Tuesday 6th September 2016
By Tony Rickson
Hastings United (1) 1 (Collin 38) Sittingbourne (1) 1 (Wilkins 12)
Ryman League Division One South
Hastings United: Lenny Pidgeley, Reece Butler (Oliver Black, 89 min), Sam Cole, Wayne Wilson (Harry Stannard, 71 min), Oliver Rowe, Richard Davies, Sam Cruttwell, Simon Johnson, Jay May (Yellow card), Frannie Collin, Matthew Bodkin. Subs not used: Jerome Roseje, Bright Temba, Ryan Nicholls.
Sittingbourne: Ben Bridle-Card, Tom Brunt, Conrad Lee, Dan Tanner, Jono Richardson, Jack Steventon (Yellow card), Ola Rabiu (Yellow card) (Tom Carlse, 56 min), Stefan Wright, Connor Wilkins (Mark Chiverton, 60 min), Miles Cornwell, Hicham Akhazzan (Danny Rumbol, 71 min). Subs not used: Jake Embery, Jeff Nguede-Noubisse.
Referee: Mr Steve Hughes. Assistants: Mr Wayne Webb, Mr David Ellis.
If there’s been any sleepless nights in the Richardson household after the birth of baby James last week, it didn’t show.
Captain Jono was superb in a magnificent Sittingbourne rearguard action to preserve their team’s unbeaten league record and hold out against the challenge of a Hastings side who will surely finish in the top six this season.
Not only did Richardson shackle experienced danger-man Jay May, he cut out or blocked countless shots and crosses by being in the right place at the right time – shades of John Terry there – and then capped his performance with an incredible goalline save in the very last minute.
For once, agile on-loan keeper Ben Bridle-Card was beaten, but Richardson was in the right place on the line to head over his own bar a fierce goalbound shot.
“Lucky old Sittingbourne” said the man behind me, and I instinctively swivelled round to give him a dirty look, because it was pure skill, bravery and anticipation. Nothing to do with luck.
The whole team worked hard and deserved a point, apart from a shaky spell towards the end of the first half when they conceded possession too easily.
This Sittingbourne side has pace and determination, two strengths that will serve them well this season if they maintain the standard of this performance.
They made two changes from the team that won at Greenwich Borough eight days previously, Conrad Lee returning for Tom Carlse, and Connor Wilkins making his full debut in place of Josh Wisson – one youth team product for another.
And it was Wilkins who gave Sittingbourne an early lead after a bright start all over the pitch. A good goal it was, too, both clever and cool, as he intercepted a poor pass, raced forward and round the covering defender, and buried his shot in the corner as the keeper came out.
Sittingbourne continued to threaten with their speed going forward but gradually Hastings took control as too many clearances weren’t placed well enough and the ball came straight back at the visitors.
Dan Tanner made one saving tackle in his own penalty area with immaculate timing, and Bridle-Card made one decent save, before Hastings equalised on 38 minutes. A left-wing cross was pulled back low for Collin, and although his first shot was blocked by Lee, he made no mistake with his second.
Sittingbourne did much better in the second half, defending well and bravely, and looking dangerous every time they broke away, which was often.
Hastings had chances but Bridle-Card made a couple of top drawer saves and Richardson made that superb goalline save in injury time.
At the other end, perhaps the best chance would have fallen for Tanner when Richardson headed on Jack Steventon’s mighty long throw, but he seemed to be pulled back as he went for it, and the referee saw nothing.
Fair enough in that a win would have been a bit of a cheek, but a draw was a good result, and the first time at this admittedly early stage of the season that Hastings have dropped points at home.