Tony Rickson Reports
Saturday 23rd February 2016
Bostik League South East Division
VCD Athletic (0) 1 (Macdonald 87 (pen)) Sittingbourne (2) 2 (Barnard 6, 38), Att 121
VCD Athletic: Jordan Beeney, Bradley Simms, Jake McIntyre (Yellow card), Junior Baker, Joe Denny (Jack Steventon, 45 min), Dominic Odusanya, Alex Gaggin (Usman Adeniji, 45 min), Alastair Gordon (Yellow and Red card), Ali Fuesini, Charlie McDonald, Aymun El-Moyhalbel. Subs not used:
Ricardo Joseph, Tyrone Guthrie, Malachi Hudson.
Sittingbourne: Patrick Lee, Chris Webber, Jack Morrell, Joshua Spencer (Kwasi Amoah, 3 min), Ben Fitchett (Yellow card), Lewis Chambers, Izzy Adebayo (Khalil McFarlane, 68 min), Chris Barnard, Roman Campbell, Billy Lewins (Yellow card), Timmie Babbington (Henry Woods, 59 min). Subs not used: Liam Middleton, Johan Caney-Bryan.
Referee: Elliott Kaye. Assistants: Tolga Inanc, Abdul Olol.
Photographs from the game by Ken Medwyn
Three wins out of four for rejuvenated Sittingbourne, but this was by far the best of them.
A brilliant first half performance, with two outstanding goals by recent signing Chris Barnard, set up the victory, followed by a dogged, brave and committed second half to see it out.
Opponents VCD are a top eight side who only last month won at Sittingbourne, so this was the biggest scalp since the opening day of the season when the Brickies won at Horsham.
Sittingbourne are by no means out of the wood yet in the fight against relegation, but maintaining anything like this sort of form should see them well in the clear soon.
On a lovely sunny afternoon, and just down the road from where the revival began with a 4-3 win over Phoenix, Sittingbourne made two changes from the team that started in last Saturday’s victory against East Grinstead.
With top scorer Tom Loynes out injured, Izzy Adebayo was the obvious replacement in the starting line-up following his outstanding solo winner in the East Grinstead game, while Roman Campbell replaced Johan Caney-Bryan upfront.
But the plans were disrupted after just three minutes when Josh Spencer suffered a recurrence of a knee injury, and Kwasi Amoah came on for his debut, Jack Morrell switching seamlessly into central defence. Just like he did in the Phoenix game.
Sittingbourne set their stall out straightaway with a hugely positive start, winning tackles and chasing all over the pitch to completely hassle VCD out of the game.
In this Lewis Chambers was outstanding in the heart of the midfield battle, winning everything and all of it fairly, but every Sittingbourne player was willing to run themselves to a standstill and prevent the home side playing.
The reward wasn’t long in coming. After just five minutes, goalkeeper Patrick Lee hit a long free-kick forward and Campbell contested it with ex-Sittingbourne defender Joe Denny in an aerial challenge. They both reached it at once and the ball squirted sideways. Racing up from midfield, Barnard judged it perfectly, as he hit the dropping ball on the volley from the edge of the area to send it screaming into the net.
When VCD got forward, Ben Fitchett picked up a booking for a rash tackle, but mainly Lee in goal was untroubled and Sittingbourne continued to dominate completely with some excellent play.
After a few shots had failed to test home keeper Jordan Beeney – who as a nipper was a regular at Sittingbourne matches when his dad Mark was manager – Sittingbourne went two-up seven minutes before half-time.
Again it was Barnard, who showed great skill to get the space to feed Timmy Babbington down the left. When Babbington cut in to try to beat his full-back, the ball rolled ahead of him and Barnard again saw his opportunity, crashing it first time inside the near post, again from the edge of the area.
Two splendid strikes from a midfielder joining the attack at just the right time, and Sittingbourne were gloriously running the show.
They could easily have got a third before half-time. Morrell lashed the ball forward from halfway and Beeney only just doubled back to tip it over his own bar, Barnard went for his hat-trick and forced a full-length save from the keeper, and then Billy Lewins’ header was cleared off the line.
The second half was a different story, as it was always going to be.
VCD got some momentum going, Sittingbourne didn’t hassle them so much, but defended stoutly and mainly set up two hard-to-break-down lines to keep out home attacks.
Of course, there were the odd chances, but Lee did well, corners were well dealt with and generally Sittingbourne looked like holding on resolutely to the lead.
They had the odd chance, too, relying on Campbell to plough a lone furrow up front, but he thumped one shot just wide and had another piledriver blocked after Chris Webber had played him in to a good position.
Just when it looked as if Sittingbourne were going to get a long overdue first clean sheet of the season in the league, VCD finally got the experienced Macdonald into space and into the penalty area.
Lee came out rapidly, down went Macdonald – he’s played too many games not to waste an opportunity like that – and then got up to score the penalty.
With just three minutes and any injury time to hold out for, Sittingbourne sensibly managed it, though for the first time in what had been a clean game it all got a bit fractious.
Fitchett got involved in a bit of a shoving match and probably only narrowly avoided his second yellow card of the game, while the home side’s Gordon collected a yellow for his part in that melee and then another one straightaway for a dreadful tackle on Lewins.
Well done, Sittingbourne, for a performance full of heart and desire.
Manager Chris Lynch had said during the week he would always opt for attitude over ability, but his players managed to dish up plenty of both on this occasion.