Division One East
|by Peter Pitts|
|Maldon Town||2||Parker 10, Parratt 80|
|Sittingbourne||3||Neal 18,32 Manning 24 (pen)|
Beeney pleased as side move away from relegation zone
This game wasn't only notable for the Brickies third win in a row but also because Maldon Goalkeeper Paul Catley was allowed to stay on the field despite the fact that he was the last man when he hacked Jon Neal down in the penalty area.
The referee also seemed to have put his watch back a few hours too early as he played an inordinate amount of injury time at the end of the match.
However, all's well that ends well and the Brickies produced probably their best first half of the season to claim the win in front of the biggest Division One East crowd of the day, the majority of whom came from Sittingbourne.
The Brickies though got off to a dreadful start when on 10 minutes Kevin Fewell came out of his area to challenge for the ball on the by-line but he seemed to think that the ball had gone over the line but it hadn't and Dean Parratt's cross found Simon Parker who fired into the empty net.
Eight minutes later Sittingbourne hit back when David Cory found Dean Hill who passed to Jon Neal poaching in the area and Neal fired in a great angled shot that although keeper Catley got a hand too still nestled in the inside of the net.
Six minutes later Jon Neal raced into the area and in trying to round Catley was brought down by him. The referee immediately awarded a penalty but inexplicably failed to see that Catley was the last man and instead of sending the keeper off merely yellow carded him.
Paul Manning stepped up and took a text-book penalty to put the Brickies in front.
Sittingbourne were looking to be in control but on 25 minutes from a free kick wide on the left Maldon hit the post, then Fewell was called into action to block a shot from Parker but the rest of the half belonged to Sittingbourne.
On 32 minutes James Campbell, who had a magnificent match, had a header blocked on the Maldon goal line but the ball rebounded out to Neal who fired home despite the despairing Catley getting a hand to the ball.
Sittingbourne finished the half well on top and on 43 minutes Neal almost claimed his hat-track but for a wonder save from Catley who tipped his tight angled shot over the bar.
Sittingbourne started the second half as they had ended the first, well on top. First Lee Browning had a shot held by Catley then the fast improving Adam Douglas had a shot which Catley tipped round a post.
On 54 minutes from a throw James Campbell came agonisingly close with a header but the
ball went just wide.
Three minutes later David Cory ran clear but again the keeper who shouldn't have been on the pitch at this stage made a good smothering save.
On 69 minutes a Manning free kick rebounded against the Maldon wall but Manning blasted the ball back forcing the busy Catley into another save.
A rare Maldon foray up-field saw Sean Bell skew a shot across the goal and just wide.
Sittingbourne then replaced Douglas and Cory with Gooding and Spice and this change seemed to disrupt the Brickies and the game went into a scrappy period.
Neal, like Cory, hadn't stopped running for the entire game and on 72 minutes he blocked an attempted clearance by Catley and the ball fell to Browning who fired into the side netting.
Maldon were coming back into the game and on 82 minutes a long throw into the goal area wasn't cleared by the Brickies defence and Parratt fired a good shot into the Brickies net to set up a nerve racking ending to the game.
Suddenly Sittingbourne were finding themselves second to the ball and Fewell just held a long range shot.
On 88 minutes Fewell then had another nervy moment when he made a poor clearance which was booted back to Nicky Rugg whose cross found veteran Nick Smith but thankfully for the noisy Sittingbourne supporters he sent his header just wide.
A minute later a Maldon free kick whistled across the goal then Tommy Noble headed over from
a Chris Whelpdale cross.
The referee was making it clear that he was adding on time for time wasting...but there wasn't any, just the normal time taken to take goal kicks and throw-ins, however his watch seemed to have stopped and he was testing the Brickies nerves to breaking point as he played six
minutes of injury time, however eventually the final whistle blew and the Brickies had gained three very important points.
Sittingbourne manager Mark Beeney said: "We played very well in the first half, probably the best we've played all season.
"In the second half we didn't manage to string any passing movement together and subsequently had to defend for long periods of the game.
"Obviously the three victories are good, and we just have to try and get something out of next Saturday's FA Trophy tie at Burgess Hill Town.
"We've played them before last year when they knocked us out of the FA Trophy so it will be nice to get a little bit of revenge, as such, after last year's defeat.
"Concerning the table, I am pleased we are slowly moving away from the relegation zone."
Sittingbourne: Fewell, Taylor, Hill,
Douglas ( Gooding 67 mins), J Campbell,
Ainsworth, Browning, Marsh, Neal (S Campbell 85 mins), Cory (Spice 69 mins),
Manning, subs not used: Coyle, Beeney