Tony Rickson Previews Merstham v Sittingbourne

Written by Tony Rickson on 30th October 2017

For the third time in three weeks, Sittingbourne and Merstham meet on Tuesday evening – in a first qualifying round replay in the Buildbase FA Trophy.

Merstham, who play in a division higher, successfully took Sittingbourne back to their home ground for the re-match by drawing Saturday’s clash at Woodstock 1-1.

Sittingbourne, who’d previously beaten Merstham in the League Cup’s Velocity Trophy, were indebted to a late equaliser by supersub David Smith after a spirited second half comeback.

Smith’s a huge promising player who has already scored seven league and cup goals this season, five of them after coming on as a substitute.

When manager Nick Davis was replacing virtually his whole squad of players in the summer, he would have wanted solid dependable types like Ben Gorham, Chris Webber and Chris Elliott to play in defence, athletic and energetic individuals like Bola Dawodu to play in midfield, hard-working and goal-hungry players like Kane Rowland to go upfront.

And then there was Smith.

Still only a teenager, he’s an unpredictable talent who has been used so far mainly as an impact player but clearly has a big future in football.

He came on as sub in the first game of the season at Chipstead, and took control to score the winner with a stunning free-kick. The next game was at home to Herne Bay and again he was a goalscoring substitute.

He got a terrific late equaliser at Thamesmead – a very similar goal to the one on Saturday, curling a shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area, though from the opposite side.

One of his only two goals in a match he’s started was against Merstham in the Velocity Trophy tie three weeks back, a simple finish to win the match after Tom Loynes had done the hard work to set him up.

For Tuesday night’s match – which replaces Sittingbourne’s scheduled league game away to Molesey – Sittingbourne will have Gorham available again after missing Saturday with a one-match suspension.

Merstham took the lead in Saturday’s game with an end-to-end goal in the 15th minute, breaking from a quick throw-out by the goalkeeper to score up the other end about three touches later with Sittingbourne’s normally super-organised defence for once caught short of numbers.

It was an end-to-end game, but Sittingbourne undoubtedly dominated the second half and deserved a second bite of the cherry, courtesy of Smith’s goal from Gil Carvalho’s pass. He almost won it, too, with a terrific shot from 30 yards that beat the keeper but thundered back off the bar.

The draw, Sittignbourne’s third in eight days, took their unbeaten run to 10 matches, in which they’ve only conceded three goals.

Progress in one of two cup competitions they’re left in would be a huge bonus, but Sittingbourne will also relish getting stuck into their league programme again on Saturday, when they play the first of two successive home league games.

Tony Rickson

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