Brickies' impress in front of biggest crowd
Division One East
|Peter Pitts reports from Bourne Park
|The day's highest Southern League
Division One East gate (299) included special guests to Bourne Park in the
Mayor of Swale, Councillor Bryan Mulhern and the Mayor of Dartford
Councillor Ian Armitt, writes Peter Pitts.
The two distinguished gentlemen saw a game that was highly satisfactory - if you're a Sittingbourne fan.
However, the game, sensibly refereed by Mr Frank Meilack (Battle), never quite had the edge of some local derbies but was not short of final third action.
Sittingbourne started strongly, mainly due to the graft of Bradley Spice on the right side, who was giving the Dartford defence nightmares in these early stages.
Spice had two good efforts in two minutes, which Darts goalkeeper Kevin Hudson dealt with adequately and on 19 minutes Ricky Spiller found Spice with a throw and Spice turned and whipped in a powerful shot, which bounced off the far post.
The Brickies continued to press and James Campbell's header from Peter Taylor's corner went agonisingly wide.
Dartford had shown very little up to this point but on 28 minutes Eddie McClements raced away and with the referee playing an advantage when Dan Edwards tried to shake the former Gravesend & Northfleet striker off the ball, he managed to get in his shot, which hit the post.
Sittingbourne then took a grip on the game again and Taylor had a shot and then a header go narrowly wide.
They began the second half playing some good football but it was Dartford who threatened first in this half when, on 62 minutes, McClements found Ryan Hayes who fired across the Brickies area forcing keeper Steve Williams to flick the ball to safety.
This Dartford threat spurred on the Brickies and Mark Lovell had a snap shot fly over the bar.
But Sittingbourne finally took a deserved lead when on 67 minutes Spice found Spiller in a ruck of players but the former Dover Athletic man was able to get his shot on target and the ball ricochet through the legs of Anthony Henry and into the net.
The expected Dartford response didn't materialise and instead a minute later a great pass from Clint Gooding to Spice led to the Brickies marksman cutting round a defender but with the goal at his mercy fired into the side netting.
And with 16 minutes left, a quick Steve Hafner free kick lead to a shot, which although deflected, was well caught by Williams.
The home side then tightened up their defence and with Paul Ainsworth outstanding were comfortably holding off their visitors.
However, with six minutes left, McClements and Campbell went up for the ball and McClements' elbow caught the Brickies defender, which meant Campbell had to be substituted and ended up with six stitches in the side of his head.
The loss of Campbell led to a jittery last part of the game for the home side as they now had two of their starting back four off the field injured.
Referee Mr Meliack - who sent off six players during Cray Wanderers' FA Cup tie against Kingstonian two weeks ago - added on nine minutes of stoppage time and Dartford could have equalised late on when Hafner blasted over when well placed and then from a corner former Slade Green winger Dave Martin struck a post.
This win for Steve Lovell's side mean they leap frog over their Kent rivals in the league table and are just four points off top spot.
Sittingbourne: Williams, Tanner
(Edwards 11), Dowley, Ainsworth, Campbell (Davies 84), Marsh, Spiller,
Gooding, Lovell, Spice (Sherwood 78), Taylor. Subs: Styles, Friend
Dartford: Hudson, Osborne, McGowen (Martin 85), Henry, Avery, Spriggs (Pulman 72), Briggs, Hafner, Carter, McClements, Hayes. Subs: Maguire, Carter, Westerman