One decision irrevocably changed this game, and to say it seemed harsh on Sittingbourne is a bit of an under-statement.
It came when young defender Callum Wraight, just 22 minutes into his debut after joining Sittingbourne from Hythe, blocked a fierce goalbound shot on the line.
He seemed to me to do it with his upper body, with his arms down by at his sides in what they call a natural position, but the referee – obviously a lot closer, and with better eyesight than me probably as well – instantly produced a red card and dismissed poor Wraight for handball.
It was harsh because not only did Sittingbourne concede a penalty but they’ve got the double blow of having to play more than an hour with 10 men against 11. The punishment hardly seems to fit the ‘crime.’
I hardly ever comment on opponents’ opinions on games but for Whyeleafe’s twitter feed to say they were ‘helped a little by a first half dismissal’ is not really the case.
They were helped enormously with Connor Lee having to play three-quarters of the match as an emergency central defender, leaving Sittingbourne an energetic player light in midfield.
Tough times for Sittingbourne as Lee had to do the same the previous week at Corinthian Casuals when captain Jono Richardson suffered a first half injury and had to go off.
Richardson was still out for this game, though he was back in training beforehand, and Wraight had been brought in as his replacement. Joe Loft returned from suspension and Connor Wilkins started in midfield, with Chris Regis and Josh Wisson stepping down.
The game started evenly in lovely spring sunshine with Sittingbourne creating the best early chance. But Ben Bridle-Card, who played for the Brickies early in the season when Simon Overland was injured, saved Keanu Williams’ shot at the expense of a corner.
Then came the controversy, with Overland – captain in place of Richardson – keeping out a Whyteleafe shot with a tremendous save. But when the ball was fired back in, Wraight saved on the line with his arm, according to the referee.
Overland saved a penalty in the first half of the last home league game and did it again – full-length to his race to pull off a brilliant tip-away from Clayton’s penalty. What a star.
Sittingbourne worked hard to stay in the game and in what continued to be an even first half there were few chances at either end.
Whyteleafe began to make the numbers pay after half-time and Overland, on top of his game, twice made saves to keep Sittingbourne in the game.
But Whyteleafe twice won the ball in midfield within five minutes to create one-on-one chances through the centre and Ajakaiye and Clayton comfortably took the opportunities so by 64 minutes they were two-up.
In between the goals Sittingbourne thought they had equalised but the referee ruled that Bridle-Card had been fouled as he lost possession of a high ball.
Sittingbourne showed lots of energy and refused to give up on the game but when young sub Jake Embery, making a welcome return from injury, set up Gil Carvalho he hit his shot too high.
Williams and Wilkins both had shots saved but Whyteleafe completed a double for the season in added time when Brown scored following a corner to give them a flattering 3-0 scoreline.
A disappointing and frustrating afternoon all round for Sittingbourne as they went down to a third successive defeat and have now conceded 10 goals since they last scored themselves.
But matches will often be decided by one single moment and this was just one of those.
Photographs by Ken Medwyn
Match Day programme, Best viewed in Google Chrome
Ajakaiye 59, Clayton 64, Brown 90+2
Referee: Mr Michel Marsh;
Assistants: Mr Marcin Indyk, Mr Simon Cutler.
Sam Welch (Yellow card) (Josh Wisson, 84 min),
Callum Wraight (Red card),
Kane Phillip (Bradley Schafer, 66 min), Conrad Lee,
Keanu Williams (Jake Embery, 66 min), Connor Wilkins,
Subs not used: Tom Brunt, Nick Davis.
Lanree Azeez (Stephen Hodge, 74 min),
Bentley Graham (Jeffrey Gyamfi, 81 min),
Sam Clayton (Andrew Musungu, 66 min).
Subs not used: Terrell Forbes, Kelvin Ogboe.
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