Weather permitting, Aslan Odev will manage Sittingbourne for the first time this Saturday when promotion-chasing Walton Casuals are due to visit Woodstock.
It will be third time lucky as Odev has already seen two matches called off since he was appointed interim manager – at South Park last Saturday and home to Ramsgate on Tuesday evening.
He’s had to play a patient waiting game and it will be a tough way to kick off against in-form Casuals.
Since beating Sittingbourne 3-0 at home on a chilly December evening, Walton have gone on a fine run of results, losing just once in the 12 games since.
That’s included away draws against the Bostik League South’s top two teams, Lewes and Cray Wanderers, to establish their credentials as a team heading for the play-offs, if not automatic promotion.
Walton Casuals, who play in a brand new stadium with a state-of-the-art artificial pitch, have the best home record of all the teams in the league and that’s helped them up to fifth in the table.
The night they beat Sittingbourne there was little in it, two of Walton’s goals coming in the last 10 minutes to distort the scoreline.
Up till then, Sittingbourne looked well capable of equalising, Bola Dowadu going closest, and all through there was little to choose between two well-matched teams.
How the teams’ fortunes have changed since then, Walton going really well, and Sittingbourne’s own promotion ambition faltering badly as they’ve slipped down to 15th in the table.
In the change-over from Nick Davis as manager to promoted coach Odev, Sittingbourne have lost just a couple of players, Miles Cornwell (to Herne Bay) and Laurence Ball.
They’ve brought in two as well, goalkeeper Muhammed Otuyo, who was previously at Kingstonian, and a young left-sided defender in Fabrice Blewordah.
How the new manager sets up his team to take on a Walton Casuals side who like to play the ball around and keep it on the ground will be fascinating to watch.
There’s still a lot to play for this season, not least Odev proving that he’s good enough to take on the manager job without the word ‘interim’
in front of it.
Photographs by Ken Medwyn from last seasons away match.