What a treat as Sittingbourne tricked higher division opponents into thinking they’d done the hard work by forcing an away draw in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday.
This was a Halloween Night to remember as Sittingbourne deservedly won through to a second qualifying round home tie with Haringey Borough a week on Saturday.
It was a special Sittingbourne performance, taking their unbeaten run to 11 matches – surely this is now proving to be the best Brickies team since the heady days of the 1990s.
Merstham, comfortably placed in mid-table in the Bostik Premier League, a division above, have now come unstuck three times in three weeks against Sittingbourne.
They lost to the Brickies in the League Cup, could only manage a draw in Saturday’s game at Woodstock despite leading nearly all the way, and then this, a 2-0 home defeat with Sittingbourne keeper Harry Brooks virtually having nothing to save all night.
Home fans muttered that their team never got going, but that was because Sittingbourne never let them.
The Sittingbourne boys in white away kit (that was a first, I’ve never seen that before) tackled ferociously but fairly – not a player was booked. They chased and they ran and they pressed and they once more left it to the second half to score their goals.
Sittingbourne made four changes from Saturday’s team. Chris Webber returned at right-back, Tyrone Guthrie replaced Ollie Brown in midfield, captain Ben Gorham returned from suspension with Laurence Ball switching to left-back in place of the suspended Chris Elliott, and David Smith replaced Miles Cornwell as a reward for his stunning equaliser as sub on Saturday.
Smith played upfront with Kane Rowland switching to the No 10 role, where he had a fantastic game. I also thought Guthrie had his best game in a Sittingbourne shirt and Gorham was a tower of strength at the back alongside the mighty John Coker, but really the whole team played well on an excellent night.
After Bola Dawodu put a good early chance wide, Merstham had a spell with lots of possession but energetic Sittingbourne contested every ball and never let them get into their stride.
And suddenly it was Sittingbourne who were creating the chances, three good ones in three first half minutes, but Tom Loynes shot into the side-netting, Smith headed wide, and when Loynes got clean through the keeper rushed out to save with his legs.
Into the second half and Sittingbourne took control of the game before taking the lead six minutes in. Loynes hit a corner to the far post and Gorham was unmarked to squeeze the ball in with the help of a desperate defender on the line.
Far from sitting back and trying to defend their lead, as Merstham did on Saturday, Sittingbourne went full throttle for a second goal and took the game away from the home side with their constant energy and determination.
And they got a second in the 84th minute, Cornwell got in behind the defence and Rowland helped his cross on for Kane Phillip to storm in and thunder his shot into the far corner.
Delighted players sang and danced in front of the fans afterwards, and who could say they hadn’t earned their celebration moment.
Well done, Sittingbourne, on a terrific win – next opponents Haringey haven’t lost a league game this season so the next round promises a battle royal between two in-form teams.
Foar Kentish Football's Stephen McCartney's take on the game CLICK HERE
51 mins. Sittingbourne Ben Gorham
84 mins. Sittingbourne Kane Phillip
Referee: Mr John Pike
Assistants: Mr Jack Oxenham, Mr Alex Taylor-Rose.
David Smith (Miles Cornwell, 70 min),
Tom Loynes (Gil Carvalho, 67 min).
Subs not used: Lex Allan, Ollie Brown, Salvyn Kisitu.
Jelan Jones (Alex Addai, 56 min),
Dan Bennett (Yellow card),
Sean Bonnett-Johnson (Kershany Samuels, 71 min),
Ryan Hall (Yellow card),
Reece Hall (Michael Abnett, 38 min).
Subs not used: Sonny Black, Adam Healy.
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