Report by Mike Green
Saturday (15th January) afternoon was a tale of two halves, with two keepers in outstanding form turned on a late sending off and ended with the relegation haunted hosts netting a ninety-third minute winner, all watched on by ex Premier League referee and now a referees assessor Steve Bennett.
Josh Dorling’s strike through the crowd in the third of four minutes of stoppage time was rough on a Sittingbourne side that had recovered well after an opening forty-five minutes where keeper Harry Brooks had stopped Phoenix Sports being out of sight. The second half was almost the exact opposite with Brooks – apart from the save of the game just after the break – looking on as Sports keeper Steve Phillips as he denied the visitors with a couple of tremendous saves.
Then with the scores locked at 1-1, Harrison Pont was sent off following a skirmish in front of the home sides bench, and as the visitors struggled to clear a last gasp free kick, ex Brickie Dorling turned into the match winner, hammering home as the Brickies failed to clear.
The home side raced out of the blocks in the opening half as the visitors were well and truly on the back foot after not playing for a fortnight and in the opening stages were indebted to Brooks for keeping the score-line blank. Chuka Barnett had the first chance racing clear but being denied by the Brickies keeper, and from the corner the same player shot wide. Wally Odedoyin then raced clear only to be denied by the oncoming Brooks who spread himself brilliantly.
Phoenix then squandered a three on one break from a Sittingbourne corner as defender Sam Okoye-Ahaneku raced back to make a magnificent tackle as it looked like the home side would finally take the lead. It only delayed the inevitable as the home side caught the visitors cold when a quick free kick found Odedoyin clear and as Brooks came off his line, the big striker coolly lobbed the ball over the keeper and into the net. By the time referee Pond blew, the home fans were asking why they were only one up as Odedoyin again saw his effort beaten away by Brooks and following up Steve Carvell was denied by Marvin Hamilton’s magnificent block.
Early in the second half, Brooks pulled off the save of the game as he beat out Carvell’s drive which took a nasty skip just in front of the keeper, Finally it seemed to kick start the visitors, and they levelled ten minutes into the half. Ahmed Abdulla was the man in the right place at the right time getting on the end of a flick from a corner to somehow loop a header over the motionless Steve Phillips in the Phoenix goal. Abdulla was denied by Phillips as he raced onto Kane Rowlands through ball as the visitors finally posed a threat going forward. Rowland himself was then denied by a tremendous Phillips save and Sittingbourne thought they’d won a penalty when sub-Harry Stannard seemed to have his legs taken away – referee Pond though booked the substitute for “simulation”!
Rowland then shot narrowly wide before Phillips pulled a save out of the very top drawer. Rowland found Stannard and his cross was met by Abdulla’s header, but Phillips produced heroics to turn the ball round the post. Phoenix sub-Calvin Poku was guilty of a horrendous miss shortly before Pont’s late red card as he couldn’t hit the target with the goal at his mercy from six yards, and just as it looked like the points would be shared, the home side gave their relegation fight a massive late boost as they took advantage of the extra man from the last corner of the game. The visitors couldn’t clear their lines and Dorling hammered the ball past the helpless Brooks into the net sparking wild scenes of home delight and visiting anguish!
The crowd left the ground to the strains of “The Great Escape” – somewhat strangely appropriate!
Sittingbourne Played: Harry Brooks, Samuel Okoye-Ahaneku, Taylor Fisher, Tyler Christian-Law, Harrison Pont, Marvin Hamilton-Omole , Toby Bancroft (Johan Caney-Bryan 84 mins), Jedd Smith, Kane Rowland, Ahmed Abdulla and Alex Flisher (Harry Stannard 69 mins). Subs not used: George Monger, Emmanuel Dasho and Ibrahim Bamba.