Catsfield travelled to Wittersham on Saturday in search of their second successive league win – it was also a chance to ease the cup woes of Portslade the previous week. A strong squad named by manager Tony Luke also had the Cats in high spirits.
A host of returning players meant there were 5 changes from the side that started last time out.
The late withdrawal from the squad by goalkeeper Winn meant N. Champion donned the gloves and kept net for the second time in 3 games – regular number 1, D. Champion, is still a few weeks away from match fitness after sustaining a finger injury 2 months ago.
A couple of changes to the back four saw the returning Swain replace Thomas at left back, Graham partnering Rawlings at centre back and Atkins keeping his right back slot after his MOM performance the previous week.
2 changes in midfield saw Newman come back in to centre midfield partnering Rollison which meant Gurr switching out to the left. Booth kept his place in right midfield as he looked to regain full match sharpness after missing 6 weeks with a knee injury.
The attack saw another 2 changes and was the one that started, and got a goal a-piece, in the last league game at Crowhurst. Returning player manager and top scorer Luke partnering White.
After being told that neither team were allowed to warm-up on the actual pitch itself by the groundslady, it could only mean that the pitch was barely playable already. A shower of rain the night before causing havoc with the pitch. Upon closer inspection the surface was a stodgy one which wouldn’t last 30 minutes before turning in to an absolute mud bath, especially both penalty boxes.
It only took the home side 5 minutes before opening the scoring. A surprisingly uncharacteristic slow start from the Cats saw all the early pressure from the home side, who gave the Cats two warning shots before making the third one count. A beautifully clipped cross from the Wittersham number 10 beat the Catsfield defence and was met with a crisp volley which beat Champion and nestled in the bottom left hand corner, 1-0 Wittersham. The home side weren’t resting on their laurels and continued to apply all the pressure forcing Champion in to a flurry of excellent reflex saves. Wittersham really should have been 3 or 4 up by the time Catsfield created their first chance - Champion, poor finishing and the inside of the left-hand post coming to the away sides rescue. Catsfield’s first chance came as White found himself in a good position on the left hand side of the box, his shot went agonisingly close and hit the side netting. Rollison was next – good build up play from the Cats saw Rollison in a shooting position 10 yards out – with the angle against him his shot also went just wide. With the half time break looming Catsfield were pushing for an equaliser which almost came when a speculative 18 yard header from Luke sailed narrowly over the bar. The referee then blew his whistle and ended a hotly contested first half which was just coming to the boil.
As the second half kicked off the Cats immediately set out to get the equalise but it was in fact the home side who got the second goal in an event which saw the game change and the referee start to lose control of the tie.
A freekick from Wittersham was sent in to the box in the 55th minute which was claimed by Champion – all well and good. What happened next can only be described as bizarre as the ball seemed to squirm past Champion and toward the line. The Cats goalkeeper got back in time and made the save with half a yard to spare – not according to the referee though who duly pointed to the halfway line and gave a goal! 2-0 Wittersham.
The furious protests by the away side were justified but were falling on deaf ears as the referee stood by his decision. The obvious frustration in the Catsfield side resulted in bookings for both Booth and Rollison for bad tackles within minutes of each other – the former can count himself lucky to remain on the pitch when he was fouled a few minutes later and demanded that the Wittersham player be booked – “F***ING BOOK HIM!!” was the cry along with an aggressively pointed finger in the direction of the Wittersham player.
The Cats then made their first substitution on the hour mark as the returning Bradbury replaced Newman in the centre of the park as the away side looked for a way back in to the game. 15 minutes later the Cats got the goal. Good link up play between Atkins, Bradbury and Luke saw the latter in on goal – with great composure he went round the goalkeeper and slotted the ball in to the empty net to restore some hope for the away side – 2-1.
An instant change after the goal saw Harris come on for Atkins as the Cats once again went searching for an equaliser. But, once again, it was the home side that got the all-important killer 4th goal of the game to go 3-1 up in the 80th minute. A cross from the right hand side found its way to the back post where the Wittersham attacker was lurking. He prodded the ball home from 6 yards which effectively killed off any chance of a Catsfield comeback. In an attempt to salvage something from what had turned in to a horrible Saturday afternoon for the Cats, they went 4-3-3 as White joined Luke and Harris in attack.
A prodded through ball from Harris to Luke almost saw the latter in on goal but the pass was over hit and rolled out for a goal kick. Wittersham then had a flurry of corners which saw the last one make its way, once again, to the back post where it was controlled and rifled in to make it 4-1 to the home side in the 88th minute, leaving Catsfield dead and buried.
The referee finally blew his whistle to signal the end of the game and Catsfield couldn’t get off the pitch quick enough. A disappointing afternoon once again for the Cats who could really do with a few successive wins to get their season going.
Next week see’s the Cats return to the fortress that is the Catsfield Rec and play a home match for the first time since September. The opponents will be a tough test as the Cats take on table toppers Old Hastonians as they attempt to upset the apple cart and ruin the 100% league record the away side will boast.