Chatham Town 2-3 Sittingbourne - We know we're not in a very good situation, says relegation threatened Chatham Town boss Paul Piggott

Monday 06th February 2017
Chatham Town 2 – 3 Sittingbourne
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 06/02/2017 19:45

Ryman League Division One South
Monday 6th February 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

STRUGGLING Chatham Town manager Paul Piggott says his players still believe they can avoid relegation in their last 13 games of a poor season – despite failing to win any of their last 10 outings.

Sittingbourne continued their dominance of this fixture by claiming a comfortable 3-2 victory over their local rivals, watched by a crowd of 162 at a wet Maidstone Road.

The Brickies climbed up three places into 12th place in the Ryman League Division One South table on 45 points from their 33 games, while Chatham Town remain rooted in the bottom three with 21 points and are nine points adrift of safety.

Sittingbourne got off to a flying start with winger Hicham Akhazzan waiting only 91 seconds to score his first goal of the season for the club, before man-of-the-match Stefan Wright punished a mistake from Chatham Town goalkeeper Alex Hyde.

Chatham Town were staring down the barrel when Sittingbourne increased their lead on the hour through Jono Richardson’s header.

Jordan Gallacher glanced in a header which was seemingly a consolation goal with 85 minutes on the clock, before the substitute drove home a flattering second at the death to give the scoreline a closer feel to the game - but Sittingbourne were miles better and Chatham Town now need a miracle and better players if they are to avoid finishing in the bottom three.

Chatham Town finished second-from-bottom of the Ryman League Division One South in season 2010-11 but they received a reprieve and their punishment was to spend the next four seasons in Ryman League Division One North, but after finishing in the bottom of the South Division last season, the club has gone backwards.

“Disappointed again, we’ve lost another game of football,” said Piggott, who has now lost nine of his 13 games in charge since replacing Darren Anslow.

“We keep giving the opposition a leg up.  The first goal we’ve conceded in the first few minutes of the game was exactly the same goal we conceded on Saturday (1-1 home draw against Three Bridges) and exactly the same goal we conceded against Ramsgate two Saturday’s ago.  We’re just not reacting quick enough in our own box and you can only tell players’ so many times about a situation in a game and how to react and if they don’t react, maybe I’m asking for too much.”

Sittingbourne manager Nick Davis admitted: “Relieved actually for the final whistle because we made hard work of it.  The last 15 minutes I thought we were worthy of win today. It should’ve been more to be fair. No disrespect to Chatham, but I always felt we looked relatively comfortable but goals change games and they nicked a goal from a set-piece and then we’re on the back foot a little bit.

“The supporters’ let us know that it’s once in 20 years in a Cup that they’ve beaten us.  We’re their bogey side, aren’t we, close rivals as well, so I’m pleased.

“It means a lot. We’ve had a difficult run of it.  We lost 4-0 on Saturday to a good and physical Cray side and we bounced back today so we were on a hiding to nothing today.  I thought looking at the league position we were probably expected to win.  We had a bad run of it ourselves.

“I’ve come and watched them the other week, they’re ok.  They’ve brought in some experience and we knew it would be tough so we knew what we needed to do. I’m really pleased. I said let’s go at them and let’s score some goals!”

Sittingbourne got off to the best possible start.

Wright launched the first of five long throws into the Chatham box, the ball came out to Akhazan, who took a touch before drilling a low drive from 15-yards through a crowd of players and past Hyde.

“His 99th goal for Sittingbourne in 400-odd appearances so it’s his first one for us this season. He’s gone away to Lordswood and done well, scored three there,” said Davis.

“We’re a bit thin on the ground with players so we’ve brought Hich back in and he’s done really well.

“It was what we needed, a cool finish. If you’re going to have a player in your team to be in that situation it will be Hich.”

Piggott said: “It’s pulled back from the second ball. If a team’s lucky enough to have a long throw like that and someone whose good enough to win the ball like that, they can’t score from that first ball, they’ll always score from the second one.

“It’s all about wanting that desire, wanting to get on the end of that second ball and unfortunately we didn’t have enough of that.

“We’re saying the same things but we’re still making the same mistakes. We’ve got to learn quicker as a group, stop teams having a head start.

“Sittingbourne are in a same situation as us, they’ve not won many games over the last nine, so it was all about whoever got the first goal was going to be important and we’re disappointed that we let that first one in.”

Wright made space by cutting onto his right-foot to unleash a shot on the turn from 35-yards, the diving Hyde relieved to see the ball scream past the post.

“Stefan’s got so much energy. He’s a player that was playing for Bridon Ropes, I think, three years ago. He can play any position, he’s a right-back, right-winger, centre midfield. He just gives us that bit of energy.  He was our best player for us on the pitch on Saturday. We missed Joe Loft on Saturday. Those two together have got a lot of energy. That’s what we’re built on this year, a lot of energy.”

Frustrated Chatham striker Ricky Freeman put a lunge on his former Hollands & Blair team-mate Sam Welch on the halfway line which earnt him a booking and Welch swept in the resulting free-kick into the Chatham box which was headed wide by Jono Richardson, the Sittingbourne captain.

Welch cut the ball onto his left-foot after cutting past poor Chatham left-back Abdul Lyobi before drilling his angled drive past the far post from inside the box after the returning Jack Steventon clipped a free-kick down the line.

When asked about central defender Steventon’s return from league rivals Faversham Town, Davis said: “As of Sunday, I was playing today and I haven’t kicked a ball in 14 months. We’re a little bit light – I’m not – on the ground.  Jack contacted me and apologised because we gave him opportunities here.  The grass is not always greener but fair play we’ve all done it, he’s gone to Faversham and restricted for game time.  He came straight in today and I thought he done well.”

Chatham Town took 26 minutes to create their first opening, following their first corner.

Ryan Flack swung in the corner from the right, the ball was headed out to Darren Marsden, who chested the ball down before dragging his right-footed shot across goal and past the far post from 25-yards.

“He probably snatched at it a little bit Darren. If you’re top of the league they go flying in the top corner,” said Piggott, who then explained why Marsden was substituted at the break.

“Him and Josh (Bray) were just a little but unfortunate actually. We were 2-0 down and we were playing terrible. We knew we had to make a positive change and I had two wingers on the bench who are positive players and we needed to get them on the pitch and Darren and Josh were just unfortunate.  They were the ones that had to come off.”

Ryan Flack was by far Chatham Town’s best player on the night and the winger-turned central midfielder went close with a left-footed dipping drive from 30-yards, which only just cleared the top of the far post.

“He had a bit of an impact on the game Ryan today,” said his manager.

“I thought he played well today and that’s why we felt we needed to get him back in the middle of midfield. He was just playing on the left to start with because he was having an impact on the game. That’s why we wanted to get him in the middle. I thought he tried, he kept trying.”

Davis added: “I mean, they’re at home, they’re going to have spells in the game. I just thought we dealt with it. He was lively for them.”

Sittingbourne deservedly doubled their lead with 31 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Conrad Lee played a free-kick inside to Joe Loft, who played the ball out to the other side of the pitch to Steventon, who floated in a cross into the Chatham box, which Hyde punched poorly and then flicked the ball straight at Wright, who buried his low right-footed drive through a crowd of players into the bottom right-hand corner from 18-yards.

Davis said: “I travel down with Stef, I pick him up and he said he needs more goals and he’s only scored three this year and funny enough that’s why he ran towards me because he’s had a shot. He’s had some pop-shots from a distance.  Fair play to him, he deserved his goal because he worked so hard for us.

“I’m always told 2-0 is not the best lead but I thought we were very much on top of the game. Do we get a third goal or we just hang in there until half-time? I always felt we were going to catch them on the break. We’ve got a lot of pace going forward. It was not to concede before half-time.”

Piggott said: “Alex will be the first one to tell you he should’ve done better with the first ball and the second ball.  Having said that you make that mistake, I’m still looking at defenders and midfielders that watched a guy bring the ball down and take two touches and plant it in the back of the net.  Again, that’s not acceptable!”

The lively Flack kept plugging away for Chatham and he was found in space down the left-hand side of the penalty area and his left-footed drive was caught low down by Simon Overland at his near post.

Chatham right-back Cameron Hefferman played the ball down the right channel to Freeman, who drove a dipping right-footed shot towards the bottom corner from 25-yards, forcing Overland to hold low to his right.

Piggott said: “Ricky’s a centre forward who will shoot on sight. As soon as he sees the goals, the whites of those posts, he’s looking to get his shot away. He had two or three of them today. Unfortunately, they were all from distance and I don’t think any of them troubled the keeper.”

Davis added: “I thought it was comfortable. It was quite far out wasn’t it? We sort of restricted them sort of chances and I’m quite happy.  I think in the first half the one that flashed across the goal, other than that Simon hasn’t had many saves to make.”

Piggott revealed he gave his side an ear-bashing during the half-time interval.

He said: “We said it very loudly, I’ll be honest with you. We weren’t best pleased. We keep giving teams a leg up and if you’re struggling down there struggling the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you don’t concede and give away sloppy goals.  It’s very disappointing when we talk about a goal we’ve conceded, we’ve already spoken about before the game two minutes before the boys came out on the pitch. We were disappointed and we let them know.

“We wanted a reaction from being 2-0 down and we made a positive change by getting the two wide men on so we needed them to go and make a change.”

Davis added: “Fantastic! It’s only half a job done. We’re only 45 minutes in. We need to start strongly second half.  We could hear Paul shouting at them next door. It’s a very important game for them and we thought they’d come out flying at us.  I thought we were on the front foot straight away in the second half.”

Piggott made a double substitution at the break with central midfielder Darren Marsden and right-winger Josh Bray being replaced by Gallacher (left-wing) and Kyron Lightfoot (right-wing), but it was only the introduction of pacy attacker Enoch Adjei with 20 minutes remaining that brought Chatham Town back from the death.

Lyobi’s throw from the left found Freeman, but his low shot lacked power and direction and Overland comfortably controlled the ball with his foot as he knew the shot was going wide.

Sittingbourne’s two central midfielders, Joe Loft and Wright, kept Chris Saunders in their pocket and Saunders was shrugged off by Wright but his 30-yard drive was meat and drink for Hyde, who made a comfortable save.

“He had another pop shot,” said Davis.  “Loft and Stefan, they give us so much energy in there and we do out-work teams and we can play a two in there when those two play because they can get about the pitch. They do get a few yellow cards out of the pair of them because they do like a tackle.”

Sittingbourne killed the game off by adding a third goal on the hour-mark.

Akhazzan swung in a deep corner from the left towards the far post where central defender Richardson stooped to guide his header into the middle of the net.

Davis said: “I think it’s seven that he’s got now. It’s something that we work on. I think we’ve got about 25 goals now from set-pieces, long-throws and corners. We work very hard on them, we’re not as big as we once were.”

When asked whether he thought the game was done and dusted at 3-0 on the hour-mark, Davis replied: “I never do because we were 3-1 up against Cray away and we drew 4-4 and we drew four-all against Three Bridges. We love a high scoring game we do but at 3-0 you would’ve thought so.

“But they threw caution to the wind didn’t they? They went three at the back, they threw another one up top. The changes that he made, made a difference.”

Piggott added: “It was a foul! The third goal was a foul on Chris Saunders. Why he was making Jono (Richardson) at the time I couldn’t tell you. That’s a mistake on our behalf but he was pulled to the ground before he made his jump.  I’m disappointed with that decision because I thought it should’ve been a foul!

“Three-nil down you’re thinking the end! You’re thinking you’re up against it but to be fair to the boys they kept going, they kept plugging away for 90 minutes.

“One thing we said to them is don’t ever give up and although people may think they gave up there’s not many teams that keep fighting at 3-0 down when you’re in the position we’re in, so we did show a little bit of character in the last 10-15 minutes.”

Saunders showed desire to win the ball of Wright in the 65th minute before playing the ball inside to Freeman, who hit a first time shot towards goal from 25-yards, which was held by Overland.

But Chatham’s long-suffering fans had to wait until the 28th minute to call Overland into making a serious save.

Adjei sprinted down the left, played the ball inside to Freeman, who cut the ball back from the by-line to his strike partner Ricky Gundry, who forced Overland to dive to his right to deflect the ball towards safety.

“We thought we made a positive move, we took a defender off to go three up top, just to see if we could nick something from the game and we’re making the positive moves and to be fair to the players they did make an impact when they came on but it’s like too late. We should be starting like that!”

Davis said: “Good save, he’s spread himself didn’t he? It hit his chest.  Again, we knew they would come at us and they’re throwing caution to the wind. They are where they are and they need a point or to win the game.  They’re going to throw others forward so we’ll done to Simon, it’s a great save.”

George Benner played the ball up to Flack, who dragged his right-footed shot past the post from 30-yards.

Sittingbourne’s young side hit Chatham on the break through substitute Connor Wilkins and fellow sub Bradley Schafer drive forced Hyde to parry the ball behind, high to his right.

Lee Swung in the resulting corner from the right and Schafer used his shoulder rather than his head, the ball kissing the top of the crossbar before dropping behind for a goal-kick.

Davis said: “He should’ve scored that shouldn’t he? It’s like a free header, that was game, set and match, the fourth goal.

“We had so many opportunities today where we were in good areas. He broke away and the final pass maybe let us down, or our final decision of what we’re going to do. We’ve had enough opportunities today to put them well out of sight!”

Piggott said: “I saw he got his shot away.  I mean we were chasing the game by then. We were throwing bodies forward at the time and we were a little bit light at the back. He got his shot away. I think normally if you’re playing a proper tight defence he wouldn’t have got that space that he did and Alex has made a good save at the time to keep our hopes going.”

Adjei’s shot from the edge of the penalty area lacked power and direction and Overland made a comfortable save.

Chatham Town’s first goal looked to be a consolation when it arrived with five minutes left.

Flack swung in a left-footed corner from the right towards the near post where an unmarked Gallacher glanced his header across the keeper into the far corner from six-yards.

“We signed Jordan probably about six weeks ago because I know the type of player he is,” said Piggott.

“I know he’s going to make an impact on the team. We’ve been a little bit unfortunate that he’s had a niggling knee injury but I persevered that he’ll come good for us at some stage.”

Davis said: “Good header. Do you know what, we’ve defended them well all game. We’ll have to have an inquiry about that. We’ve got to do better in the box.”

Sittingbourne had a chance to score again when Lee cut a short corner to Tom Carsle, who cut into the penalty area before pulling the ball back for Schafer to blast his shot over the crossbar.

Chatham Town’s flattering second came too late, arriving two minutes and 33 seconds into time added on.

Flack floated in a free-kick from the left towards the far post, Benner knocked the ball across goal and Gallacher swept his shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

Piggott said: “He’s showed us his worth. He’s not played football for five or six weeks now and then he’s missing it and he’s hungry for it and that hunger showed in that last 10-15 minutes of the game. He didn’t stop. He kept going and got two goals for us.”

It was too late for Chatham Town to mount a comeback to claim a point.

“That’s why at any level of football you can’t give teams a leg up because you never know what’s going to happen in the last 10 minutes,” said Piggott.

“We’ve showed as poor as we was at times today and 3-0 down we still showed you can still get back into a game, you just can’t give teams leg ups!”

Sittingbourne boss Davis added: “Our old player. Did he get two goals? Typical!

“Jono’s about six foot five, he’s got to deal with the ball in the box better. You’ve got to be braver in that box, which we’ve been excellent all game and it’s dropped down and they’ve scored.

“But if we hadn’t won that game that would’ve been the biggest daylight robbery I think I’ve ever seen. It’s taken the gloss of it because we should’ve been comfortable.  Three points is the most important but a clean sheet would’ve been very close to that!”

Chatham Town’s next three games are all tough.  They travel to seventh-placed Corinthian-Casuals on Saturday, host second-placed Dorking Wanderers on 18 February and travel to tenth-placed Hastings United on 25 February.

Chatham Town must win three games to catch up with Guernsey, and hope the Channel Islanders fail to pick up any points.

“We’re not trying to kid anyone, we know we’re not in a very good situation and we know we need to start getting some points on the board,” said Piggott.

“We’re trying everything we can as a management team and that effort will hopefully rub off and hopefully keep us alive and keep us in this league.

“I think you’ve seen that in the last 10-15 minutes today, if you thought the players were down and out and finished, I think the game would’ve finished 3-0 but it didn’t, if finished 3-2, so I think it shows the boys still believe and we’re still fighting for it.”

Sittingbourne are 15 points adrift of the play-offs and 24 points clear of the relegation zone, which occupies Chatham Town, Three Bridges (19 points from 31 games) and Godalming Town (12 points from 33 games).

“We’re closer to the play-offs than we are relegation aren’t we,” said Davis.

“Of course, it’s very important we kept our status. We’ve done fantastically well to do that.   In December we were on 40 points. We were five points from the play-offs.

“Through more wage restrictions we’ve had to let go a couple of players so we’ve had to bring in some youngsters, even more youngsters that we’ve got from our under 21s.

“John Embery, up front, is 17-years-of-age. He’s scored five goals for us but that’s where we’re are at the moment.”

Chatham Town: Alex Hyde, Cameron Hefferman (Enoch Adjei 70), Abdul Lyobi, Chris Saunders, Freeman Rogers, George Benner, Ryan Flack, Darren Marsden (Jordan Gallacher 46), Ricky Freeman, Ricky Gundry, Josh Bray (Kyron Lightfoot 46).
Subs: Jon Difford, Austin Edwards

Goals: Jordan Gallacher 85, 90

Booked: Ricky Freeman 9, Freeman Rogers 88

Sittingbourne: Simon Overland, Sam Welch, Conrad Lee, Stefan Wright, Jono Richardson, Jack Steventon, Hicham Akhazzan (Tom Brunt 80), Joe Loft, Jake Embery (Bradley Schafer 74), Josh Wisson (Connor Wilkins 70), Tom Carsle.
Subs: Jardel Bundu-Kamara, Hassan Jalloh

Goals: Hicham Akhazzan 2, Stefan Wright 32, Jono Richardson 60

Booked: Joe Loft 53, Stefan Wright 66

Attendance: 162
Referee: Mr Thomas Marshall (Eltham, London SE9)
Assistants: Mr Lee Markwick (Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex) & Mr Dean Markwick (Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex)

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