Tony Rickson Reports
Saturday 26th January 2019
By Tony Rickson
Bostik League South East Division
Sittingbourne (1) (Chambers 33) Haywards Heath (1) 2 Louis (49, 89), Attendance: 177
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Jack Morrell, Joshua Spencer, Tommie Fagg, Lewis Chambers (Yellow card), Izzy Adebayo (Johan Caney-Bryan, 77 min), Khalil McFarlane (Liam Middleton, 59 min), Roman Campbell, Henry Woods, Timmie Babbington. Subs not used: Rob Lofting, Abdel Ndew, Dylan Riches.
Haywards Heath: Joshua Heyburn, Sean Roddy (Yellow card), Byron Napper (Omar Folkes, 90 min), Karl Akehurst (Red card), Nathan Cooper (Yellow card), Joshua Spinks, Callum Saunders, Kane Louis (Yellow card), Melford Simpson, Andrew Dalhouse (Luke Robinson, 56 min), Alex Laing (Alusine Bangura, 90 min). Subs not used: Tyrese Gray-Branford.
Referee: Isaac Searle. Assistants: Simon Cutler, Joshua Smith.
Photos by Ken Medwyn
Of all the defeats in 13 out of the last 14 games, this one was about the hardest to take.
Robbed by injury of five of the team who would presumably have started, Sittingbourne were by far the better side in the first half and could have been about four-up with more clinical finishing.
Then in a more even second half they were up against 10 men for most of it, but gifted Haywards Heath an equaliser and watched in despair as what had somehow seemed the inevitable winning goal sailed past them in the final minute.
What a blow. Teams like Hastings, Cray, Ramsgate, they were all better than Sittingbourne and deserved to beat them in recent matches.
But Haywards Heath? This was the second time this season they’ve beaten Sittingbourne and to be brutally honest they weren’t that impressive either time.
In fact, even though this was a makeshift and youthful Sittingbourne team, with players out of position to cover those missing, they put in an excellent performance for much of the game and will surely get out of relegation trouble if they maintain the standard they set for most of it.
To crown a disappointing day, Sittingbourne were the only one of the bottom five sides to lose and they’re now stuck on the same number of points as Greenwich Borough at the very foot of the table.
They were missing the injured Lex Allan, Tom Loynes, Ben Fitchett, Billie Lewins and Gil Carvalho, and gave first starts to Joshua Spencer, Jack Morrell and Timmie Babbington, with Tommie Fagg switched from his normal midfield role to centre-back.
Despite all the enforced changes, Sittingbourne made a confident start and were soon taking the game to their visitors, who arrived with an exceptional record of just one defeat in 10 away league games this season.
Two early chances fell to Roman Campbell, after good work by Morrell and then Chambers, but the first was blocked and the second the keeper saved at full stretch. Then the keeper fumbled a shot from Babbington, Campbell had another shot blocked after a great Izzy Adebayo run, and Khalil McFarlane didn’t realise he had an empty goal to aim at when the ball came to him 30 yards out with the keeper miles off his line.
Haywards Heath hardly got forward at all during the first half but it needed a great defensive header by Fagg, who was excellent and disciplined all game as an emergency defender, to keep them out after half-an-hour.
A minute later and Sittingbourne were ahead. A quick throw-in out on the right, good work by Adebayo and a shooting chance for Babbington ended with Lewis Chambers stealing in at the far post to blast the loose ball home.
Even at one-up Sittingbourne continued to carve out chances, and Henry Woods had a shot saved when he was very well-placed and the ever-threatening Campbell headed wide from Chris Webber’s cross.
It was quite a first half performance by Sittingbourne with Adebayo, Babbington, Chambers, Fagg and Webber all very impressive and Gillingham youngsters Campbell and Woods linking well up front.
But matches are 90 minutes and Haywards Heath came out for the second half clearly determined to make more of a fist of it.
They were lucky to soon be level, though, Morrell under-hitting a back-pass after 49 minutes so that Louis was able to nip in and cleverly lift the ball over the advancing Patrick Lee.
Chambers was all over the pitch and soon had the ball in the net only to be given offside, and seconds later he was in the middle of the field, flying into a tackle that cost him a booking. A Haywards Heath midfielder sought revenge by launching into a dangerous high tackle on McFarlane and was inevitably sent off.
Sittingbourne took advantage to press for the winner but Campbell shot over from a great Morrell pass and Babbington got round the keeper but couldn’t keep the ball in play. Then it looked as though he’d scored with a header from Campbell’s set-up but the keeper somehow kept it out.
Knowing how many crucial late goals Sittingbourne have conceded this season, it seemed odds-on to happen again, even though Haywards Heath had done less to deserve one than many who had came before.
Whatever, they got it anyway, an 89th minute corner headed clear to the edge of the area where the classy Louis caught it superbly on the volley to hit the winner low into the corner of the goal.
A tough blow for Sittingbourne – and for their fans, swelled in numbers and noise by many Danish fans on a weekend away to see their twinned club play.
So many decent performances, and all of them whole-hearted, that surely it must all turn around for Sittingbourne sooner rather than later.