A twenty-nine minute first half hat-trick from Ryan Hayes was the base for Chatham Town to emphatically recover from their midweek FA Cup exit in style as they put eight past AFC Croydon at the Bauvill Stadium.
The game was as good as over inside the opening thirty-three minutes as the Chats roared into a five-nil lead, and the truth of it was that it could have easily been more, writes Mike Green for Kent Sports News.
Hayes netted three times, the second a sensational back-post volley, skipper Jack Evans slid home from the edge of the box and Jack Bradshaw’s overhead were the chances that beat Rams keeper Marcus Belloli, whilst Chats keeper Patrick Lee on debut could have spent the opening half reading the programme!
When Bradshaw then made it six less than thirty seconds after the break, you really did fear that Croydon could be on the wrong end of the proverbial cricket score.
But full credit to Kevin Rayner’s side as they recovered to “draw” the second period 3-3 with home goals from Reece Butler and then Bradshaw’s hat trick goal being matched by strikes from Emiliano Lika, Abbas Oduncu and Jermaine Green, who’s 90th minute pile driver more than rivalled Hayes’ magnificent first half volley.
All in all, it left Chats boss Scott Lindsey as frustrated with his sides second half display as he’d been enthused by the opening forty-five.
Just four minutes were on the clock as Hayes drove the home side in front, yet Croydon’s first half hammering could have been so different had Jermaine Green’s flashing header flashed into the net rather inches wide. But from then on it was wave after red wave which the visitors just couldn’t cope with.
Hayes’ unreal volley from beyond the back post (from a wonderful deep cross from Matt Bodkin) made it 2-0, before Evans beat two defenders on the edge of the box before sliding the ball home.
Bradshaw’s terrific overhead kick from another Bodkin cross made it 4-0 on twenty four minutes, and when referee Rowland adjudged that Hayes’ corner had been handled, there was only going to be one man taking the penalty, the former Dartford man beating Belloli low in off the left post.
And they were “just” the goals, Fikayo Ajayi’s rampaging run forward from full back was only stopped by Belloli’s legs; the keeper then pulled off a terrific save to deny Bradshaw but was left stationary as Ajayi’s second burst into the box ended with the Chatham right back slicing wide.
Mikey Dalton fired inches over before Belloli was at his brilliant best to beat out Evans’ header (from Hayes’ centre).
When half time sub Ike Orji sprinted away from second half kick off to set up Bradshaw’s second, the striker sweeping home the cross superbly, followed by the same player being denied his hat-trick in the very next attack by a super save, you really did fear for Croydon.
But full credit to them as they semi rallied – Lika pulled one back on 54 minutes, only for Butler to restore the Chats six goal cushion, with a header from another set piece, just three minutes later.
Oduncu then swept home Croydon’s second from a terrific ball into the box only for Bradshaw to complete his own hat-trick courtesy of another super ball in from Orji.
Home sub Harvey Brown almost made it nine in bizarre circumstances as a blocked clearance looped high over a helpless Belloli, but this time lady luck was on the Rams side as the ball dropped fractionally over the bar.
The game duly finished in only a game like this should, with yet another incredible goal as Jermaine Green’s pent up frustrations from the afternoon were all let go when he sent an except missile beyond the despairing dive of keeper Lee into to the top left corner of the net!
To put this Chatham performance into perspective, before the game AFC Croydon had conceded just TWELVE in their first nine SCEFL games of the season.
Even the most staunch Rams fans would be hard pressed to deny that their side could easily have conceded that number in these ninety minutes alone as the home side made it forty-one scored in their nine games so far.
CHATHAM TOWN – Lee, Ajayi, Lawal, Robbins, Butler, Dalton (Pugh), Hayes (Brown), Evans, Bradshaw, Rooney, Bodkin (Orji)
Subs – Pilbeam, Sheminant
AFC CROYDON ATHLETIC – Belloli, Oduncu, Kallon, Mengi, Coates (Oshin), Santos (Ashburn), Jermaine Green, Murphy, Greenwood, Babington (Lika), Nahum Green
Subs – Eghaghe
REFEREE – Mr Rowland
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Main Photo Credit: Dave F