For a start I didn’t think this match should have been completed.
At times in the first half, the fog made it impossible to see the far side of the pitch and in my opinion the referee should have abandoned it and spectators who had paid good money to see a football match should have had the cash returned or given tickets to a re-match.
I don’t think this was the referee’s only mistake on a controversial afternoon’s action, though obviously it wasn’t his fault he and his assistants had been sent on a 170-mile round trip from Bedfordshire.
What’s that all about?
But when the mist had settled, we’re left with the fact Sittingbourne slipped to their first home defeat for months, failed to live up to the standards they’d been setting themselves, and got a huge dent in their normally excellent disciplinary record by having two players sent off.
There were two changes from the team that lost the previous weekend for only the second time in ten matches. Dan Tanner returned in central defence for the unavailable Jono Richardson and Hicham Akhazzan was back from his spell out on dual registration and replaced Stefan Wright.
Chipstead undoubtedly made the stronger start and took the lead when full-back O’Flaherty swerved a shot from a fair distance into the top far corner.
Sittingbourne just couldn’t get their attack flowing in response and created few chances, Tom Carlse going closest when he swept a loose ball just wide from 30 yards after the Chips keeper came racing out of his area.
Much of the action was shrouded in the afternoon fog though it was clear there was little love lost between the teams with plenty of attempted intimidation and over-reaction to challenges.
Sittingbourne won the Fair Play Award for this division at the end of last season and though they’re obviously not 11 Christmas angels usually they just get on with the game and stay away from all the silly stuff.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence that Sam Welch was right in front of the opposition dug-out when he went into a 57th minute tackle that provoked another big reaction.
Whatever, he was shown a straight red card and Sittingbourne’s task to pull the back the one-goal deficit suddenly got a lot harder.
They didn’t really force the visiting keeper to make a save with Akhazzan firing just over and Carlse hitting a good chance just wide.
And then came the next big incident.
Sub Stefan Wright seemed to be badly fouled out on the right in the 76th minute but kept going until he was brought down again on the edge of the area.
The fog had cleared a bit by then so it was easy to see Chipstead captain Graves trying to take the ball upfield only to be stopped by Jordan Gallacher. Graves reacted aggressively and other players weighed in to either exchange pushes or calm things down.
It was all very unseemly and it took the referee and his assistants seemingly an age to decide what to do. Eventually two Chipstead players were booked – one of them Graves, who’d already had a yellow and was sent off.
The same fate befell Sittingbourne youngster Danny Rumbol, who had been booked in the sixth minute for a foul and got a second yellow here, though I’m not sure what his offence was.
The whole disorder, what with subsequent substitutions, meant a six-minute hold-up and the match resumed with nine playing ten.
Sittingbourne kept pushing forward and so nearly equalised in added time when sub Josh Wisson exchanged a one-two with Steven Ita only to shoot agonisingly inches wide of the far post.
All the other stuff got in the way of a good performance by Chipstead, further proof that teams all the way down this division inevitably provide strong opposition.
But Sittingbourne will be disappointed at failing to impose themselves on the game in the way they’ve been doing for the last couple of months, and at failing to score for a second game in a row.
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Chipstead: Chris O'Flaherty 13 mins
Referee: Mr Alex Rayment (Dunstable)
Assistants: Mr Corey Snuggs (Luton)
Mr Tom Ratheram (Dunstable)
Simon Overland (C)
Sam Welch (Red Card)
Danny Rumbol (Red Card - for two yellows))
Dan Tanner (Yellow Card)
Joe Loft (Yellow Card)
Ricky Gundry (Josh Wisson 64 mins yellow)
Hicham Akhazzan (Stefan Wright 64 mins)
Jordan Gallacher (Steven Ita 83 mins)
Subs not used: Tom Brunt, Connor Wilkins
Chris O'Flaherty (C)
David Graves (C) (Red Card (for two yellows))
Rob Hastings (Dan Penfold 90+)
Raheem Stirling- Parker (Karl Parker 83 mins)
Scott Simpson (Yellow Card)
Subs Not used: Jason Henry, Scott Johnson
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