The odds were stacked against Sittingbourne from the start:
• All four central midfielders were out so two defenders had to do the job;
• They’d lost their last three home league games to teams below them in the league;
• Opponents Corinthian Casuals have had a great run lately and would go top if they won.
Yet in the end, a draw seemed a bit of a disappointment – this was a game they could, probably should, have won.
For all their form that had seen them soar to the top of the table with six league games in a row before a midweek shock home defeat to Phoenix, Casuals looked there to be beaten.
Sittingbourne were the better side in a first half they mainly dominated, and impressed throughout with their determination and commitment, despite the makeshift nature of their team.
Central midfield has been shared by four players this season but Ollie Brown and Jidi Okimeji were injured and Bola Dawodu and Tyrone Guthrie suspended for five bookings each. Right-back Chris Webber and centre-half John Coker, just back from injury, replaced them in those roles, while other changes saw Lex Allan welcomed back in defence after a good while out and Kane Phillip return on the wing, with new keeper Jordan Carey, signed from Cray, going straight in to the side as Daren Hawkes has left.
On a chilly, grey day, Sittingbourne made a positive start with Ben Gorham just wide from a corner, though Carey was soon impressing with a couple of smart saves to keep out Casuals.
For a match between two sides looking to challenge for promotion at the end of the season, there were too many misplaced passes in the first half, and Casuals didn’t seem as good as, for instance, South Park, a mid-table side who decisively beat Sittingbourne on this pitch a week previously.
A good player can play anywhere, and Coker proved the point until he ran out of steam towards the end. He was responsible for the opening goal on
40 minutes, playing a one-two with Miles Cornwell, before being tripped as he tricked his way into the penalty area. He took the spot-kick himself and confidently blasted it home with the keeper going the wrong way.
Casuals equalised five minutes later and it came out of the blue, really. A great individual goal, though, with Dillon cutting in from the right, shaking off challenges, and shooting past the advancing Carey into the far corner.
The visitors were much more up for it in the second half and had more possession without causing much damage, despite a succession of dangerously swung-in corners.
And it was Sittingbourne who broke the deadlock midway through the half.
Sal Kisitu had his wits about him to take a quick throw-in, Phillip got into the six-yard box and managed to squeeze the ball in for top scorer Kane Rowland to confidently score from close in. A good follow-up to his two goals to win the game in midweek at Molesey.
Carey made a good save in the 83rd minute to preserve the lead, turning the ball behind, but when the corner came in, Odunaike was quickest to the second ball and slammed it into the corner.
This draw means Sittingbourne have still not lost to any of the teams above them in the league. Considering the disruptions caused by injuries and suspensions, this was an excellent effort which should go some way to restoring confidence after their recent trials and tribulations in home matches.
Ken Medwyn's Photographs follow:
40 mins, Sittingbourne, John Coker (pen)
45 mins, Corinthian-Casuals, Ben Cheklit
69 mins, Sittingbourne, Kane Rowland
83 mins, Corinthian-Casuals 83 mins
Referee: Matthew Goldsmith
Assistants: Zoltan Konkoly
Salvyn Kisitu (Yellow)
John Coker (David Smith 78 mins)
Ben Gorham (C)
Kane Philip (Abdul Malik Usman 75 mins)
Substitutes not used: Harry Brooks,
Charlie Allen, Laurence Ball
Danny Bracken (C)
Malachi Robinson (Yellow)
Kevant Serbony (Yellow) (Omari Delgado-Hibbert 78 mins)
Coskun Ekim (Antonio Hamilton 46 mins)
Ben Cheklit Yellow)
Substitutes not used Josh Ozun, Max Oldham, Jon Williams
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