Tony Rickson reports :
Saturday 20th October 2018
Bostik South East League
Sittingbourne (0) 1 (Allan 90 mins) Phoenix Sports (0) 1 (Berry 68 mins),
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Josh Dorling (Joe Denny, 89 min), Reiss Crimmen, Harrison Hatfull (Dan Parkinson, 63 min), Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett, Ira Jackson, Lewis Chambers (Yellow card), Nathan Elder, Bola Dawodu (Johan Caney-Brown, 83 min), Tom Loynes. Subs not used: Khalil McFarlane, Mason East.
Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Lee Bird (Joe Smith, 73 min, Yellow card), Lewis Clark (Kehinde Aioleru, 61 min), Zak Bryon, Danny Young (Yellow card), Jack Berry, Tony Robinson, Conrad Lee, Kyren Mundle-Smith, Kweku Ansah, Tarik Ibrahim. Sub not used: Jonathan Miller-Anncr.
Referee: Mr Lee Dyson. Assistants: Mr Jamie Eacott, Mr Robert Columb.
Photographs by Glen Parkes
Praise Sittingbourne for a never-say-die attitude which resulted in them grabbing a point for an honourable draw against more than decent opponents.
Lex Allan got the equaliser, his first goal of the season, and reward for a brave man-of-the-match performance in his main job as a central defender.
It was Sittingbourne’s first goal in three Bostik South East League matches and a welcome end to a difficult little spell which saw them lose to Ramsgate and Haywards Heath.
Phoenix arrived riding high in second place in the table and you could see why as they defended strongly, passed well, and were always a threat with some pace up front.
But they paid the price for not pushing on after taking the lead midway through the second half – or was it just that Sittingbourne wrested control of the game and the visitors finally succumbed to the mounting pressure.
It’s not possible to hear everything manager Aslan Odev instructs his players, but I heard the word ‘quality’ shouted at them in the first half and ‘belief’ towards the end in the second.
And his players did believe that they could get something from the game, and good for him installing that confidence into what is still a very young team who are growing together.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon at Woodstock and the team showed just one change from the side that beat Faversham in the FA Trophy the previous Saturday, Reiss Crimmen starting in place of sidelined skipper Chris Webber. That meant a full home debut for coach Nathan Elder, and the experienced striker also took over the captain’s armband.
Sittingbourne started brightly with the ever-dangerous Tom Loynes creating space for himself for a shot which visiting keeper Phillips turned over his bar.
But Phoenix, whose management team included the familiar figure of ex-Brickies manager Nick Davies in the dug-out, were soon fully involved in the game and Allan had to get back behind Patrick Lee to clear after the keeper was quickly closed down.
Sittingbourne threaded together some decent moves but cut out few first half chances, and mostly the ball was played around well by Phoenix with one chance lobbed over Lee but over the bar as well, the keeper saving well with his left foot from a close range shot and Crimmen heading off the line after one of several corners came in.
Elder got a sniff of a chance as an even second half get under way but he had more space around him than he thought and failed to get his shot away.
For all their neat football, Phoenix didn’t threaten too much and it took a defensive header in the wrong direction by Josh Dorling to force Lee into a 64th minute save.
But three minutes later the visitors were ahead, and what a simple goal it was too. Ex-Brickie Conrad Lee threw in a left-wing corner and defender Berry had somehow lost his marker to easily head home from close range.
Well done, Sittingbourne, for responding so well with the most danger created from set pieces – free-kicks, corners and throw-ins. Especially throw-ins.
Phoenix keeper Phillips did particularly well under this aerial bombardment caused by Lewis Chambers launching the ball into his six-yard area, but he took a risk too many as Crimmen played a free-kick into the area with 89 minutes played.
There were simply too many players – from both sides – in front of him for Phillips to get to the ball and Allan got there first to flick it over them all and into the net. Keepers are so protected these days in crowded penalty areas but though he appealed longingly, the referee held his nerve and allowed it. So both goals were headed in by central defenders up to join in at set pieces.
Even then the excitement wasn’t over as Loynes cut in beautifully from the left and saw glory flash before his eyes only to power his injury time shot just over and wide of the far corner.
A draw was nothing less than Sittingbourne deserved, and they’re going to have to play with all this determination and passion once again at home next Saturday to have a chance against opponents from a higher league in the FA Trophy. Expect the word belief will play its part in Odev’s pre-match talk.
Match Day Programme