Sittingbourne paid a heavy price for individual errors as they lost their opening game of the season in warm seaside sunshine.
In my opinion, Sittingbourne were the better side for most of the game, and even Herne Bay’s most ardent supporters must have agreed that a 3-1 win flattered them.
But they polished off their chances well, though their third goal only came right at the end when Sittingbourne were throwing everything into pressing for an equaliser.
With senior players George Crimmen, Jono Richardson, Hicham Akhazzan and Steff Wright all missing, Sittingbourne knew full well this would be a tough start to the season.
Even so, nine of the starting XI were regulars for at least a good part of last season, with young defender Jack North and midfield dynamo Jack Beecroft the only two making their competitive debuts for the club.
Sittingbourne started well enough and Herne Bay hadn’t had a look-in when they unexpectedly grabbed a 14th minute lead. It came following a free-kick given against Miles Cornwell, a decision I thought was a shocker as the Sittingbourne player simply stood still while his opponent climbed all over him. The initial danger was cleared but the ever-dangerous Steven Ita fired a loose ball back across goal. Keeper Adam Molloy dived out to save but couldn’t hold the ball, or divert it to safety, and Bay’s Cutts reacted quickest to score from close range, with Molloy appealing in vain for offside.
Sittingbourne worked hard to get back in contention and Harry Smith raced clear on a Tom Brunt long pass over the top only for Bay keeper Delo to save well to his left.
Bay got a crucial second goal just before half-time, again without any pressure or putting together anything in the way of threatening moves.
Poor North, who up till then had appeared calm and composed on his debut, got caught in two minds while deciding whether to clear or pass back and was caught in possession by James Turner, who went on to shoot past Molloy.
Sittingbourne showed what neat footballing build-ups could do when they got back to 2-1 five minutes after half-time. Brunt combined well with Adam Williams to race into the penalty area, and pulled the ball back for Beecroft to sidefoot into the far corner. Manager Nick Davis has tipped Beecfoft to get 10-15 goals this season, so that’s one under his belt and reward for an industrious and intelligent performance.
Molloy made a good save to keep his team in it but it was predominantly one-way traffic up the slope towards the Bay goal.
Cornwell got the ball in the net but the referee had already blown for a foul, Beecroft clipped a free-kick over the bar, Oli Bankole and lively sub Fred Obasa both had efforts deflected wide, and Bay keeper Delo punched one of a number of corners back over his own bar.
It was all Sittingbourne and their domination looked like forcing them an equaliser right up until the 90th minute. It was then that Bay sub Phillip was brought down on the edge of the area by Billy French in a quick breakaway. Again the free-kick produced a scramble, again Molloy pulled off a good diving save, but again it was Cutts who got to the loose ball unopposed to round off the scoring from close range. With Molloy once more appealing unsuccessfully for offside!
So a losing start to the season but a decent performance by Sittingbourne, who showed good determination to battle back from two-down, and prove they’ve enough about them to win more than they lose in the weeks and months to come.
Next up is Sittingbourne’s first home game of the season, on Tuesday night. Opponents Hastings United kicked off with a 6-0 thumping of Chipstead, new signing Jack Harris hitting a hat-trick, and will prove tough opposition after regrouping following a tough struggle last season.
HERNE BAY 3 (1)
Cutts (14, 90 mins), Turner 43 mins
SITTINGBOURNE 1 (0)
Beecroft 50 mins
Mr Mr C Myatt
Mr R Albert
Mr P Greenfield
Tom Brunt (C)
Ollie Brown (Gonnella 82 mins)
Adam Williams (Obasa 63 mins)
Liam Quinn (C)
Danny Walder (Sanders 73 mins)
Mark Lovell (Williams 56 mins)
James Turner (Phillips 61 mins)
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