Report by Tony Rickson
What a win for Sittingbourne on Saturday (15th September) afternoon. Battling, hard-working and determined, they became the first team to beat Whyteleafe in ten league and cup games this season.
Not only was it a super win, it was also an excellent end-to-end game, well-contested and - dare it say - well-refereed too! Whyteleafe had won all four of their league matches going into the game but obviously they hadn't come up against a team quite as organised and passionate as Sittingbourne. All the side played well and worked hard, but the two young central defenders, Ben Fitchett and Lex Allan, were outstanding - and brave, too - up against some skilful and pacy attackers.
At the other end, Bola Dawodu and Tommie Fagg thoroughly deserved their goals, 20-year-old Fagg continuing to impress with his skills, goal threat, and great work ethic. Whyteleafe showed their attacking commitment by unusually keeping three players up on the halfway line when defending corners or free-kicks, but they fell behind to a 12th minute goal. Izzy Adebayo hit a beautifully weighted pass behind the defence, and although Dawodu's initial shot was blocked he was alert enough to head home the rebound. No wonder his face simply lit up at a long overdue first goal of the season.
Trying to protect their 100 per cent record, Whyteleafe battled to get back in the game but Sittingbourne's defence were terrific and behind them, goalkeeper Patrick Lee has settled down to proving what an excellent shot-stopper he is. Sittingbourne attacked well, carving out far more chances than in the disappointing home FA Cup defeat the previous Saturday, Dawodu just missing the target from close in and Adebayo and Fagg having shots well saved. The Sittingbourne players energetically pressed very high to squeeze Whyteleafe out of their normal passing game, giving away a fair number of free-kicks in the process but doing a great job of disrupting the opposition.
In fact, Whyteleafe's protests at any perceived infringement finally got too much for the referee and he gave them a sort of public warning, shouting at the whole team to tell them to let him get on with his job. Lee made a couple of good saves to protect Sittingbourne's slender lead as the game became more stretched in the second half, and Whyteleafe continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack.
Sittingbourne looked as if they'd put the game beyond their Surrey visitors in the 77th minute when Fagg latched on to a loose ball following Lee's free-kick, and dummied a defender before placing an accurate low shot into the far corner to make it 2-0. Immediately, Whyteleafe brought it back to just the one-goal deficit, with Armstrong striking a fine shot from outside the area within seconds of coming on as a substitute. Not so long ago Sittingbourne were letting winning positions like this slip in the dying minutes of games, but this young side showed maturity and determination not to let go of their winning position, and Dan Parkinson was the closest from either side to go nearest to adding a late goal, the Whyteleafe keeper just scrambling away his close-range effort.
This win was just the confidence boost Sittingbourne needed after losing their last two league games, and the points took them up to eighth in the Bostik South East League. A long way to go yet, obviously, but this was a super victory against decent opponents and showed just what they're capable of doing.
Sittingbourne Played: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Josh Dorling (Reiss Crimmen, 53 min), Dan Parkinson, Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett (Yellow card), Izzy Adebayo, Lewis Chambers (Harrison Hatfull, 83 min), Bola Dawodu, Tommie Fagg and Tom Loynes (Johan Caney-Brown, 68 min). Subs not used: Harry Brooks and Nathan Elder.