October was the busiest month Canterbury United had ever seen, with the games coming thick and fast. They kicked off the month with a visit to London to play Metrogas, and then played their first ever midweek fixture against Tudor Sports, before kicking off their first ever cup campaign against Meridian VP. Erith 147 Sports then paid a visit to Kent, and then the Bishops travelled to play title rivals Fleetdown United, before rounding off the month against Snodland Town.
Cup Round Two
October was certainly the busiest month of the season, and will stay that way. We played six games, which is quite a lot in a month for a team in the eleventh division, I feel. But anyway, we started the month with a trip to London, something I didn’t think could have happened given this is the Kent County League. Metrogas from Charlton were the team we faced, and we blew them off the park. We controlled the game from minute one, and although they had most of the possession in the middle of the park, we controlled the game in the final third, and the three-nil score line shows this. I decided to throw Lee Hinchliffe in at the deep end, starting him after he’d only been with us for a couple of days, and boy was it the right decision – he gave us the lead on the stroke of half time, but had looked very, very threatening throughout the half. His pace is astonishing, and his movement, and he looks a real buy. We got our second from the club’s first ever penalty, and the experienced Martin Rowlands stepped up comfortably to give us the cushion, before Hinchliffe got on the scoresheet not far from the end of the game. Yes, we played well – but once again, our ability to get shots on target was disappointing, taking eleven and the three goals being the only ones on target (giving us a shots on target percentage of 27%), but I guess we were clinical with the ones that were on target, and that’s always good.
Next up saw us take a step back in time to face the Tudors at home. Once again, Hinchliffe started, and proved that he is a potent striker, opening the scoring within a quarter of an hour. Once again, we absolutely played the opposition off the park, dominating the ball in all areas of the field, and our conversion rates were a lot better this time too – sixteen shots, seven on target, which gives us a shots on target rate of 43%, a lot better than the previous game. Hinchliffe got our second, before Eddie Mills netted his first for the club. Our team is starting to really find its rythemn now, and the players are learning each other’s game, and the attacking prowess of Swan, Tom and Ronnie Dalton and Hinchliffe seems to be too much for teams to handle, while Bryan and Drury have been absolute rocks at the back.
We then had to face a league in the division above us in the cup, Meridian VP, and I thought we could struggle, but obviously not. We looked at home, and secured our fourth three-nil win in a row (against Faversham, Metrogas, Tudor Sports and Meridian) – and once again, Lee Hinchliffe was at the heart of it all. He opened the scoring with two minutes passed, and then got a second four minutes later, the striker, who I put upfront only to accommodate Ronnie Dalton at number ten, revelling in his role up front. Unfortunately, we lost Ronnie Dalton to injury due to some rough tackles on him by the opposition – they had obviously targeted him to try and stop him playing, but their gameplan didn’t work, with Grant Carroll netting – who actually came on for Dalton – with twenty-two minutes to play. Once again, our shot count improved, getting a huge eighteen, and eight being on target (44%) and looking menacing throughout. Our defence once again showed a huge improvement, with the pairing of Liam Drury and Bryan looking outstanding, and Ibeh making the left-back spot his own.
Our fourth game of the month saw us play Erith, and unfortunately, we succumbed to defeat. We were poor, and even though we have most of the ball, the absence of Dalton saw us lose our cutting edge. We returned to our old ways with the shots problem, and even the brilliance of Hinchliffe couldn’t find us a way past Colbert. Craig Jones netted the goal for them on the hour mark, and we just couldn’t rescue the draw. However, the game was very broken, with both teams committing eighteen fouls a piece – that’s a foul roughly every 2.5 minutes! So, that didn’t allow us to get any rhythm going in our passing, which probably didn’t help our cause. And, also – although I am not trying to make excuses, we were very tired after the effort we put in against Meridian, and it showed.
Looking to put the defeat behind us, the next game saw us face title rivals Fleetdown United away from home. This game was always going to be interesting, as right from the start of the season it was clearly on show that this side were going to be our main rivals for promotion, and that this game would have a say on which way it would go. Also, from a manager’s perspective, it would be interesting to see how our squad coped with a bit of pressure on them, a pressure to win – the first time they’ve properly had it on them. And, it was clearly seen that neither team wanted to give much away – it was a very tight game. Although we controlled the ball, having 57% possession, we struggled to get that goal once again, our shots on target ratio was shocking – seventeen shots, three on target, that’s just a rate of 17%, pretty shocking. But, our defence stood up to the task, with Ibeh and co. allowing Fleetdown United’s strikers very few chances, and eventually, we found the opening, with Hinchliffe hitting the strike on goal on the half-volley after a cross from Mills to take the three points home, an all-important three points in the title, and promotion race.
The final game of the month saw us face Snodland Town at home. For the first time, we finished the game with lower possession than the opposition – having 49% of the ball. But, that didn’t stop us grabbing an impressive win, with Hinchliffe opening the scoring within six minutes. Ben Hunt then got his fourth goal of the season to seal the win before half time. However, it was our defence that was once again impressive, and the back four of Ibeh, Bryan, Drury and Simpson seems to have found its rhythm and plugged any holes that were there at the beginning of the season, and a solid defence is very important for winning the title.
Next Month: November
November sees the club’s fixture list return to some normality after the frenzy of October, but will be all important in the title race. After a two week break, Canterbury United will pit themselves against Halstead United at home, before facing the team (at the time of writing) second in the league – Stansfeld (O&B), which will be another pivotal game in the race for promotion. We round off the month with a visit from Hildenborough Athletic, who current languish twelfth in the league.