Sheerness East 4-4 Lewisham Borough

Tuesday 15th August 2006
"The ten men that finished the match have done the club proud, getting a point out of nothing and setting a standard for the rest of the squad to follow this season" said Sands after this emphatic eight goal thriller of an opening match that had just about everything, writes Daniel Wilson.The bad weather was just the start of an amazing day at Sheerness East. The Lewisham Borough players sat in their cars for ten minutes in the car-park waiting for the rain to ease-up enough to allow them to just enter the changing rooms.

When the match began, talk of the importance of starting well and keeping it tight early on, fell on death ears in the Lewisham Borough changing room.

After launching an attack straight from the kick-off Lewisham found themselves being hit on the break and giving away a free-kick wide on their right.

The resulting in-swinging delivery was met at the near post by Salvidge and took a deflection off of Matthew Belton before finding its way past John Henry in goal,
with just 100 seconds on the clock.

Reality of the start of the new season had hit home very early and Sheerness East followed this up by dominating the next 15 minutes of the match.

Lewisham Borough were at sixes and sevens all over the pitch and only a couple of last ditch tackles and headers from Matthew Belton, playing in an unfamiliar sweeper role, prevented the score increasing.

Lewisham did look very lively up-front, however, with the pace of Marcus Wilson and debutant Chris Stewart causing the Sheerness defence problems every time they were on the ball.

Eventually after a period of pressure and the forcing of a corner, Lewisham finally got an equaliser through Stewart.

After a scramble in the box and several shots being blocked by desperate defending, the ball fell to Stewart who flicked the ball up before hitting a looping shot over the keeper into the far corner.

This was greeted by cheers from the Borough players and a look of relief after the worst possible start.

Lewisham appeared a rejuvenated team and immediately won the ball back and launched another attack.

Daniel Wilson put a ball over the top which looked too strong for Stewart, however, after putting on the turbo's it became an equal race to get to the ball first.

As the Sheerness keeper swung to kick the ball clear Stewart got his foot there first and was consequently kicked down - penalty! Not given, with the referee instead allowing for Stewart to receive treatment before asking him to leave the field and drop the ball into the keeper’
s hand.

After 20 minutes Sheerness went ahead again, after more good movement off the ball dragged Lewisham players out of position and created space down their left.

The ball was eventually centered and teed-up for Knox running deep from the centre of midfield, who had time to pick his spot un-opposed.

This was followed by a period where Sheerness East took complete control, especially through the middle of the pitch, creating a number of chances.

The returning Colenutt then ran through the middle of the whole team playing one-twos here and there before running through on goal and chipping his effort just past the post.

The very large figure of John Henry stood, with hands on hips, in amazement at the ease of this chance being created through the heart of a team that is again physically very strong this season.

Just as half-time loomed things got even worse for Lewisham Borough. After being on the attack the ball came to Daniel Wilson, who was still inside the Sheerness half, where he was met by an 'over-the-top' challenge leaving him in a crumpled heap on the floor.

As the Lewisham players on and off the pitch shouted for the free-kick and/or the ball being put out of play, the referee took one look at Wilson and waved play-on.

And play-on Sheerness did, by attacking the big space on the left hand side vacated by the injured Wilson. Knox was again the player to seize the initiative and after riding a reckless Belton challenge, centered for Aldous to glance a header across Henry to make it 3-1.

Lewisham players surrounded
the referee and were met with no conversation, just a flurry of yellow cards.

As the half-time whistle blew Sands, who had already been given a talking to by the referee, went up to him again and told the referee:  "All you have done in that first half is given my team a reason to come back in the second." Leaving the referee looking a little bemused, after probably expecting another confrontation.

What was said at half-time by Sands will stay behind closed doors, but whatever it was brought about a massive change in the second half performance.

Straight from the whistle Lewisham looked like a team who had been wounded and were looking for revenge.

Mickey Johnson came on at sweeper, replacing Lambert, with Belton moving back into midfield.

This gave the whole side a boost by adding a bite and determination to the heart of the team.

A fine move through the middle ended with a rash challenge in the Sheerness East box to present Marcus Dussard with the opportunity to pull a goal back, but his penalty was uncharacteristically poor and saved easily by Higgin.

Debutant Byron then replaced another debutant in Perrie, who had a very steady game on the right.

With half an hour to go the breakthrough finally came in bizarre fashion after more good movement up-front caused panic in the Sheerness East defence.

A ball through the middle drew Higgin off of his line, but with no-one taking charge in the defence it was left for one defender to kick against another, sending the ball soaring over Higgin's head and into the roof of the net.

Lewisham were now in complete control and were beginning to win the battle they had been losing for the entire first half.

After some good passing moves they won another penalty which Dussard converted with power and accuracy.

Last season’s top scorer Strotton then came on for the impressive Stewart as Lewisham looked to push for the winner.  

Unfortunately after winning the ball back from the kick-off disaster struck for Dussard, as he laid the ball back to the defence without looking and gave the ball to Whitting.

He released Aldous down the right who crossed to find the on-running Whitting to head the ball back where it came from and into the top corner to make it 4-3 to East.

Worse was to follow for Lewisham a minute later, when Belton found himself chasing down an East defender in the far left corner of the pitch before making a rash challenge.

The referee gave Belton a straight red which again didn't go down too well with Lewisham players, especially as Belton said he didn't touch the player as he walked off the pitch.

So with 20 minutes to play and down to 10 men, the writing looked on the wall.
Indeed it looked this way as space started to appear in different areas of the pitch, with Colenutt being the main beneficiary for East firing over twice from long range.

Sands changed the shape of his side, reverting back to a flat back four, three in the middle and two up-front.

"I really still believed at this point in the match that we could go on and win it" said Sands afterwards.

"I could see from the side that even with a player less we looked fitter, stronger, more determined and more dangerous than Sheerness".

Captain Paul Palmer was leading by example in the centre of the pitch and his enthusiasm and drive began to rally the troops.

With Sands continually urging his team to keep believing, the unbelievable happened as Lewisham levelled the match.

Steve Strotton and the Wilson
brothers linked up with Daniel eventually putting Marcus through on goal, and after what seemed like an age, finally blasted the ball into the goal to make it an amazing 4-4.

In the fourth minute of extra time East had one last chance after a cross was met by a goal bound header, only to be cleared by the outstretched leg of Palmer.

Lewisham Borough:  John Henry, Perrie Alaxander-Billey (Byron), Martin West, Lloyd Honeyghan JNR, Matthew Belton, Daniel Wilson, Lambert Tsemzang (Mickey Johnson), Paul Palmer (C), Marcus Dussard, Marcus Wilson, Chris Stewart (Steve Strotton).
Subs: Mikey Nokoe, Lindsey Prescott-Kerr