Report by Tony Rickson
Two terrific goals gave Sittingbourne a comfortable win over their local rivals on Saturday (13th October) afternoon and a precious place in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy, A clean sheet, no bookings, and £3,000 in prize money from the FA - what's not to like about a good afternoon's work?
I don't remember many wins for Sittingbourne at Faversham over the years so this was more than welcome, though having said that this particular Faversham side were nowhere near the standard of some of their predecessors. Sittingbourne made four changes from the team that lost 2-0 in the rain at Haywards Heath the previous Saturday, though three of those left out - Reiss Crimmen, Dan Parkinson and Johan Caney-Bryan - all ended up playing a part off the substitutes' bench.
Of the four players who came in, two of them, Lewis Chambers and Josh Dorling, suffered first half injuries and had to go off. And the other two? Well, they were the two goalscorers so praise manager Aslan Odev for his team selection there. Player-coach Nathan Elder started for the first time and headed Sittingbourne powerfully in front, while Harrison Hatfull scored a worldie to clinch the victory.
It was a blustery day at Salters Lane, but the sun shone, and Sittingbourne looked by far the more impressive side in the first half, forcing Faversham to over-hit long hopeful balls forward or just go backwards or sideways to try and find some space. Ira Jackson was a constant threat down the right all game and he set up Bola Dawodu for a good early chance but the keeper got down to save well.
At the other end, a Faversham header hit the bar and then went over, and I thought athletic keeper Patrick Lee tipped it there, but the referee gave a goal-kick so obviously he can't have done! Elder's sheer strength always made him a handful for the Faversham defence but when Josh Dorling tried to find him with an angled cross it carried fractionally too high for him in the wind. But it was the big experienced striker who broke the deadlock on 25 minutes when Chambers hit the ball forward and Elder half-dived and half-jumped to meet it with a powerful header which keeper Benham got a hand to but couldn't keep out.
Lee - and how well he's come on in the last few weeks - made a couple of smart saves and Sittingbourne should have doubled their lead when Dawodu jinked his way clear but tried to shoot when he needed to get his head up and give Elder an open goal. With Elder, Dawodu, Jackson and Tom Loynes as a front four, Sittingbourne are impressive as an attacking force and will always create chances if the rest of the team get the ball up to them in good positions.
Faversham had a bit more of the game at the start of the second half but Ben Fitchett showed great anticipation and positioning to shut out attack after attack, and for a time the game was a bit of a stalemate. Then came the Hatfull stunner. Loynes cut in from the wing after 65 minutes and slid the ball sideways to the 18-year-old midfielder. He advanced a few yards to near the edge of the area and when no-one closed him down, he hit a fantastic shot into the top corner for his first Sittingbourne goal. A goal as soon as it left his foot. As his teammates understandably mobbed him, Elder was shouting: "out or order, out of order". I think I knew what he meant.
Hatfull oozed confidence for the rest of the game and Sittingbourne never looked like conceding their lead, though Lee did make a couple more good saves and one Faversham cross bounced off his crossbar.
Once more, Sittingbourne got warm and loyal support from a large number of fans who made the short trip down the A2, and they had a whale of a time celebrating this deserved victory. Away wins are always special, and three-grand bonuses don't come along every week either.
Sittingbourne Played: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Josh Dorling (Reiss Crimmen, 32 min), Harrison Hatfull, Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett, Ira Jackson, Lewis Chambers (Dan Parkinson, 45 min), Nathan Elder (Johan Caney-Brown, 75 min), Bola Dawodu and Tom Loynes. Subs not used: Joe Denny and Mason East.