Leafe left hoping for a reprieve from drop
WHYTELEAFE kept their side of the bargain with this victory, but were relegated after Burgess Hill Town pulled off a shock victory against title-chasing Dulwich Hamlet.
Ian Selley and Omar Folkes scored second half goals for Whyteleafe to bag the three points, but there was devastation at Church Road when news filtered through Burgess Hill had scored a late goal against Dulwich.
"It's almost worse that we got so close to staying up," explained Whyteleafe manager Steve Griffin. "But really who saw that Dulwich Hamlet score coming?
"I heard they rested players once they realised they were heading for the play-offs. You can see why they would do it, but that had a huge impact on us.
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"From Burgess Hill's perspective, they can only beat what's in front of them, but from our point of view it's painful."
Griffin has no plans to leave Church Road and is hopeful the club may even be handed a reprieve from relegation.
"It's a big drop between the Ryman South and the Combined Counties League, far more than the Ryman Premier to Ryman South," he said. "I have no plans to leave and at the moment we are preparing to stay in the Ryman, though it may be a while before we know if we have got a reprieve or not.
"If we do drop down though, we will be aiming for an immediate return next season."
The first half of Saturday's game was a nervy affair with few chances.
Whitstable edged it with two efforts hitting the woodwork. Leafe's first shot on target came in the 20th minute when Junior Kaffo got a head to Selley's free-kick, but it went straight at keeper Dave King.
After 29 minutes, Folkes played a fine throughball to send Jerson Dos Santos clear, but King was quick to clear the danger.
A minute later, Scott Simpson found Michael Abnett on the edge of the box. He beat the defender, but shot over the bar.
Whitstable had their share of the first half and in the closing minutes, twice went close to taking the lead.
A mistake from Louis Meech in the 39th minute allowed James Pinnock to break clear, but his shot hit the post.
Three minutes later, the Oystermen hit the woodwork again when Marc Cumberbatch's cross was headed against the bar by Dan Wisker.
Leafe came out strongly in the second half and took control of the game. Folkes played a fine throughball in the 49th minute to set up Simpson, but his shot was tipped round the post by King.
The resultant corner was taken by Selley and his strike curled directly into the net to give Leafe a 50th-minute lead.
Two minutes later, things got much better for Leafe when Dos Santos found Folkes in the box and his shot went in off the post.
Scott Heard had a chance for the visitors in the 55th minute, but Paul Smith made a fine save. Dos Santos and Folkes both went close with 20 minutes remaining.
The visitors then had two chances to pull one back.
Meech cleared off the line from a Laurence Harvey header in the 75th minute and then Smith saved from Heard.
Leafe then pushed forward and dominated the final 10 minutes, in front of a quiet home crowd.
Selley looked as though he had repeated his earlier strike when another corner went straight into the goal, but the referee gave a free-kick to the hosts judging that King had been impeded.
Whyteleafe: P Smith, Meech, Abnett, Duke, Palmer (T Smith 83), Kaffo, Sessegnon (Stripp 57), Selley, Folkes, Dos Santos, Simpson. Unused subs: Stripp, Smith, Palmer.