Saturday, 24th February 2019
By Tony Rickson
Corinthian Casuals (2) 3 (Allan (og) 7, Odunaike 29, Clarke 67) Sittingbourne (1) 1 (Dawodu 26)
No surprise with this result as in-form promotion-hunting Corinthian Casuals deservedly saw off a Sittingbourne side under new management and still in transition.
While the defeat wasn’t remarkable, a tally of nine yellow cards shows how mis-managed the game was by the referee – the one tackle that caused any damage, forcing goalscorer Bola Dawodu off injured before half-time, deemed worthy of a free-kick but not one of those many bookings.
At least three of the six Sittingbourne cautions – Tom Loynes, Josh Dorling and Fabrice Blewordah – seemed ludicrous and were for the only offences each of them committed all match.
With another teenager making his debut, a young Sittingbourne team were far from disgraced in defeat but they need to be a lot tougher and concentrate for every one of the 90 minutes to cope with sides like Casuals.
It was their 11th defeat in the last 13 games, while victory for Casuals took them above Cray Wanderers and into second place in Bostik League South.
The game, played out in sunshine but a cold strong wind, was watched by Casuals fan and former England cricket captain Alec Stewart, who probably wasn’t bowled over by everything he saw.
Sittingbourne’s interim manager Aslan Odev, with newly-appointed ex-Brickie Ian Varley alongside him as his No 2, showed he’s not afraid to make bold decisions, calling up 19-year-old goalkeeper Muhammed Otuyo for his debut in place of Harry Brooks. That’s four keepers Sittingbourne have used now in this topsy-turvy season.
The only other change from the team that unluckily lost to East Grinstead the previous Saturday in Odev’s first game in charge was Jidi Okimeji replacing Tyrone Guthrie in midfield.
Positive and organised without being anything really special, Casuals started strongly and took an early lead when a right-wing cross to the near post seemed to be headed on by striker Uzun, though it was later given as an own goal by Lex Allan, presumably for deflecting off his head and over the unlucky Otuyo.
Sittingbourne had to battle to stay in the game, but looked dangerous in the occasional counter-attack and equalised on 26 minutes. Okimeji, who worked hard and tackled bravely all afternoon, found Loynes and he created yet another goal in what’s been a creative season, sending Dawodu through to finish well for his first goal for nearly three months.
Casuals hit back quickly and poor defending by Sittingbourne allowed Odunaike too much room in the area to thrash the ball home for 2-1.
Sittingbourne still looked like they could get something from the game and their ever-noisy fans behind the goal roared for a free-kick just before half-time when the Casuals goalkeeper fielded what seemed like a back pass. Nothing given, though.
Otuyo, a big lad at 6ft 6in, calmed any nerves he might have felt early doors with a smart tip-over just into the second half, and then the referee took over, booking five players in a 10-minute spell when each challenge seemed more innocuous than the one before.
The next goal was going to be crucial and Casuals got it, a good, fast build-up from the left finished smartly by Clarke with a shot into the far corner midway through the half.
Sittingbourne went close through Chris Webber and Loynes, while Okimeji had a shot saved, and Loynes got nowhere with a penalty appeal after he was shoved over from behind in the area chasing a long Otuyo clearance.
For Sittingbourne, young Allan did well under a fair amount of pressure and is gaining vital experience every game, while losing the influential Dawodu was an important moment in what was always going to be a very tough game for them.
They’ve now played all the top six teams away and head into a March packed full with eight games, five of them at home – surely some good will come from some of them.
CORINTHIAN-CASUALS: Danny Bracken, Fraser Walker, Warren Morgan, Nathan Daly (Yellow card), Jack Strange, Callum McAllister, Josh Uzun (Jamie Byatt, 82 min), Kevant Serbony (Yellow card) (Ben Cheklit, 45 min), Gabriel Odunaike, Coskun Ekim, Jordan Clarke (Yellow card) (Shaun Brown,
90+1 min). Subs not used: Terry Murray, Andrew Herring.
SITTINGBOURNE Muhammed Otuyo, Chris Webber, Fabrice Blewordah (Yellow card), Ben Davisson (Charlie Allen, 89 min), Lex Allan, Josh Dorling (Yellow card), Tom Loynes (Yellow card) Jide Okimeji (Yellow card), Kane Rowland (Yellow card), Bola Dawodu (David Smith, 45), Rhys Bartlett (Tyrone Guthrie, 79 min, Yellow card). Subs not used: Mitch Horn, Harry Brooks.
Referee: Mr Shaun Farrer, Assistants: Mr Joseph Shepherd, Mr Adam Jones.
Ken Medwyn's Photographs