If there’s been any sleepless nights in the Richardson household after the birth of baby James last week, it didn’t show.
Captain Jono was superb in a magnificent Sittingbourne rearguard action to preserve their team’s unbeaten league record and hold out against the challenge of a Hastings side who will surely finish in the top six this season.
Not only did Richardson shackle experienced danger-man Jay May, he cut out or blocked countless shots and crosses by being in the right place at the right time – shades of John Terry there – and then capped his performance with an incredible goalline save in the very last minute.
For once, agile on-loan keeper Ben Bridle-Card was beaten, but Richardson was in the right place on the line to head over his own bar a fierce goalbound shot.
“Lucky old Sittingbourne” said the man behind me, and I instinctively swivelled round to give him a dirty look, because it was pure skill, bravery and anticipation. Nothing to do with luck.
The whole team worked hard and deserved a point, apart from a shaky spell towards the end of the first half when they conceded possession too easily.
This Sittingbourne side has pace and determination, two strengths that will serve them well this season if they maintain the standard of this performance.
They made two changes from the team that won at Greenwich Borough eight days previously, Conrad Lee returning for Tom Carlse, and Connor Wilkins making his full debut in place of Josh Wisson – one youth team product for another.
And it was Wilkins who gave Sittingbourne an early lead after a bright start all over the pitch. A good goal it was, too, both clever and cool, as he intercepted a poor pass, raced forward and round the covering defender, and buried his shot in the corner as the keeper came out.
Sittingbourne continued to threaten with their speed going forward but gradually Hastings took control as too many clearances weren’t placed well enough and the ball came straight back at the visitors.
Dan Tanner made one saving tackle in his own penalty area with immaculate timing, and Bridle-Card made one decent save, before Hastings equalised on 38 minutes. A left-wing cross was pulled back low for Collin, and although his first shot was blocked by Lee, he made no mistake with his second.
Sittingbourne did much better in the second half, defending well and bravely, and looking dangerous every time they broke away, which was often.
Hastings had chances but Bridle-Card made a couple of top drawer saves and Richardson made that superb goalline save in injury time.
At the other end, perhaps the best chance would have fallen for Tanner when Richardson headed on Jack Steventon’s mighty long throw, but he seemed to be pulled back as he went for it, and the referee saw nothing.
Fair enough in that a win would have been a bit of a cheek, but a draw was a good result, and the first time at this admittedly early stage of the season that Hastings have dropped points at home.
Sittingbourne are on the road again on Saturday, on Whyteleafe’s artificial pitch, but they seem particularly well suited to away days at the moment and there’s no reason why they can’t be confident of repeating last season’s win there.
Report by Tony Rickson
CLICK HERE for Ken Medwyn's photographs
Hastings Utd 1 (Collins 39 mins)
Sittingbourne 1 (Wilkins 13 mins)
Referee: Steve Hughes
Assistants: Wayne Webb, David Ellis
Jack Steventon (Yellow Card)
Ola Rabiu (Yellow Card), (Carlse 56 mins)
Connor Wilkins (Chiverton 61 mins)
Hicham Akhazzan (Rumbol 71 mins)
Reece Butler (Black 89 mins)
Wayne Wilson (Stannard 71 mins)
Jay May (Yellow card)
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