Report by Tony Rickson
Tuesday (5th December) evening's game saw two late goals distorting the scoreline - but it was a very closely-contested battle between two evenly-matched teams.
In fact, Sittingbourne had more chances to score than the home side, but it was Walton Casuals who accepted their opportunities and in so doing leapfrogged over them in the Bostik League South table. The defeat ended a run of five successive away league wins for Sittingbourne, but Walton were clearly a cut above some of the recent opposition, and no wonder they've only lost one in 11 home league matches this season.
They certainly knew what tactics to play on their new artificial pitch in their spanking new stadium, and how special it was to see such spectacularly good new facilities, surrounded by other football pitches all in full use by teams of all ages deep into the evening. Sittingbourne made just one change from the side that beat East Grinstead 3-1 on Saturday, Jordan Carey rotating the goalkeeper's jersey with Harry Brooks stepping down.
It was Sittingbourne who made by far the better start, the home keeper making a good save from a Kane Rowland shot and Miles Cornwell hesitating in front of goal when John Coker's header fell in front of him just yards out. Walton patiently played the ball out from the back with Sittingbourne running themselves into the ground to cut off the angles and try to force them to just bung it upfield. Gradually the home side got into the game and forced six corners in the first half-hour but none of them proved much of a threat and Sittingbourne resumed control in a pacy and hectic sort of game.
Tom Loynes had an effort saved at full length by the keeper, Cornwell's ambitious lob was just wide of the far post and Bola Dawodu was inches from connecting with Rowland's cross as Sittingbourne played some enterprising attacking football. Walton gave them a lesson in finishing with three second half goals and it was no coincidence they were all pretty similar with passes zipped into the area all along the ground - no high crosses for big forwards to try and head goalwards on this surface. They knew how to play effectively on it and that won them the game. A break down the left by the dangerous Bamba set up the opening goal on the hour, his low cross beaten out by the diving Carey but only as far as Sarpong who knocked it in from close range.
Back came Sittingbourne with an impressive response and Dawodu looked certain to score at the end of a good move, only for the Walton keeper to keep it out with his shins with his body going the other way. An honourable draw looked a real possibility but Walton scored twice in the final 10 minutes, both times with passes neatly threaded into the box along the ground as if they were Manchester City. It was a harsh lesson for Sittingbourne that you can play well, attack impressively at times, and work hard all over the pitch, and sometimes you get nothing for it. Just a scoreline that matches their biggest defeat of the season.
There's tough games coming up for Sittingbourne before Christmas - against three of the top five, Cray Wanderers, Greenwich Borough and leaders Lewes - with the Saturday lunchtime visit of Guernsey before that. It will be time to dig deep and not undo all the hard work that's gone into the season so far.
Sittingbourne Played: Jordan Carey, Chris Webber (Chris Elliott, 77 min), Salvin Kisitu, Tyrone Guthrie (Yellow card) (Ollie Brown, 64 min), Ben Gorham, John Coker, Tom Loynes, Ben Davisson, Kane Rowland, Miles Cornwell (David Smith, 70 min) and Bola Dawodu. Subs not used: Lex Allan and Harry Brooks.