Thursday 01st September 2005

Please credit this article to Stephen McCartney


Easter Saturday, 
26th March 2005
Southern League 
Division One East
Stephen McCartney reports from Bourne Park
Sittingbourne 1 Jamie Coyle 39
Chatham Town 1 Israel Amadi 67

Lovell lifts Sittingbourne

LIFTED - the song sung by The Lighthouse Family - blared out from the loudspeakers at Bourne Park during the half-time interval, and this was the case for Sittingbourne, once more under the reigns of Welshman Steve Lovell.

Sittingbourne were on course to end their miserable run of six games without a win - thanks to skipper Jamie Coyle scoring his second goal of the campaign.  It must have been the number seven shirt that he was wearing for the first time this season, with England beating Northern Ireland 4-0 at Old Trafford later in the day.

However, Chatham Town, chasing their highest ever finish in the Southern League, drew level with 23 minutes remaining when substitute Israel Amadi - only on the pitch for five minutes - rifled home the equaliser to net his ninth goal of the season for the Medway club.

Lovell received a warm welcome, on a sunny Easter Saturday, from the Brickies fans - the crowd of 306 was their highest turn out of the season - but all fans fell silent before kick off to pay tribute to a Kent football stalwart, Alan Lancaster, who died recently.

There were a number of players on view who have played for both sides, which always makes for an interesting encounter.  Interestingly Michael Smissen, playing his last game for Chatham in his loan spell from Ryman Premier League side Dover Athletic, lined up in the familiar position and former Erith & Belvedere striker Darren Adams was playing in a very deep role.

Sittingbourne were missing Clint Gooding, having limped out of training on Thursday night and is also likely to miss the Easter Monday trip to league leaders East Thurrock United.  Joe Dowley, staring suspension in the face, following two red cards in the last four games, started the match but only lasted 18 minutes before pulling up with a hamstring injury.

The first chance of the game fell to Chatham when former Tonbridge Angels striker Brendan Cass drove a 20-yard shot at goal, which was comfortably saved by Sittingbourne stopper Kevin Fewell.

At the other end, the home fans thought Coyle had given his side a lead, nodding home from close range, but the goal was ruled out for a marginal offside decision.

Sittingbourne came close again after nine minutes when Kieran Marsh's header was heading for the top left hand corner.  Chatham goalkeeper Louis Green dived to his right to try and keep the ball out, which was hooked clear, but from the rebound Jon Neal sliced the chance wide.

Green, however, managed to save James Campbell's header following a 21st minute corner.

Just before the half-hour mark, came Chatham's first chance of the game.  Fewell made a comfortable save as he watched Danny Larkin's 27-yard free kick roll safely into his hands.

Sittingbourne ended the first half in control and created a couple of chances before they took a deserved lead on 39 minutes.

Firstly Marsh, on the edge of the box, blazed over instead of scoring his seventh goal of the season, following a good move down the right hand side including Bradley Spice and Jon Neal, after Coyle played the ball behind Chatham defender Danny Larkin. 

Following a corner, Dean Hill, headed onto Neal at the far post but he headed over when he should have scored his 15th goal of the season.

However, the goal finally came with six minutes to go before the break.  Damien Hodge's floated a free kick into the penalty area to Hill lurking inside the Chatham penalty area.  He passed to the unmarked Coyle who swept the shot past Green and into the net.

Chatham twice came close on the stroke of half time.  Frannie Collin's  cross from the left channel found Cass, with his back to goal, and in an instant he managed to fire a shot on goal, but Fewell did well to tip the effort over the bar.  The goalkeeper then made a comfortable save as Smissen tried his luck from a 30-yard drive.

Chatham had a good spell early in the second half.  Adams played the ball out on the left for Collin, and the 17-year-old crashed a shot just the wrong side of the near post from 35-yards.  Andy Larkin and Adams then shot wide for the visitors.

Marsh then dragged a 16-yard shot wide of the Chatham goal for the home side after 51 minutes.

Not much more happened until the 67th minute.  Amadi, who had replaced Mark Brookes five minutes earlier, earned the Medway side a point.

Former Tonbridge midfielder Steve Searle played in Collin down the right hand side and his cross found Amadi at the far post and the former Dover Athletic striker rifled home.

Chatham goalkeeper Green almost suffered an embarrassing moment in the 73rd minute when he dived to his left to save Adam Douglas' 30-yard drive.  It appeared for a slight moment that the ball was going to squirm underneath his body but full credit to him for getting everything behind the shot - just - which was heading towards the bottom far corner.

Sadly, with a point in the bag for both Kent sides, the game petered out into a drab last fifteen minutes but Chatham boss Steve Binks was happy collecting a point at Bourne Park.

"Having gone 1-0 down, yes, I am satisfied with the point," he said, after he walked off the pitch after both sides had warmed down in the middle of the pitch after the game.

"Better to come away with a draw than get defeated.  Local derbies are always pretty tough against Sittingbourne." he added.

The Rainham based manager, with 10-year's service to the club, praised goalscorer Amadi.  "He's got some great pace." he said.  "He got in well on the far stick to stick it away."

Chatham entertain Aveley at Maidstone Road on Easter Monday and Binks added: "It wasn't the best game you've ever seen today.  It's really hard to play football on this kind of pitch.  It's bone hard, the ball's up in the air.  It's hard to get it down and play football.  However, during the second half we kept it to feet better than we did in the first half, when it was too much in the air.

"Aveley are a big side, they got a good point on Friday against East Thurrock United.  But we've got two or three players with groin injuries at the moment so hopefully they will be fully fit for Monday."

Lovell, who also lives in Rainham, felt his side did enough to secure all three points.  Sittingbourne have now only won three league games from their last 19 outings, but Lovell is using the remainder of this season - with their Southern League status more or less intact - as a pre-season period looking at his current squad.

"From our point of view, its the start of pre-season," the Welshman revealed.

"I just wanted to instill a bit of confidence and a pattern of play, which I think we showed for most of the game.

"I thought we were very unlucky not to get the winner.  We created a lot of chances and thought we deserved to get the three points."

Sittingbourne: Kevin Fewell, Dean Hill, Joe Dowley (Toby Ashmore 17, David Cory  58), Paul Ainsworth, James Campbell, Damien Hodge (Adam Douglass 58), Jamie Coyle (Capt), Kieran Marsh, Jon Neal, Bradley Spice, Lee Browning.  Subs: Jack Tanner

Chatham Town: Louis Green, Michael Smissen (Tom Binks 77), Matt Bourne, Andy Larkin, Danny Larkin, Steve Best (Capt), Mark Brookes (Israel Amadi 62), Steve Searle, Brendan Cass, Darren Adams (Glen Billeness 87), Frannie Collin.  Sub: Clark Hunt (GK)

Attendance: 306
Referee: Ian Gosling (Ashford)
Assistants: P Harris & S Butler (both Maidstone)