It was the late, late show for Sittingbourne for a second successive week with a substitute striker popping up to score the winning goal with time fast running out.
This time it was promising debut-maker Michael Hurcomb nudging the ball over the line with 89 minutes played to give Sittingbourne a hard-earned but deserved three points.
That followed Jordan Wells’ dramatic winner at Tooting & Mitcham last week, though in between that game and this one Sittingbourne had lost at Faversham in the semi-final of the League Cup, so they did well to bounce back from the disappointment of that one.
On a chilly day on a sticky pitch, Sittingbourne made three changes from the team that won at Tooting. Wells, not surprisingly, got a starting place after his late winner while Jono Richardson was back after being on a course for work and Tom Carlse returned from injury.
Hicham Akhazzan, Dan Hughes and Josh Algar dropped down to substitute.
Fitting those 11 in gave manager Nick Davis quite a challenge, but he went with two left-backs – Carlse and Conrad Lee – as his wide midfielders with Steven Ita moving inside to play just behind the strikers.
East Grinstead, hovering just above the relegation zone, had obviously been doing a lot of work in the transfer market, as only four of the team who lost at home to Sittingbourne just over a fortnight ago had retained their places.
One of the new signings, ex-England under-19 international Moses Ashikodi, who once played for Watford in the Premier League, was making his debut and he took just five minutes to make an impact. Gregory used his pace to get behind the right side of the Sittingbourne defence before pulling it back for Ashikodi to do the rest.
Incredibly, East Grinstead hadn’t scored at all in their five previous matches and here they were one-up in five minutes. Thoughts of that horrible home defeat by Chipstead earlier in the season must have surfaced for many.
Sittingbourne hit back and the visiting keeper turned over a shot by Lee and saved at full length from Wells, though East Grinstead were still lively going forward and Adam Molloy had to tip over a fierce 25-yard shot from Emptage.
Sittingbourne equalised just after the half-hour when a long throw-in was cleared to Jack Steventon. He played it back in, both George Crimmen and Ita were involved in the move before Lee engineered a chance for himself by ghosting past a defender. His shot was saved but Carlse was lurking in the right place, taking one touch before hammering home a right-foot shot – that’s his less favoured foot – for his first Sittingbourne goal. It capped an excellent first half by Carlse against the club he left to join Sittingbourne.
If the first half was pretty even, the second half was dominated by Sittingbourne, but they probably over-played the chipped ball down the middle and over the defenders, and needed to get round the outside of the defence more.
East Grinstead had early chances with Molloy saving at close range and Lee hitting his own post with an interception of a cross.
But really the pressure was mounting at the other end, Steventon hitting the top of the bar with a header, Wells having a couple of efforts saved and the ever-dangerous Richardson just wide with a header from Ita’s cross.
Sittingbourne thought they’d won it when Wells squared it for newcomer Michael Hurcomb, just on as sub for his debut after signing from Whitstable, but he was marginally ruled offside after shooting confidently past the keeper.
East Grinstead might have thought they’d done enough for a point, but so did Tooting the previous week, only to be undone right at the end.
Again it was Richardson who won the key header in the opposition box and Hurcomb, who impressed in his brief time on the pitch, was in the right place in the ensuing scramble to stab the ball over the line for a 90th minute winner.
Both Sittingbourne goals followed pressure caused by Steventon’s long throws, but that’s by no means the only string to his bow, and I thought the teenager was outstanding in his hard-working midfield performance.
That’s Sittingbourne bouncing back with a win straight after a defeat for the fourth time in a row – it shows their character and determination but the trick now is not to pick up the defeats they then need to recover from.
SITTINGBOURNE 2 (1)
Carlse 33 mins, Hurcomb 90 mins
EAST GRINSTEAD TOWN 1 (1)
Ashikodi 5 mins
Mr Saliy Oleksandr
Mr Christopher Bodell
Mr Gordon Newton
Team info to follow soon
Team info to follow soon
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