Report by Tony Rickson
It was a lovely autumn afternoon on Saturday (10th November) with Sittingbourne attracting their biggest home crowd of the season for a league game but most will have left disappointed as the run of games without a win stretched to six.
How long ago it seems now that they were up in second place in the Bostik South East League and looking for all the world like play-off contenders. It's virtually the same set of players, but they've lost their way a bit and Whitstable did enough to deserve to win this Kent derby.
To crown a bad day, Sittingbourne had a player red-carded for the second successive week, and four players sent off in just a couple of months this season is not a record to be proud of.
Manager Aslan Odev made some brave decisions for this match, leaving out two players - goalkeeper Pat Lee and Bola Dawodu - who have been first choices all season. In came a new keeper, former Crystal Palace academy player Matthew Funnell, and player-coach Nathan Elder was recalled upfront. The other change saw Lex Allan back after two games out injured, replacing Joe Denny.
The first half-hour went badly for Sittingbourne. They conceded a lot of free-kicks as well as more than a few corners, with Whitstable dominating the game. And it was no surprise when they took a 29th minute lead, West heading home from yet another set piece swung in by former Sittingbourne left-back Chris Elliott. Sittingbourne responded well and the rest of the half was their best period of the game. Both Tom Loynes and Tommie Fagg had powerful shots saved by keeper Eason and Fagg had a header cleared off the line by Gillman after timing his jump beautifully to beat the advancing keeper.And it was the hard-working Fagg who single-handedly created the equaliser, driving past three defenders with a mixture of skill and determination before spotting Ira Jackson in space on the right side of the penalty area. Getting Jackson in one-on-one situations is a key Sittingbourne manouevre and he made no mistake, setting himself up before driving his first goal since August into the far corner.
The second half began quietly until a 58th minute foul by Whitstable captain Morrish clearly hurt Sittingbourne's Dan Parkinson. Words were exchanged in the aftermath and suddenly players were piling into a pushing-and-shoving melee. Most were acting as peacemakers and it didn't last long but Morrish and Parkinson were both given red cards for their part in it all.
Whitstable went on to create a 71st minute winner when Wright finished a skilful passing move in the area to slot home. Sittingbourne defenders, presumably apprehensive about diving in and giving away a penalty, stood off just too much as the move built up and couldn't do enough to prevent it.
Sittingbourne tried to get back into the game but Elder missed a good chance in front of goal and substitute Dawodu headed just over in added time, while at the other end Whitstable's Smith hit the post.
Football wise it was an afternoon to forget, especially following the dignified and moving start it was given by the pre-match remembrance commemorations.
Sittingbourne Played: Matthew Funnell, Chris Webber, Reiss Crimmen (Yellow card), Dan Parkinson (Red card), Ben Fitchett (Yellow card) (Johan Caney-Bryan, 87 min), Lex Allan, Ira Jackson, Lewis Chambers, Nathan Elder (Bola Dawodu, 76 min), Tommie Fagg and Tom Loynes. Subs not used: Josh Dorling, Harrison Hatfull and Patrick Lee.