Sittingbourne 4-0 Hythe Town - If we play like that consistently we should be a top 10 side, says Sittingbourne boss Nick Davis

Saturday 19th November 2016
Sittingbourne 4 – 0 Hythe Town
Location Woodstock Park, Broadoak Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8AG
Kickoff 19/11/2016 15:00

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 19th November 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Woodstock Park

SITTINGBOURNE manager Nick Davis says it’s much more enjoyable being in the top half of the league table.


The Brickies secured back-to-back wins to climb up a place into ninth in the Ryman League Division One South table following their shock 4-0 win over fifth-placed Hythe Town at a wet and miserable Woodstock Park.

Hythe Town made one change to their side that sent Ryman Premier League side Merstham crashing out of The Buildbase FA Trophy in midweek with a 3-0 win at Moatside, after Hayden Bird’s side lost 5-0 at home to League One side Oxford United in The Emirates FA Cup First Round in their previous game.

Sittingbourne striker Anthony O’Connor took only 18 minutes and 17 seconds to score on his debut following his switch from Ryman Premier League side Folkestone Invicta. 

Left-back turned central midfielder Conrad Lee capped off a man-of-the-match performance by scoring from a beautiful free-kick to score his first goal of the season to take Sittingbourne into the break with a two-goal advantage.

Former Rochester United and Chatham Town winger Ricky Gundry swept in his third goal of the season after only 53 seconds into the second-half before 17-year-old striker Jake Embery came off the bench to add a fourth goal.

Sittingbourne are now only four points adrift of Hythe Town and repeat performances like this one then they have the potential of gate crashing the play-off party at the end of the season.

Davis said: “Delighted to win any game, to win 4-0 as well against a Kent rival, they’re a very good side.  On our day we’re very good and we can beat anyone, we’ve shown that today.  We have off days as well, a couple of weeks ago (we lost 3-0) at Herne Bay, we was awful so we take the rough with the smooth.

“We want a little bit more consistency, but we’re young and a little naive at times. We had three teenagers in the team today, Jake Embery, Josh Wisson and Danny Rumbol, who was absolutely outstanding.”

Hythe Town assistant manager Will Graham took charge of press conference duties and admitted: “Very, very bad day at the office for us! Credit to Nick and Sittingbourne they turned up and outplayed us in every department.  We haven’t got any complaints with that. They deserve their win, completely outplayed us all over the park. A bad day at the office for us.

“Judging by this Ryman South it’s quite an unique league, teams do beat teams. Not really looking at league tables but in terms of our performance on Tuesday against Merstham, today was a big shock for us.  Our application for the game and the how we performed was just not acceptable at all!”

O’Connor could have taken only three minutes and 43 seconds to score on his debut as the home side created a great chance.

Gundry picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and ran forward before playing the ball in behind Hythe Town’s right-back Charlie Webster, but O’Connor swept his shot over the crossbar as he aimed towards the top far corner.

“We needed a centre forward, we lost Miles Cornwell (to Folkestone Invicta). He’s a big loss for us. We’ve brought Anthony O’Connor in, Neil Cugley speaks very highly of him. He’s got a lot of pace and he’s done well today. He hasn’t played a lot of football but he could’ve scored a hat-trick today.  He plays in a way that we play. We’re a workmanlike side, everyone put a shift in, other than Steven Ita, potentially but he’s our little bit of class in that. We’ve got a lot of pace in the side and he fits into it nicely.

Reflecting on that early chance, Davis added: “That was the first opening for us. He’s a bit rusty Anthony, he should’ve hit the target from that range, but good play from Ricky Gundry coming in on the other side.”

Graham added: “To be fair they got away, we didn’t get ourselves back into shape quick enough and the lad had a great chance to put them 1-0 up early.  He should’ve finished it to be fair but we didn’t really take the warning and we didn’t learn from it and they had more and more chances after that.”

Hythe Town central midfielder Ryan Johnson drove his left-footed angled drive through a crowd of players and past the far post after good wing play down the left by Alfie May.

Webster then played the ball inside to Liam King, but his low left-footed drive from 22-yards was saved by Sittingbourne keeper Simon Overland, low to his left.

Graham said: “It was half a chance really. Simon Overland could’ve had a cup of tea before he caught it.  It wasn’t really going to trouble them.”

Davis added: “Simon’s come into it as well. He’s had a lot of time off recently, hasn’t he with his injuries and he’s had a couple of niggles with us, but today he came and dealt with a few crosses. He’s showing what a great goalkeeper he is. He was one of the best in the league when he was at Faversham, so he’s a great addition.”

A big kick from Cannons’ keeper Joe Mant was flicked on by central midfielder Matt Newman and Overland rushed off his line to smother at the feet of the otherwise quiet striker Frankie Sawyer.

But Sittingbourne opened the floodgates in the 19th minute.

Left-back Tom Carlse played the ball up to Steven Ita, who spun Craig Cloke on the left and played in Jordan Gallagher, who sped down the left and cut the ball back for O’Connor, who swept his left-footed shot over Mant’s left shoulder into the top far corner.

Davis said: “Typical us! When we’re at our best we go to counter-attack. We’ve got a lot of pace.  Jordan Gallagher’s done well on the left, left-foot finish, good goal and I’m pleased that he’s got off the mark in his first game with us, delighted really.”

When asked what O’Connor will bring to the party, Davis replied: “Energy and pace.  We’re missing a number nine, we’ve been make-shift we had Ricky Gundry up there. Jake’s only 17, it’s difficult to start him from the off at times. We want to drip feed some of these youngsters in but you don’t want to expose them too soon.

“What will he bring? He will bring energy and pace and he runs channels as well when we need to. He’s got a lot of pace and will cause problems.”

Graham added: “From that first mistake in the fourth minute it was virtually similar as you like to the chance in the first four minutes.  The ball gets put in behind our right back (Webster) and it gets cut back and the lads finished it well. We didn’t learn from our mistake and they scored an identical goal after that.”

May, who was jeered throughout by Sittingbourne’s small but vocal band of supporters underneath the cover at the terrace end of the ground, ran through the heart of the home side’s defence but King cut inside and curled his shot around the far post.

The wind started to pick up and dark clouds brought a downpour from the 35th minute mark as King lashed his right-footed drive high and wide after the ball was cleared out to him following Ben Wilson’s free-kick from the left.

Sawyer swung in a corner from the left and May nipped in front of his marker at the near post to flick his shot wide.

Sittingbourne’s Lee was bossing the midfield, not bad considering he is really a left-back.

He drilled a right-footed drive 25-yards over the bar from 25-yards out after Carlse’s got at Webster down the left and played the ball inside to O’Connor.

Lee’s next chance was pure quality, as Sittingbourne deservedly doubled their lead with 42 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

Faced with a four-man wall after Sam Welch was sent flying by Cloke, Lee swept his left-footed free-kick over their heads and his shot dipped into the bottom right-hand corner to score a wonderful goal from 28-yards.

“Conrad Lee can play anywhere on that pitch, for me he’s the best left-back in the league,” said Davis, who tips the former Erith Town defender to turn professional.

“We’re struggling in the centre of midfield at the minute. We’re very good down the left-hand side with Tom Carlse as well. Conrad and Joe Loft can get about, they’ve got a lot of energy. They’re good athletes and he can do that job for me. He’s got the technical ability to do that as well. Conrad can play as high as he wants in my opinion.”

Graham said: “To be fair to the lad from where we were standing it looked like it was a great free-kick.  To get it over the wall and in past Joe Mant to us it looked like a good free-kick but without talking to the keeper and asking him was his positioning right? Was the wall set-up right? I can’t really answer that.”

When asked his thoughts at the break, Davis replied: “Just keep going really. Earlier on in the season we let leads slip against Cray and Three Bridges. It’s always in the back of my mind. I said I’m not going through that again! Do the not so nice stuff and win your battles again. It’s a Kent derby. The weather’s not great here and we scored straight away. What a response, what a time to score that!”

Graham revealed there were a few words said during the interval in the visitors’ dressing room.

“Me and the gaffer sort of pulled the paint of the walls a little bit because for the way we play and the way we can win games at certain times our attitude and our application was just pi** poor, excuse my French and we didn’t turn up and we allowed a hard-working team to put their authority on us through that and we didn’t really react to it.  We didn’t fight for it and the foremost our question was ‘where’s your attitude and application?’ Because it just wasn’t there today!”

Clive Cook and Graham came out of the dressing room before their players.  They made a couple of changes at the interval by bringing on Sam Adams in midfield and Kenny Pogue up top, replacing Sawyer and Adams and watched Sittingbourne race into a 3-0 lead with only 53 seconds on the clock.

Ita played the ball out wide to Welch who drove in a low cross form the right towards the near post and Gundry turned and placed his right-footed shot across Mant, the ball nestling nicely into the bottom far corner.

Davis said: “Good goal, good goal, I’m pleased for Rick. He got into some good areas and he’s got his just rewards and that’s his third goal for us now.  It was a great finish really, on the turn, he turned on a six-pence to be fair. He’s got that in him.

“I first saw him when I was at Tunbridge Wells and he was at Rochester. He got 20 goals that year and I played against him and I thought he was a handful. I’ve tried to get him in for a little while now and we’ve got him in and I’m pleased.

“He’s had two seven-day approaches in the last week from Walton Casuals and Ramsgate. He’s staying here. He’s my type of player. He’s good, he gives you everything.  I thought he was excellent in the first half. What a great time to score the third, it’s probably game over then.”

Graham said: “I mean our half-time team talk, we’ve pulled the paint of the wall a little but about how disappointed we was of the first half but we’ve also gone out there with a little bit of a positive and said how we need to get back into the game and what we was trying to do and then that literally goes out of the window as soon as they’ve scored that goal as early as they did.

“After that, the game was over and it was just about damage limitation and see what we could get out of the game, but it sort of shot our half-time team talk anyway.”

May, 22, has had trials with Stevenage and Gillingham recently and he’s going for a week-long trial at League Two Doncaster Rovers and the wideman had three chances inside the opening ten minutes cutting onto his right foot trying to add to the 17 goals that he’s scored in all competitions this season.

“Alfie’s going to have a big say, potentially in the Football League, in the upcoming months or years’ of whatever,” predicted Graham.

“Today he’s been a bit overplayed, teams will double up on him, sometimes his decision making was a little bit poor but he will always create chances. He’s a Football League player playing in the Ryman South. He’s quality and managers know about him and they will double up on him. 

“At times today we asked the question of him ‘could you have laid it on?’ but he’s desperate to score goals and that’s why he’s the top goalscorer in the league.

“He leaves tomorrow for the week so he’s up at Doncaster with Darren Ferguson so it’s a bit up in the air at the moment. We’ve got quite a lot of interest around him, a lot of phone calls and communication going between those clubs and us. At the moment it’s down to him to keep doing what he’s doing for us, keep generating interest and making clubs wanting to come looking for him.

“For us we want Alfie to progress into the Football League and he’s good enough but you’re not going to turn down Alfie May being with us. If he’s with us then all the better for us but for his progression and as a friend and as a person that we all enjoy and work with we all hope he progresses into the Football League as soon as possible.”

Dartford based May linked up well with Webster out on the right and from the corner of the penalty area his right-footed rasping drive forced Overland to pluck the ball out of the air at his near post.

May then cut the ball onto his right-foot and from the opposite corner of the box forced Overland to get down low to his right to make a comfortable save.

Johnson then fed May, who hit a deflected drive towards the far corner, forcing Overland to dive to his left to claw towards safety.

Davis added: “Very, very good player isn’t he? The way he uses the ball, it’s difficult to knock him off the ball, his balance is superb. He’s a very, very dangerous player and we’ve done well to keep him quiet today. 

“They give him the ball, a lot of the time he’s away from goal, he’s a long way out from goal and he creates his own opportunities so we done well to restrict them. Going forward they’ve got some big names in there and some good players that have scored a lot of goals at this level.”

Sittingbourne had a chance too as Lee bent his 35-yard angled drive around Mant and watched his speculative effort flash past the far post.

Sittingbourne were their most dangerous on the counter-attack and central midfielder Joe Loft released O’Connor down the left channel. His first shot was blocked, the ball looped back to him and his right-footed 20-yard drive flashed past the foot of the post.

“Maybe he should’ve hit it first time but he hasn’t had much game time,” admitted Davis.

“He’s a little raw, he’s a little raw, but he’s certainly got something that I like and hopefully he’s going to score some goals for us.  To have a chance of us being a top 10 side to a side that’s going to be in the bottom half of the table, you need to score goals.”

Despite winning the corner count by 9-1, Hythe Town found Sittingbourne’s defence resilient, well marshalled by skipper Jono Richardson and development team prospect Danny Rumboll.

Wilson’s out-swinging corner from the right came out to an unmarked Cloke a couple of yards inside Sittingbourne’s box but his overhead kick deflected behind for another set-piece.

Webster released Cloke charging down the right wing and the central defender put in a low cross which May nipped in front of Richardson to flick his shot past the near post.

Hythe Town’s bad day was summed up when they were denied by a goal-line clearance and a slice of luck falling Sittingbourne’s way in the 73rd minute.

Wilson swung in a corner from the left. Nick Reeves’ bullet header screamed through a crowd of players inside the six-yard box and Pogue’s header was headed off the line by Welch beside the post.

Graham admitted: “A few of the lads’ inside the box said it might’ve gone over the line and things like that but again we’re looking at how the games panned out. It’s half a chance that could’ve gone in, couldn’t have gone in.  You can’t really latch onto that and say that was probably a game changer because at that stage, 3-0 down, the games unfortunately over for us so it might’ve been, it might not have been but to our point view of view it’s irrelevant.”

Davis said: “Welch was playing against his old club today and I thought he was outstanding, he’s a good old fashioned right-back. He was in the right place at the right time.  If they had scored then it might’ve swung slightly so it was important that we didn’t concede. We put our bodies on the line today, that’s all you can ask for.”

Sittingbourne missed a glorious chance to add to their scoreline with a very good move.

Loft released Gallagher down the left and he cut the ball back to O’Connor, but a poor first touch allowed Mant to grab hold of the ball.

“Again, he could’ve had a hat-trick today, couldn’t he? That would’ve been a good debut. They still don’t know about him in this league. I’m hoping he’ll take it by storm. He travels a long way, he comes in from Wembley, he drives all the way but fair play to him. He’s got the right attitude and wants to play as high as he can and play regularly and we can offer him that.

“We give good opportunities here at Sittingbourne. Look at the players that have played in the Kent Invicta League (now SCEFL First Division) and we’ve given opportunities because that’s what we’re about. We’re not the biggest budget in the world so we have to give youngsters an opportunity and hopefully he’ll take that.”

Davis sent on Embery in the 79th minute and he issued Hythe Town a warning when he cut in from the left and low angled drive was parried by Mant, before the Cannons keeper grabbed hold of the ball as the heavens continued to open.

Sittingbourne added a fourth goal on the break in the 83rd minute to leave Cannons manager Cook with a face like thunder as he trudged off following his side’s fifth league defeat in 18 games this season.

Josh Wisson put Embery through on goal and he kept his composure to drill his left-footed shot over Mant’s right shoulder, as the keeper moved to his left, into the roof of the net.

“I’m really pleased for him. We brought him on and he scored the 90th minute against Godalming last week. He’s a goalscorer. If he continues the way he is he’s got a bright future, I think.  Again we’ll need to drip feed him in.

“I’ve been here five seasons now and the club have got it right behind the scenes with under 21s and under 18s both top of their leagues I believe. We’ve got youngsters chomping at the bit to come in.  We can just delve into them and with the amount of games we play we can give them opportunities but we can’t put them all in at once.”

Graham said: “Our thought process on that, we’re attacking with sixes and sevens at a time and we haven’t worked hard enough to get ourselves goal side and try to help our back four to stop the shot getting off but again they opened us up too quickly and too easily.

“It’s something that we’ve discussed in the changing room at length. It’s unacceptable, just unacceptable all over the field.”

Johnson played a short corner to Wilson, who put over a cross into Sittingbourne’s box but Cloke failed to keep his towering header down from eight-yards.

Lee smacked a first time left-footed drive screaming into Mant’s hands as he tried to score from 35-yards at the end of a good day for Sittingbourne.

They have now picked up 29 points from their 19 league outings, while Hythe Town have bagged 33 points from 18.

“Eleven points from safety and we’re safe for the season and that’s good, that’s my first thought, it always is,” added Davis, who takes his side to Ramsgate on Tuesday night.

Ramsgate fought back from being 2-0 down at home to league leaders Dorking Wanderers to earn a point thanks to two late goals from George Crimmen and Aaron Millbank.

Davis said: “In 20 years no one’s been relegated with 41 points, I think. We’re almost safe. It's much more enjoyable when you’re in the top half of the table and pushing.  You put a couple of results together, you never know do you? If we play that consistently we should be a top 10 side but let’s hope that side turns up against Ramsgate on Tuesday.  Sometimes you flip the coin and I don’t know why. It’s because we’re young? I don’t know. It’s frustrating but I would’ve taken that at the start of the season.”

Hythe Town must vastly improve ahead of next Saturday’s home tie against Vanarama National League South side Bishop’s Stortford in The Buildbase FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round.

They remain rooted to the foot of the table and five points adrift of safety after losing 3-0 at home to Tony Burman’s Dartford.

Graham said: “Tuesday night we were unplayable. We made a very good Merstham team look very average and apart from one change it was the same team so I think that’s the difference between winning the league and floating around in the play-offs. 

“We beat Merstham 3-0 Tuesday and then we turn up on Saturday and get beat 4-0 by Sittingbourne. We’ve got to a level of consistency there or maybe it’s going to be play-offs or maybe a little bit further down the league, which is not what we’re going for.”

Sittingbourne: Simon Overland, Sam Welch, Tom Carlse (Tom Brunt 70), Danny Rumbol, Jono Richardson, Joe Loft, Ricky Gundry, Conrad Lee, Steven Ita (Josh Wisson 67), Anthony O’Connor (Jake Embery 79), Jordan Gallagher.
Subs: Dan Tanner, Hicham Akhazzan

Goals: Anthony O’Connor 19, Conrad Lee 43, Ricky Gundry 46, Jake Embery 83

Hythe Town: Joe Mant, Charlie Webster, Ben Wilson, Ryan Johnson, Craig Cloke, Nick Reeves, Dave Cook, Liam King (Kenny Pogue 46), Frankie Sawyer (Alex Mulrooney-Skinner 66), Alfie May, Matt Newman (Sam Adams 46).
Subs: Josh Burchell, Chris Saunders

Booked: Ben Wilson 89

Attendance: 143
Referee: Mr Anthony Pope (Braintree, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Wally James (Welling) & Mr Scott Rudd (Dartford)

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