Report by Peter Pitts
The opening period of Tuesday (25th February) evening's match was relatively quiet with neither side gaining any real advantage until Sid Sollis shot from just inside the box from the left but only managed to catch the outside of the post.
After nine minutes Sittingbourne had another chance when some determined close dribbling by Roman Campbell in the far corner forced the keeper to make a sharp save down low to his left. Then a clearance from Phoenix's keeper and a low pass down the wing bisected the Sittingbourne defence; only some quick thinking from Ben Fitchett, who sprinted across the penalty box to make a saving tackle, halted the move. Another fast break down the other wing was eventually stopped by Corey Walters-Wright and then not long after a free header in the box went straight into the arms of Brickies keeper Jordan Perrin. This seemed to galvanize Sittingbourne who tried another tactic with long passes downfield, but they either went through or over the defence as the gusting wind behind them meant that they all ended up closer to the keeper than a striker.
Phoenix were awarded another corner that resulted in a header that went just wide but on 25 minutes a hopeful cross from the right went over to the left edge of the six yard box where Jack Hopkins managed to slot the ball home underneath Perrin. Phoenix almost scored again ten minutes later when another run down the left put them through on goal but a great low save from Perrin forced the ball away for a corner.
The second half began with a substitution. Ikechi Ezewent off and one of the new signings, Temi Oladejo, came on. It was to and fro up until the 63rd minute when another cross came in from the right and Ryan Andrews headed the ball back across a wrong-footed Perrin and into the net to make it 2-0 to the home side.
Trying to get something out of the game Brickies manager Chris Lynch made two further substitutions in the space of five minutes. Firstly, Chris Barnard came off and was replaced by Kane Philip and then Lex Allan went off and Johan Caney-Bryan came on. With a variety of attacking options for the remaining fifteen or so minutes Sittingbourne desperately tried to score. After some good work by Sam Stace on the left, he sent in a low cross that was just behind Sid Sollis who nevertheless gathered the ball and spun around only to see his shot cross the line just on the wrong side of the post.
All this offensive action had its consequences. A high ball down the right wing went over the defence and although Jordan came running out to narrow the angle it was Rhys Shirley-Clarke who finally slid the ball -and the Phoenix player- over the goal line and out for a corner. Cries for a penalty were pointedly ignored by the referee. Then, nearly on the stroke of full-time, another incisive pass by Phoenix split the defence and despite a lung-busting run from Stace to catch Kenny Alirue, the ball was hit and shot past a desperately lunging Perrin and into the opposite corner of the goal to seal a 3-0 victory for Phoenix.
Sittingbourne Played: Jordan Perrin, Cory Walters-Wright, Rhys Shirley-Clarke, Cameron Brodie, Lex Allan (Johan Caney-Bryan 69 mins), Ben Fitchett, Sam Stace, Ikechi Eze (T J Bramble 45 mins), Roman Campbell, Sid Sollis and Chris Barnard (Kane Philip 64 mins). Subs not used: Temi Oladejo and Jack Hanson.