Report by Tony Rickson
On Saturday (27th April) Sittingbourne's whole season was summed up in 90 minutes: Far too good for the opposition in the first half; Outplayed in the second half.
Sittingbourne have been good for parts of the season, even very good at times, but at other times they just haven't been good enough. Inconsistent to say the least.
At half-time on a blustery afternoon with the remains of Storm Hannah passing over, you would have thought Sittingbourne were going to win by a distance. But in the end they sort of just about scraped a draw. So plenty of food for thought for the management team and now a summer to digest it. Who's going to be invited back for pre-season? Who isn't?
Where do Sittingbourne most need strengthening? How's that going to be done? Can Chris Lynch build a team to get in the hunt for promotion from the position we're in now? Whatever the answers, it's going to be fun finding out.
Sittingbourne made two changes from the team that started at Herne Bay last Monday, Kane Phillip and Timmy Babbington back in the wide positions, and this time Tommy Fagg was in midfield with captain Chris Webber returning to right-back. It was an attacking 4-4-2 line-up from the start and Guernsey, who needed a point to be certain of staying up, were made to look second best.
Sittingbourne used the width of the field well to mount attacks and 18-year-old Roman Campbell, who hadn't got a goal since February, was proving a handful for the visiting defence with his movement and strength. With Babbington shooting straight at the keeper and Chris Barnard firing just wide, it was Campbell who brought the best out of the visiting keeper with a fine save from the striker's left-foot shot. But midway through the half and Campbell found the target, neatly volleying in Jack Morrell's deep cross with a confident first touch.
The keeper saved well from a Campbell shot and made an even better save from Babbington's close range follow-up, but Campbell was proving the main man and when he raced clear on Phillip's pass he was bought down by Stanton. Campbell blasted home the penalty to draw level with seven goals as the club's top scorer along with Tom Loynes, who last netted before Christmas and has been out injured almost ever since.
Guernsey had looked like a side who hadn't won for months and were going down meekly, but it's possible a few words were exchanged in their dressing room at half-time as they made much more of a go of it after the turn-around. Even so, Sittingbourne forced more chances to extend their lead with Henry Woods firing across goal and Campbell just failing to get a hat-trick touch on it at the far post and then Campbell himself shot just wide.
Guernsey pulled a goal back on 63 minutes when Sittingbourne failed to clear a long throw into their box and sub Mahon, who had only just come on, scored with a low shot.
It was a scrappy second half but you'd still have put your money on Sittingbourne winning it, especially when Fagg had a headed chance from a corner but he put it just over the bar from almost underneath it. With all three substitutes already used Sittingbourne had to play the last few minutes with 10 men as goalkeeper Patrick Lee raced out of his area and slammed a clearance straight into the face of teammate Josh Spencer just a yard away.
The ball almost rebounded right back into goal but with a clearly groggy Spencer having to go off after a lengthy spell of treatment, Guernsey scored from the resulting corner when their other sub, Pereira, bundled it in at the far post. Both goals conceded from set pieces and that's a weakness Sittingbourne will have to work on for next season. Guernsey didn't actually need the draw in the end as the only team below them, Greenwich Borough, were beaten at home. But, personally, I'm glad they stayed up as they always try to play decent football and it's always an enjoyable and hospitable place to visit. And I've still got some Guernsey currency to spend from my last trip there.
As for Sittingbourne, there's been many highlights this season, some excellent wins, and plenty of spirited individual performances. Thanks for them all, and is it too soon to say: Roll on next season.
Sittingbourne Played: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Jack Morrell, Lex Allan, Josh Spencer, Tommy Fagg (Yellow card), Kane Phillip (Izzy Adebayo, 66 min), Chris Barnard, Roman Campbell, Henry Woods (Kwasi Amoah, 77 min) and Timmy Babbington (Liam Middleton, 56 min). Subs not used: Khalil McFarlane and Abdel Ndew.