South Park (0) 1 (Senior 60) Sittingbourne (1) 2 (Rowland 34, Chambers 56)
Report By Tony Rickson
So that’s what it feels like to win a match as Sittingbourne manager.
Aslan Odev had endured five defeats since taking over the hot seat until at least the end of the season, but his team thoroughly deserved to end that run.
Their victory was based on a lot of hard work and good organisation, and they had to battle for it, too – this may have been a mid-table match between teams who can’t go up and down but it was a fierce contest from beginning to end.
Once more, Sittingbourne rang the changes with two midfielders, Lewis Chambers and Jermaine Dua, making their debuts and some impressive talent coming off the bench later on.
The defence, though, was unchanged from the previous game, and Lex Allan imposed himself magnificently in what was surely his best performance since making such a big impact early in the season.
Sittingbourne hardly began like a team who’d lost seven games in a row and every player was clearly out to put a shift in. Good for Odev and his assistant Ian Varley for making sure that happened.
Tom Loynes and David Smith both went close early on and as Sittingbourne looked the far likelier side to score, Smith headed against the post from a narrow angle after Allan headed on Chambers’ powerful long throw.
The deadlock was broken on 34 minutes when Kane Rowland, who worked ferociously all game and was a constant threat to the South Park back line, wriggled clear and dummied the covering defender one way and the other before sliding the ball left-footed past the advancing keeper.
Sittingbourne can be at their most vulnerable after scoring and South Park had their only two real chances of the half in the closing minutes, but missed them both from close range.
The home side kept up the pressure after the interval, forcing a flurry of dangerous corners which were well defended, and keeper Harry Brooks athletically tipping over a free-kick aimed at the top corner.
Sittingbourne doubled their lead on the break in the 56th minute, Smith running half the length of the field after a one-two on halfway with Rowland, before threading in a dangerous cross. It was only half-cleared and Chambers capped a more than decent debut by driving a well-aimed low shot through a crowd of players, with Rowland claiming he got the final touch as it went in.
South Park’s reply was pretty swift, pulling a goal back just four minutes later when Senior pounced after the ball came back off the bar.
Sittingbourne introduced pacy sub Seyfettin Akdeniz, who had only just been given international clearance from Switzerland to play, and in an end-to-end final half-hour he provided a big threat to the South Park defence.
With Allan and captain Chris Webber providing a solid backbone to the defence, Sittingbourne held on to their lead in a real team effort.
South Park’s Mazzone went close to equalising late on with a shot from distance that scraped the top of the bar, but Sittingbourne held out for a deserved and long overdue victory.
No wonder the players cheered the final whistle, and good for them for making sure they all then slapped the hands of every fan who had made the trip to Surrey to cheer them on.
One win doesn’t mean it will be all plain sailing from now on, but it was definitely one to enjoy and a welcome confidence-booster for the rest of the season.
South Park: Callum Thomas, James McElligott, Daniel Stone, Luke Elliott, Dylan Merchant, Nathan Ayling (Charlie Rees, 82 min), Tom Windsor (Yellow card), Dan Moody, Jack Mazzone, Ben Senior, Izzy Adebayo (Sam Remfry, 78 min). Subs not used: Liam Steer, Henry Lester, Jordan Bird.
Sittingbourne: Harry Brooks, Josh Dorling, Fabrice Blewordah, Charlie Allen, Lex Allan, Chris Webber, Tom Loynes (Harrison Hatfull, 78 min), Lewis Chambers (Yellow card), Kane Rowland, Jermaine Dua (Seyfettin Akdeniz, 72 min), David Smith (Seb Rowland, 90 min). Subs not used:
William Holder, Max Farrelly.
Referee: Mr J Creswick, Assistants: Mr M Hayden, Mr A Webster.