Tony Rickson Reports:
Bostik League South East Division
Phoenix Sports (1) 3 ((Hopkins 40, Fagg (og) 49, Taiwo 68) Sittingbourne (3) 4 (Fagg 18, Campbell 34, 45+2, Caney-Bryan 76), Attendance: 124
Phoenix Sports: Steve Phillips, Ryan Andrews (Yellow card) (Solomon Taiwu, 50 min, Yellow card), Ashley Probets (George Whitelock, 84 min), Jack Hopkins, Lewis Clark, Jack Barry, Conrad Lee (Yellow card), Tony Robinson, Jeff Duah-Kessie, Alex Teniola, Kenny Aileru (Kweku Ansah, 68 min). Subs not used: Ryan Solan, Sam Fitzgerald.
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber (Yellow card), Rob Lofting, Tommie Fagg (Yellow card), Jack Morrell, Lewis Chambers, Izzy Adebayo (Liam Middleton, 63 min), Khalil McFarlane (Johan Caney-Bryan, 45 min), Roman Campbell, Henry Woods, Timmie Babbington (Abdel Mdaw, 90+3 min).
Referee: Craig Pullen. Assistants: Andrew Simmonds, Bill Stoneham.
Photographs by ken Medwyn
Oh what fun it is to see Sittingbourne win away. Even more so when it’s as dramatic and exciting as this.
Sittingbourne went 2-0 up, then it was 2-1, 3-1 at half-time, Phoenix fought back to 3-3, and then Sittingbourne clinched it 4-3 with a glorious winning goal.
Since they won at Guernsey back in September and drew at Ashford, Sittingbourne have lost their last seven away league games on the bounce.
No wonder this win was celebrated so jubilantly with fans who have followed – and unstintingly cheered them on all the way – throughout those journeys.
They were the only team in the lower half of Bostik South East League to win so victory also lifted them up from joint bottom of the table.
Praise for recently-appointed manager Chris Lynch for the way he has rebuilt this team so convincingly in such a comparatively short time, and praise for the Gillingham manager, ex-Brickies boss Steve Lovell, for lending out three of his excellent youngsters who were so important to this win.
And for once, Sittingbourne had a bit of luck on their side – when Phoenix had two defenders sent off in the last minute of their previous game and were suspended for this one. And when they were gifted the crucial opening goal by a goalkeeping error.
On a bitterly cold north Kent afternoon, with just a little bit of snow swept behind the touchlines, Sittingbourne planned to field the same team that was unlucky to lose to Haywards Heath the previous weekend.
That meant they were still without Tom Loynes, Lex Allan, Ben Fitchett and Billie Lewins, and even that plan was thwarted when Joshua Spencer pulled out during the pre-match warm-up. So Gills youngster Jack Morrell switched to a makeshift central defensive pairing with normal midfielder Tommie Fagg – and how well he did – while Rob Lofting came in at left-back.
Sittingbourne started positively, putting pressure on Phoenix’s presumably equally makeshift defence, and took the lead when the home keeper dropped Chris Webber’s free-kick and Fagg coolly slotted home the loose ball for his fourth goal of the season.
Hardly looking like a side who had lost seven games in a row, Sittingbourne continued to tear open the Phoenix defence, and after Morrell got the ball in only to be ruled offside, they went two-up on 34 minutes. Fagg hit an incredible diagonal long ball into space behind the home defenders, the keeper could only parry Timmie Babbington’s fierce shot, and the lively Roman Campbell was in the right place to tuck the rebound away.
Phoenix hadn’t showed much going forward but they pulled a goal back when Fagg made a great defensive block, only for Hopkins to pick it up and hit a low shot into the corner of the goal from just outside the area.
2-1 was hardly a fair reflection of Sittingbourne’s first half dominance but they got a crucial third in added time, Izzy Adebayo finding Campbell, who worked the ball onto his favoured left foot and from a narrow angle crashed a brilliant shot into the far corner.
Campbell was within inches of his hat-trick when he smashed the ball against a post at the start of the second half but two set pieces later and Phoenix were level and Sittingbourne were looking distinctly jittery for a bit.
The home side made it 3-2 when a low free-kick from their right created a scramble at the near post with the ball going in off Fagg, according to those behind the goal.
The equaliser was controversial as Webber was penalised for handball just outside his area, complaining bitterly that he’d shouldered the ball down and getting a rare booking for his dissent. Keeper Patrick Lee got his hands to Taiwu’s well-struck free-kick but couldn’t keep it out.
The momentum was with the home side now but this Sittingbourne team have plenty of spirit about them and always looked dangerous when they could get the ball forward.
The 76th minute winner was a thing of beauty. Babbington did really well down the right and found Henry Woods running into space on the overlap.
The Gills youngster showed great vision and skill to hit a beautiful early cross to perfectly pick out sub Johan Caney-Bryan who finished the move smartly.
So many late goals have taken points away from Sittingbourne this season and Phoenix looked for all the world as if they were going to get one in the last minute of normal time. But Lee made a super save, coming out quickly and tipping a fierce shot wide.
Every single Sittingbourne player contributed to an enjoyable, important and overdue win. It’s amazing what organisation, energy, commitment and a few judicious signings can do for a club.
Match Day Programme is HERE