Dramatic late goals have been a feature of this season, but none have been more dramatic than Tom Carlse’s injury time winner.
It gave Sittingbourne a fourth successive win and lifted them to seventh in the Ryman South table – just a point off a play-off place.
To be honest, it was a bit of a ‘get out of jail’ job as East Grinstead deserved something from the game, but credit to the Sittingbourne players for working so hard throughout and creating the exciting climax.
The winner came from a throw-in out on the left which Carlse was preparing to take. But Sittingbourne went for it and Sam Welch, who has the longest throw at the club since Jack Steventon left, was summoned up from right-back. He pitched it into the six-yard box and it bounced – ‘never let it bounce when you’re defending’ I was always taught – over the covering defenders. And there was Carlse, showing great anticipation, racing in to jump high and head into the gaping goal. And how he loved it, his fifth goal of a productive season, and this one to sink his former club.
Not that Carlse would have recognised many of the East Grinstead team as they were much changed even from last month when they beat Sittingbourne 2-0 at home.
Only five of the team who played that day survived what has obviously been a concerted effort to improve the squad and pull away from the relegation-threatened zone.
For Sittingbourne there were two changes from the team that won 2-1 at Ramsgate in midweek, with captain Jono Richardson unavailable and Steven Ita injured.
Back came Stefan Wright and Dan Tanner, and Tanner slotted in seamlessly beside the excellent young Danny Rumbol in central defence.
Outside them, full-backs Welch and Carlse were again superb and committed, while Conrad Lee battled tremendously in central midfield and Jordan Gallagher was a constant threat with his pace down the left though, once again, the three points were very much a team effort.
After an even first half-hour, when both sides showed how much they liked to play on the counter-attack, Sittingbourne had a great chance to take the lead. Carlse’s great cross from wide left took out the East Grinstead defence and goalkeeper and Joe Loft had an open goal in front of him. But he had to strain to meet it and headed wide, with Wright just behind him and far better balanced to score.
At the other end, reliable Simon Overland, who’d taken over the captain’s armband, made a brilliant save, diving to his left to keep out a close range header.
Into the second half and Lee had a shot tipped round, Wright used his pace to get clean through but couldn’t beat the keeper and the same thing happened when Anthony O’Connor had a one-on-one chance.
East Grinstead were impressive in the way they broke forward but their finishing didn’t match their approach work. They were a tough team to play, though, and gave Sittingbourne quite a game.
It looked like one of those goalless draws in which there’d been plenty of attacking enterprise but not really that many chances, until Carlse got up from left-back to head his 91st minute winner.
Even then there was another twist in the tail as impressive East Grinstead midfielder Harris was harshly sent off for his second yellow card.
That’s two games in a row where Sittingbourne have carved out a victory when at times they’ve been under the cosh. But at the end of the day it’s as important to get maximum points from games like this, as it is for a comparatively sumptuous win over Hythe.
Next up: Herne Bay on Tuesday night and another score that needs settling.
Ken Medwyn's photographs are here CLICK HERE
Tom Carlse 90 mins
Referee: Mr Zack Ellis
Assistants: Mr Micheal Begley
Mr Luke Donaldson
Simon Overland (C)
Tom Carlse (Yellow)
Joe Loft (Yellow)
Anthony O'Connor (Josh Wisson 76 mins)
Ricky Gundry (Yellow 35 mins) (Jake Embery 67 mins)
Jordan Gallacher (Tom Brunt 86 mins)
Subs not used: Connor Willkins, Nick Davis
Callum Emptage (C)
Charlie Harris (Red)
Travis Gregory (Micheal Aalako 37 - Jack Richards 78 mins)
Subs not used: Jake McIntyre, Will Thomas
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