Tuesday 5th February 2019
By Tony Rickson
Bostik League South East Division
Sittingbourne (0) 0 Ashford United (1) 2 (Parrish 17, Corne 85)
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Jack Morrell, Tommie Fagg, Joshua Spencer (Yellow card), Lewis Chambers, Izzy Adebayo (Liam Middleton, 64 min), Henry Woods, Roman Campbell, Johan Caney-Bryan, Timmie Babbington (Rob Lofting, 85 min). Subs not used: Abdel Ndew, Dylan Riches, Nathan Elder.
Ashford United: Sam Mott, Jerald Aboagye, Tom Carlse, Josh Wisson, Afolabi Coker (Yellow card), Mohammed Kamara, Sam Corne, Abdul Anidugbe, Danny Parrish (Jay May, 81 min), Trey Williams (Lea Dawson, 89 min), Ridman Ajala (Clark Woodcock, 75 min). Subs not used: Theo Fairweather-Johnson, Stefan Cox.
Referee: Alexanda Mathieson. Assistants: David Joseph, Paul Agboola.
Some consolation for Sittingbourne is that the last time they played a second-placed team they got thrashed 5-0, and this match was altogether closer.
That shows how much they’ve improved in the last few weeks, but ultimately you get no more for losing 2-0 than by five.
High-flying and in-form, Ashford were a totally different side to the one Sittingbourne drew with back in September.
This time they were powerful, strong, organised, and altogether pretty horrible, claiming free-kicks all over the place, wasting time, and generally killing the game. Horrible, but effective.
And in John Coker, Josh Wisson and Tom Carlse, the three ex-Sittingbourne players in their side, they had three of the best players on the field.
In fact, it was the performance of Coker, and his fellow central defender Kamara, that was key to it as they tightly-marked Roman Campbell out of the game.
The hugely-promising young striker is a player who can make all the difference, and having scored three in three coming into this game he is clearly going to be a key player in Sittingbourne’s fight against relegation.
Sittingbourne made two changes from the team that excitingly beat Phoenix Athletic 4-3 just three days earlier, Joshua Spencer returning in defence and Johan Caney-Bryan starting in the No 10 role after getting the winner on Saturday as a sub.
Both sides restricted scoring chances to a minimum in the first half, but Sittingbourne’s forward passes weren’t accurate enough at times and Ashford mainly kept a tight rein on them.
The singing battle between the fans at either end finished in an honourable draw although Sittingbourne coined the best lyrics when they called down the pitch to Ashford: “We’ll see you next year. You’ll lose in the play-offs.”
The only goal of the half came after 17 minutes when Sittingbourne defended well to block a shot on target only for the ball to run kindly for Parrish to pick his spot from the edge of the area. Either he was lucky to be in just the right place to get the rebound, or maybe it was skilful positioning.
Inevitably the second half was going to be slightly more open as Sittingbourne pressed for an equaliser and Ashford attempted to catch them on the counter-attack.
Keeper Patrick Lee made a couple of good saves while at the other end, on 53 minutes, Izzy Adebayo got in Sittingbourne’s first on-target shot but the visiting keeper had it covered all the way.
The referee missed what looked like an obvious foul on Timmie Babbington and in the break that followed a free-kick was given for handball against Spencer – the Ashford players made sure the referee didn’t miss that one.
Sittingbourne were right in it at this stage and Caney-Bryan’s header was punched out by keeper Mott, followed by the referee refusing penalty appeals for handball against Coker. It looked for all the world like the one Chris Webber was penalised for at Phoenix on Saturday, but I didn’t think that was handball either.
Spencer twice broke from the back for Sittingbourne with enterprising runs, the first time forcing a corner but the second trying a shot that flew miles wide.
Sittingbourne went three at the back in a brave bid to get something from the game against a strong Ashford defence, but it was all over in the 85th minute when a long throw from the left was helped into the goalmouth and Corne made it 2-0 from close range.
No lack of effort from Sittingbourne, but there’s clearly a gap between themselves and promotion-chasing teams, and a lot of hard work still needed to preserve their status at this level come the end of the season.
Match Day Programme