Report by Tony Rickson
Sittingbourne turned in probably their best performance of the season to beat Corinthian Casuals at home back in November but they cancelled that one out on Saturday (25th March) with perhaps their worst display of the season to lose the return match 4-0 in the Surrey sunshine.
To be fair, they defended well in the face of a very strong wind in the first half to keep it goalless. But they lost influential skipper Jono Richardson to a painful-looking injury and conceded four in the second half - even though it was 90 minutes before they let in a goal from open play. The others came from a penalty, a free-kick and a corner.
They made just one change from the team that played well in a 1-0 defeat by second-placed Dorking Wanderers last Saturday, Tom Carlse returning after injury in place of Tom Brunt. Casuals are fourth in the league, have had a good run of recent results and looked a useful, disciplined side as they dominated first half possession. But for all that, and despite forcing eight corners to one by Sittingbourne in first half injury time, they didn't create too much.
They had an effort chalked out for offside, hit the bar from 20 yards and forced Simon Overland to make one good save, when he tipped a shot over the bar. Apart from that, Sittingbourne's back four were solid and determined - trouble was that when they got the ball forward, it proved very difficult for their colleagues to hold on to it. Despite losing Richardson, a leader of men, to a 38th minute groin injury, Sittingbourne created their first chance in first half injury time, Josh Wisson's excellent shot turned away by Casuals keeper Bracken at full stretch.
With Conrad Lee dropping back to competently replace the skipper in defence, it looked as if Sittingbourne had done the hard bit by keeping Casuals - and the following wind - out for 45 minutes. But three minutes into the second half Casuals engineered themselves a penalty with a quick turn of pace in the box and Okojie stroked it home. They conceded a second on 62 minutes when Casuals out-thought them with a free-kick played to one side of the defensive wall for Bettache to nip round and score comfortably.
Two became three when a short corner was deflected across the six-yard box past four defenders for Dudley to slot it in at the far post. With Gil Carvalho their most dangerous player going forward, Sittingbourne flickered occasionally but Casuals wrapped it up on 90 minutes when Gallagher lashed in a loose ball on the edge of the area.
A game to forget for Sittingbourne, who found the gap between themselves and one of the division's most proficient teams, far too big to bridge overall.
Sittingbourne Played: Simon Overland, Sam Welch, Tom Carlse, Jack Steventon (Yellow card), Jono Richardson (Connor Wilkins, 41 min) Conrad Lee, Kane Phillip (Bradley Schafer, 78 min), Josh Wisson, Keanu Williams, Chris Regis (Steven Ita, 75 min), Gil Carvalho. Subs not used: Nick Davis.