The big disappointment of what’s otherwise been a fantastic start to the season for Sittingbourne was getting knocked out of the FA Cup in the preliminary round.
When they lost to Sussex side Pagham in August, they not only missed out on the glory and excitement of making progress in the historic old competition, but also on some vital pay-days for the club.
Herne Bay, beaten for the second time this week by Sittingbourne in the league, have made £9,000 in prize money alone from the FA Cup this season, and that’s good money for any club at this level.
The FA Trophy doesn’t have quite the prestige but there’s still handsome money to be won – the winners of every preliminary round tie on Saturday will each get £3,000.
So it’s a vital match for Sittingbourne when they travel to Bostik South League rivals Ashford United on Saturday afternoon.
Sittingbourne make the short journey there in a rich vein of form, having won their last four league games – two home, two away – while keeping a clean sheet in their last three games.
The midweek win at Herne Bay, 1-0 thanks to Miles Cornwell’s early strike, took them top of the table for the first time in 20 years at this level.
The fun didn’t last long, as Lewes overtook them the following evening by winning at struggling Guernsey, but 24 hours at the top is better than none.
Sittingbourne’s noisy fans started celebrating ‘We are top of the league’ early in the second half on Tuesday as nothing Bay could do got anywhere near breaching Bourne’s defence to force an equaliser.
While Sittingbourne were relishing that win, Saturday’s opponents Ashford were finding it much harder as they crashed 4-0 at home to South Park.
Mind you, Ashford had been beaten by five goals in the previous game before they last played Sittingbourne, but that match, on August Bank Holiday, ended goalless.
That’s the only away point Ashford have picked up this season, and they’ve only got two wins out of 10 games so far on their return this season to this level of football.
They showed plenty of determination and commitment in that 0-0 draw at Sittingbourne, with the home side rueing some poor finishing for failing to pick up all three points.
Sittingbourne last visited Ashford in the 2009-10 season, with Ashford United formed in 2011 but playing on the old Homelands ground, where a 3G pitch has now been installed.
The winners of Saturday’s tie will be at home to Merstham in the next round.
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