Tony Rickson reports on Ashford Utd v Sittingbourne, 25th September 2018
Bostik South East League
Ashford (0) 1 (Gnahore 59) Sittingbourne (1) 1 (Fagg 22), Attendance: 246
Ashford United: Sam Mott, Oliver Rowe, Tom Carlse, Jordan Johnson (Siao Blackwood, 45 min, Yellow card), Antonio Simeone (Brandon Williams, 50 min), Josh Wisson, Sam Corne (Yellow card), Lea Dawson, Harry Ottaway, Ambrose Gnahore (Lanree Azeez, 82 min), Fidan Fejzi (Yellow card). Subs not used: Clark Woodcock, Matthew Day.
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Josh Dorling, Dan Parkinson (Johan Caney Bryan, 70 min), Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett, Izzy Adebayo (Harrison Hatfull, 36 min), Lewis Chambers (Yellow card), Bola Dawodu, Tommie Fagg (Yellow card), Tom Loynes. Subs not used: Reiss Crimmen, Joe Denny, Harry Brooks.
Referee: James Hurst. Assistants: Harry Wager, Joseph McKay.
The last thing Sittingbourne needed less than 48 hours after arriving home from a tiring trip to Guernsey was to play in a 100mph Kent derby.
But that’s what Ashford United had in store for them, and a draw was in all probability a fair result at the end of a well-contested battle.
It was Sittingbourne’s first draw of the season and the point kept them handily placed fourth in the Bostik South East League table.
So four points out of six from a couple of tough away games in quick succession is an excellent achievement and this young Sittingbourne side certainly know how to give their all and leave nothing out on the pitch.
It was a different sort of game to the one at Guernsey on Sunday with both sides getting the ball forward quickly, and defences keeping chances to pretty much a minimum at both ends.
Sittingbourne went into the match with the same team that played at Guernsey and it was reassuring for the players to hear some strong support from their ever-noisy fans after getting the silent treatment on Sunday because of their enforced absence.
Tom Fagg picked up probably the earliest booking of his young career, after just three minutes, but Sittingbourne pressed forward and Bola Dawodu went close with a header.
At the other end, Patrick Lee made a good save and it was Sittingbourne who took the lead midway through the first half. They made progress down the left, where Tom Loynes was a handful for Ashford defenders all game, and when the ball was only half-cleared Fagg took a touch and thundered in a net-burster of a shot from the edge of the area for a cracking second goal of the season.
Sittingbourne lost Izzy Adebayo to a first half injury but looked good for their lead as Ben Fitchett and Lex Allan again showed strength and determination in the heart of the defence.
It took Josh Dorling to clear away the danger from the goalline early in the second half but Sittingbourne seemed comfortable holding onto their lead until Ashford equalised out of the blue in the 59th minute when Gnahore was given too much room and fired home across Lee.
Ashford gained some momentum and for a spell Sittingbourne were reduced to thumping long clearances just to get the ball away but with not enough chance to find anyone on the end of them.
But they came closest to a winner when Fitchett’s header from a Dan Parkinson free-kick bounced agonisingly clear off the far post.
Sittingbourne ended the game on top with three long Lewis Chambers’ throw-ins into the heart of the penalty box but Ashford defended them well and held out.
Funnily enough, Sittingbourne’s only two defeats this season have come against the top team in the league and the bottom one. Apart from that they’ve made an excellent start to the season and considering Ashford were being heavily tipped as one of the title favourites this was very much a point gained from a hard evening’s work.