is all it takes to crack hitherto stubborn defences. Play him in and let him run on! It’s not ground-breaking but by crikey, is it effective.
However, although our fans were purring it wasn’t all one-sided as at times Hythe were dangerous and gave warning of what could happen if we relented, with the warning coming via an albeit flukey goal on the stroke of half time, against the run of play.
A cross from The Leafe’s left was met with a tentative header that Tyler McCarthy inadvertently palmed into his own goal. Mind you, I wouldn’t have fancied playing in goal on Saturday. It was bitterly cold and as mentioned, the rain was non-stop and trying to stay warm, especially when he didn’t have much to do for the first 45-minutes, must have been a task.
However, Hudson was pleased with the overall quality and the 3-1 lead going into the break and even happier that Ansah had barely been given a touch. The plan to nullify his supply lines worked a treat.
However, Hythe aren’t a one-dimensional team and have other threats. Their powerful and athletic right-back Salvyn Kisitu, despite wearing a mask to protect his broken cheekbone, bombed forward all game, and looks quite a player, while their midfield pivot Chris Kinnear junior, the son of the former Dover manager and nephew of Joe Kinnear, pulled strings at times, although ultimately couldn’t find his preferred target Ansah, thanks to The Leafe’s masterful first half gameplan.
I think any dreams Whyteleafe fans had of adding to our score and maybe matching the six we scored at home to Faversham two weeks earlier were scotched after one of the linesmen had to retire with an injured knee at half time.
For a few minutes the game looked in danger of being abandoned, while a search went out for an emergency replacement. Luckily a brave soul stepped forward who was acceptable to both managers and the game restarted twenty minutes late.
It was Hythe who reacted to the delay best and they came out looking much more dangerous and focussed, thanks no doubt to the rocket they must have had during the interval. However, Leafe looked to have withstood the pressure and put the game to bed in the 59th minute with arguably the goal of the game, and the second for O’Donoghue, who had the composure to pick his spot with a wicked right foot shot. 4-1 to the Leafe and the fans were celebrating and expecting number five and perhaps more …
Hythe stuck to their task though and grabbed two late consolations, to make it 4-3 with the referee adding to the drama by adding seven minutes’ stoppage time. The scoreline probably flattered Hythe but shouldn’t have disappointed Whyteleafe, as some of our football was exquisite at times.
At one point in the second half, with Hastings losing and Horsham drawing, we were temporarily sitting pretty in second place in the league but both rivals ended up winning, meaning we are currently in fourth, but with all to play for.
Horsham beat leaders Cray Wanderers handsomely in the end and seem to be confirming Harry Hudson’s prediction of being the team to watch.
It also makes one wonder whether just maybe, Cray’s once un-assailable-looking lead could be in danger. Surely, they won’t blow up? Not for the fourth season running …
Back to Leafe and there really were some great performances on Saturday but a special mention must be made for centre backs Jamie McGeoghegan and Helge Orome, who stepped up and put in sterling performances both.
On balance though, man of the match must go to 19-year old, Marvin Armstrong. His link play and tireless box-to-box running often goes under the radar, but on Saturday Marv was a constant threat and deserved a goal.
On now to another home match on Saturday (December 22nd, 3pm) and hopefully some more festive cheer at Church Road and the visit of neighbours from just down the A22, East Grinstead Town. See you there.
Whyteleafe: McCarthy, Bland, O’Donoghue, McGeoghegan, Orome, Thompson, Wilson, Graham, Chin, Armstrong, Carpene (Hattabi).
Substitutes: Conroy, Akoto, Hattabi, Owusu-Akyeaw, Malcom.