Report by Tony Rickson
When a well-struck corner doesn't even reach the penalty area then you know the wind is playing havoc with a game and that's eactly what happened on Saturday (16th March) afternoon.
When all three goals float over the keeper and go in at the far post, well ... again, you know the way the wind's blowing.Yes, the ferocious Whitstable wind spoiled this game, making it much scrappier then it could have been. But then again it was the same for both sides and the home team battled just that bit harder to ignore the conditions and stop their opponents
playing. Lots of energy, commitment and battling has been Chris Lynch's basic demand from his team but for once Sittingbourne came up a bit short.
They defended well enough - both Whitstable goals were long shots - but in the end they suffered just their second defeat in eight games, and were beaten for the first time in an away game after four wins on the trot. Harry Barkaway was drafted in for his debut in the back four with Tommy Fagg away, and Billy Lewins was preferred to Henry Woods after a couple
of impressive substitute appearances.
It was such a windy day down by the seaside that football was never going to be easy and the loyal Sittingbourne fans made short work of any traffic difficulties by immediately getting behind their team. They even had a special song as he warmed up for Whitstable sub Nick Treadwell, who was once a Sittingbourne favourite, but it was another ex-Brickie, Miles Cornwell, who headed wide a great early chance for his team after a swift build-up.
Sittingbourne didn't show much in the opening half-hour, eventually getting forward for Chris Webber to hit a low shot wide and Tim Babbington to shoot straight at the keeper from a good position. Whitstable continued to win plenty of the ball without looking too dangerous, but took the lead after 33 minutes when Stannard hit a speculative left-foot shot from 25 yards and it seemed to hold up enough in the wind to sneak in high off the far post.
Sittingbourne needed to hold on till half-time and then regroup, which is what they did, coming out with renewed vigour and a three-man defence to try to wrest the game back. They had a good chance with a free-kick for handball just outside the penalty area but Roman Campbell couldn't it get beyond the wall. Whitstable seemed content to hold on to their 1-0 lead but they fluked a second on 54 minutes when Wright looked to be crossing to the far post from out on the left and the ball sailed over Patrick Lee and into the far corner.
Sittingbourne knuckled down to the fight and soon pulled a goal back when Babbington cut in from the left, dummied the covering defender, and found the furthest part of the goal with a well-aimed shot, his third goal in four games. Whitstable were happy to respond by looking for the odd counter-attack and Cornwell twice got clean on goal, but Lee saved well the first time and the other one he shot wide. Without playing much fluent football, fair enough given the conditions, and without getting much in the way of 50-50 decisions from the referee,
Sittingbourne mounted some pretty invigorating late pressure. The home side somehow survived a couple of scrambles in their own goal area and then keeper Eason made the decisive save of the match, flinging himself to his left to keep out Campbell's shot on the turn in injury time.
So Whitstable completed a 2-1 double over Sittingbourne this season - an important result for them given their precarious position and the fact they'd only won once previously since Christmas. For Sittingbourne, their winning run was going to come to a halt at some time and for a young team packed with decent and skilful players, this was hardly going to be their sort of match.
Their next away game, away to Greenwich Borough in a fortnight, now looms as pretty important to make sure the gap between themselves and the bottom of the league stays as wide it is now.
Sittingbourne Played: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Kwasi Amoah (Henry Woods, 45 min), Jack Morrell, Harry Barkaway, Lewis Chambers (Yellow card), Izzy Adebayo (Johan Caney-Bryan, 31 min), Chris Barnard, Roman Campbell, Billy Lewins and Timmy Babbington (Liam Middleton, 71 min). Subs not used: Rob Lofting and Franklin Phipps.