This was a reassuring performance by Sittingbourne as they battled and scrapped for a point that was the very least they deserved.
Reassuring because they were missing key players, but but also because they were away to a team who have a very strong home record, and in addition they haven’t had very good results lately.
Another defeat and they would have been slipping further down the table after starting the season so brightly.
But a makeshift team dug deep and proved there’s plenty of optimism for the season still to come, especially if they play as well and as determinedly as this.
Sittingbourne were without their two main stalwarts who hadn’t previously missed a game this season. Captain and key defender Jono Richardson was unavailable through work commitments, and top scorer Miles Cornwell has gone up a division to Folkestone – and he scored for them on his debut! Also missing was strong midfielder Jack Steventon, suspended for getting sent off the previous Saturday in the FA Trophy.
Back came Dan Tanner and fit-again Steven Ita, with Tom Brunt – the stand-in captain – switched to midfield to allow Sam Welch to return at right-back.
Sittingbourne started well in the Surrey sunshine and both central defenders, Danny Rumbol and Tanner, headed wide from early chances.
They thought they’d taken the lead through Hicham Akhazzan after 11 minutes but he was flagged offside – even though fans who were nearer the decision than I was reckoned that was the wrong call.
With Sittingbourne pressing forward, Molesey caught them on the break on 18 minutes and a good build-up down the left ended with Samuels shooting home from the edge of the area.
Sittingbourne fought back well with Ita looking something like back to his exciting best of last season, Stefan Wright bursting forward from midfield, and Tom Carlse and Conrad Lee combining well to attack down the left.
Jordan Gallacher shot over after being forced wide and then brought out a brilliant save from the keeper as he latched on to Ita’s pass.
At the other end Molesey put together a move that was a carbon copy of their goal but Simon Overland saved well.
A decent enough first half was followed by an exciting, sometimes dramatic and often controversial second half, with Sittingbourne mainly on top and driving forward but Molesey dangerous in counter-attacks.
The Brickies equalised 12 minutes into the half when Carlse drove the ball in from the left, Akhazzan snatched at his shot and the ball was blocked to Gallacher who smashed it gleefully home from close range.
Molesey protested long and hard for offside, but a good moan wasn’t entirely out of character for them all afternoon.
At one end Welch made a brilliant saving tackle when a Molesey forward raced clear but mainly it was Sittingbourne pushing on.
They were mysteriously refused a penalty when sub Ricky Gundry was blatantly pushed over from behind, and as temperatures rose they were drawn into a couple of minor scuffles with the referee struggling to maintain his control.
Lee was just inches away from clinching a glorious winner, racing from his own area all the way down the pitch only to take a slightly too heavy touch as he closed in on goal.
In the final few minutes it was exhilaratingly all Sittingbourne, with Gundry and Carlse having fierce shots blocked by a packed defence, and then sub Josh Wisson timing his header beautifully from 10 yards only to see the home keeper make an excellent tip-over in response.
Honours even and for Sittingbourne a well-earned point after defeats in their last couple of away league games. They’re back on the road again on Tuesday night to a Three Bridges team who were meanwhile losing 4-1 on their own pitch to Hythe Town.
Ken Medwyn's pics are here CLICK HERE
Charlie Samuels 18 Mins
Jordan Gallacher 57 mins
Referee: Mr David Simpson.
Assistants: Mr Keith Kennett, Mr Joseph Casey.
Hicham Akhazzan (Ricky Gundry 66 mins)
Steven Ita (Josh Wisson 77 mins)
Subs not used: Craig Wikins, Nick Davis
Conor Russell (Ashby Charles, 66 min) Ryan David
Sam Charles (Yellow card)
Joe Nwoko (Kieran Ogunkoya, 75 min)
Dre Grobler (Junior Fatai-Somuyiwa, 78 min)
Subs not used: Will Marlowe, Joseph Grant.
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