In more than 20 years of watching Sittingbourne, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a win quite like this.
Defiantly hanging on for a hard-earned point, they launched a long clearance forward well into the fifth and final minute of added time.
Steven Ita flicked it first time beyond the final defender and sub Jordan Wells ran in behind, shrugged off an attempted foul, and slid the ball into the net past the advancing keeper.
It was an astonishing win. Completely against the odds and totally unexpected. No wonder Sittingbourne’s players roared with delight and celebrated joyfully with Wells.
After all, they’d lost comprehensively 3-0 to Tooting on their own pitch last month, hadn’t scored against them the last four times they’d met, and hadn’t won on a Saturday afternoon this year.
On top of all that, they have a much anticipated League Cup semi-final just three days away, and they might have been expected to save themselves a little bit for that. Especially, as with a quarter of the season left, they’re not going to be promoted or relegated this season.
But Sittingbourne threw themselves into this game, working hard all over the pitch, defending excellently, and showing a lot of courage and determination.
Quite how there are 15 teams in the division better than these two sides still remains a mystery after this.
Manager Nick Davis made four changes from the team that lost disappointingly to Three Bridges last Saturday, with the rested Josh Wisson, full-backs Callum Naessens and Tom Carlse, and striker Wells missing out.
Back came Conrad Lee, a more than welcome return after a month out with a knee injury, skipper Tom Brunt, Dan Hughes, and Josh Algar getting a chance in midfield.
Both Brunt and Lee were terrific, showing how much they’d been missed, but all the defence were outstanding. George Crimmen was probably the best player on the field, no-nonsense Scott Whibley alongside him is proving an excellent signing, Jack Steventon did a manful job just in front of them and goalkeeper Adam Molloy was his normal brilliant self as the last line of defence.
On a chilly day in what’s surely the best stadium in this league, Sittingbourne soon discovered they’d have to work hard to stay in the game but went close to taking the lead when Hicham Akhazzan failed by inches to convert a Steventon throw-in from close in.
Tooting, who always play decent possession football, hit the bar in the 30th minute and territorially dominated much of the rest of the half only to find Molloy in outstanding form on a pitch where he collected a first half red card last season. To keep it goalless, he made three top saves, one to his left, one to his right and the other with his feet.
Sittingbourne started the second half promisingly, showing more attacking intent, and Miles Cornwell just failed to set up Dan Hughes after wriggling his way clear, and Steventon blasted another shot over the bar.
At the other end, Tooting had two efforts cleared off the line in succession, claiming unsuccessfully that one of them was actually in the goal, and had another shot that scraped the top of the bar.
They were trying to build up the momentum, and although Sittingbourne defended well it was nervy stuff at times, with Molloy getting hurt rescuing a situation after he’d failed to hold a shot, and Crimmen coolly relieving the pressure by heading over his own bar while his keeper was down.
Going into added time, it looked like job done by Sittingbourne, a valiant effort to return from South London with a hard-fought goalless draw.
And then they went gloriously and unexpectedly better, nicking the most surprise winner of the season as Wells struck with virtually the last kick of the game to give them an impressive seventh away win of the season.
TOOTING & MITCHAM UTD 0 (0)
SITTINGBOURNE 1 (0)
Wells 90 mins
Mr Paul Forrester
Mr Neo Neophytou
Mr Stu Kyle
Team info to follow soon
Team info to follow soon
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