Tony Rickson previews Sittingbourne v Phoenix Sports

Written by Tony Rickson on 02nd November 2017

Sittingbourne play the first of two home Kent derbies on Saturday when Phoenix are the visitors to Woodstock.

They go into the match on the back of a phenomenal run of 11 unbeaten games in which they’ve conceded only three goals.

That’s taken them up to second in Bostik League South, an incredible improvement on last season’s mid-table finish, particularly as it’s virtually a whole new team this season.

The excellent form in the league has been matched by success in cup competitions, with progress in both the League Cup and the FA Trophy.

They’ve won through two rounds already in the Trophy, both with away wins, and their reward is a home tie on Saturday week against Haringey Borough.

The second of those Trophy wins came on Tuesday night when goals by Ben Gorham and Kane Phillip gave Sittingbourne a first qualifying round replay victory away to Merstham.

Even though Merstham play in the league above, they were outplayed by a Sittingbourne side who proved sharper, smarter, fitter even, and more determined.

This was no backs-to-the-wall parking-the-bus desperate defensive performance, Sittingbourne simply worked hard to stop Merstham playing their normal game, and then took control of the match.

As a result goalkeeper Harry Brooks didn’t have a serious shot to save, and Sittingbourne thoroughly deserved their win.

The trick for manager Nick Davis will be to get feet firmly back on the ground in time for the Phoenix match, as a promotion challenge is a much more realistic ambition than reaching the FA Trophy final at Wembley.

Phoenix, whose squad contains former Sittingbourne favourites Conrad Lee and Stefan Wright, are mid-table in the league, eight points behind Sittingbourne.

The Barnehurst-placed club only got up to Isthmian League level of football a couple of years ago, and this is their first season in the South Division after being switched from the North in the summer.

Sittingbourne will be protecting an unbeaten record at home in league matches this season, though they’ve failed to win their last two games at Woodstock – drawing 1-1 with Chipstead and then 0-0 with Cray Wanderers.

The replay victory over Merstham, following a 1-1 home draw last Saturday, will have given Sittingbourne enormous confidence and self-belief, but the players will also know they start again from scratch when each new match kicks off.

The Phoenix game is followed on Tuesday night by a home match against local rivals Faversham Town, the only team who have beaten Sittingbourne in the league this season.

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