Photographs of the match by Ken Medwyn are here CLICK HERE
A first win of the season. A first clean sheet. The first time Sittingbourne have scored first this season. And the first time – probably ever – that a goalkeeper arrived for his debut three minutes after the match started.
But it was certainly a case of better late than never for Ben Bridle-Card, who sprang into action late in the game with three great saves to protect Sittingbourne’s 2-0 lead.
Of course it wasn’t the young keeper’s fault that he was late as he was caught up in the chaos caused by an accident on the M20, which also meant a couple of South Park players arriving just before a slightly-delayed kick-off.
It all meant Sittingbourne had to start the game with a young central defender, Danny Rumball, making his league debut – as a stand-in goalkeeper.
And excellently he did, too, making a good save with his knees as a South Park forward broke clear, and even coming out to punch away a corner.
But, unlucky for some, his moment in the sun ended on 13 minutes when he was substituted, Bridle-Card taking over after a quick change into gear and without the benefit of a warm-up.
Sittingbourne had made four changes to the side that crashed out of the FA Cup at Hythe on Tuesday night, Steven Ita, Josh Wisson, Conrad Lee and young keeper Adam Wallace all left out, with Jack Steventon and Hicham Akhazzan returning and Danny Leonard coming in for his debut.
South Park, still looking for their first points of the season, were probably quicker to settle down, but Sittingbourne gradually got into it and Akhazzan hit a scorching 16th minute volley narrowly over the bar.
Remell Davis, again working extremely hard upfront, got the ball in the net but was given offside, Leonard and Tom Carlse, advancing from full-back, went close and Miles Cornwell got through on a one-on-one but evergreen keeper Wastell saved well.
Sittingbourne’s defence, which has let in too many goals so far this season, looked nice and secure but they did allow a South Park player in for a great chance just before half-time which he headed wide.
Both teams had good opportunities at the start of the second half, South Park catching the Sittingbourne defence out after defending a corner – not the first time that’s happened this season – and Jono Richardson seeing his well-placed header from an Akhazzan corner brilliantly saved by the keeper.
Bridle-Card’s big first time clearance set up the opening goal on 62 minutes, top scorer Cornwell thrashing the ball into the far corner after his first attempt was blocked. South Park complained bitterly that Cornwell had handled but their schoolboy error was to stop playing and wait for a whistle which never came.
Sittingbourne stayed cool and made it 2-0 with 10 minutes of normal time left, captain Richardson back-heading Steventon’s mighty long throw into the far corner.
‘Two’s not enough’ commented one fan, remembering how two-goal leads had been lost in the dying minutes in both the opening league games.
And, for the first time, Sittingbourne were looking nervous on the back foot, but they survived South Park’s late rally thanks entirely to their on-loan keeper, Bridle-Card making three terrific saves in as many minutes to preserve the clean sheet and a more than welcome victory.
SITTINGBOURNE 2 (0)
Cornwell 62 mins, Richardson 81 mins
SOUTH PARK 0 (0)
REFEREE: Mr Daniel Bonneywell
ASSISTANTS: Mr Craig Burton, Mr Olly Fife
Danny Rumbol (Bridle-Card 14 mins)
Jono Richardson (C)
Danny Leonard (Ita 46 mins)
Hicham Akhazzan Lee 70 mins)
Jake Gill (Koutsavakis 80 mins )
Nathan Ayling (Ward 80 mins)
Ryan Smith (M Smith 49 mins)
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