Report by Peter Pitts
Sittingbourne scored the first goal, and the last one, on Sunday (10th September) afternoon which was enough to preserve their six-game unbeaten start to the Bostick South League.
OK, it was disappointing that they didn't get the win that would have put them top of a table for the first time in 20 years, but to be honest a draw from this Sunday afternoon clash was probably the fairest result. Sittingbourne attacked well, with pace and skill, and defended solidly, with Lex Allan again excelling, but Thamesmead at home - well at their shared Dartford home - are a tough team to beat.
What was especially impressive was how Sittingbourne reacted to losing their early lead and then going behind in the second half - they battled back furiously to earn the 89th minute equaliser sublimely scored by sub David Smith. Sittingbourne reverted to the team that beat Whyteleafe the previous weekend, before a mix-and-match side had won in midweek at Faversham in the Kent Senior Cup.
They almost went ahead in their first real attack of the match, after 11 minutes, with both Bola Dawodu and Gil Carvalho going close. But it was top scorer Bola who cleverly put them ahead four minutes later, left-footing an imaginative overhead kick into the corner of the goal after a Tom Loynes free-kick had only been half-cleared. The Thamesmead keeper got a hand to it without keeping the ball out, but did better later in the half to keep out shots from Carvalho and Kane Phillip, as Sittingbourne attacked impressively on the break. Noisy Sittingbourne fans behind the goal sang ‘We are top of the league' but it turned out to be a bit too early for that.
The home side equalised on 44 minutes when Green cut in from the left and curled a clever shot in at the far post. And they looked like they'd go ahead in first half injury time when the referee gave a penalty as Daren Hawkes charged out of his goal to save at the feet of an unrushing player. The keeper had clearly won the ball first before the Thamesmead player tumbled over him, and the referee was pressed into involving his assistant in the discussion before bravely over-ruling himself and giving a dropped ball.
Thamesmead had their best period of the game after half-time and Green hit the foot of the post from a free-kick before they took the lead following a 61st minute corner, skipper Kinch stabbing home from close range after Avery had headed the ball down to him. Sittingbourne fought back well and full-back Chris Elliott had a powerful shot from distance just about blocked by the keeper before Allan headed wide from a corner.
Thamesmead - or rather Kinch - paid for his indiscipline in what was pretty much a clean game, getting sent off for his second yellow card on 83 minutes. Sittingbourne sensed their chance in an 11 v 10 climax to the match and Smith, such a dangerous if unpredictable player, got the equaliser when he dummied a defender to make space and hit a beautiful shot across the keeper and inside the far post. That's three goals for him already this season even though he can't hold down a regular starting place yet.
Even then Smith was just wide with another chance and Hawkes had to make a good save at the other end as Thamesmead forced a rare opening. A good performance by Sittingbourne against a more powerful team than other opponents they've faced recently - it leaves them a point off the top in a highly respectable start to the season. Wonder if they'll get another chance to grab that top place sooner rather than later?
Sittingbourne Played: Daren Hawkes, Chris Webber, Chris Elliott, Ollie Brown, Ben Gorham, Lex Allan, Kane Phillip, Bola Dowadu (David Smith, 75 min), Kane Rowland, Tommy Loynes (Lawson Okimeji, 61 min) (George Blake, 67 min) (Yellow card), Gil Carvalho. Sub not used: Tyrone Guthrie and Harry Brooks.