Thursday 01st September 2005

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Sittingbourne exorcise their Dartford Hoodoo

Sittingbourne at last exorcised  their Dartford Hoodoo by defeating their local rivals for the first time in the last seven attempts, writes Stephen McCartney (interview) and Peter Pitts (report).

Indeed the last Brickies victory over the Darts was way back on the 17th November 2001 and this is the first time that Darts boss Tommy Sampson has lost to Sittingbourne. 

Sittingbourne manager Mark Beeney, however, wasn't at all bothered that he beat Sampson for the first time - he was more concerned that his side collected another three points to climb up four places to thirteenth in the Southern League Division One East table.

In a game which saw Lee Browning net his first goal of the season, Beeney said: "It doesn't bother me, it's points, it doesn't matter it's against Dartford or Tommy.  It was important to keep our good run of games going."

Both clubs were missing key players, Dartford were without strikers Tostao Kwashi (three-match ban) and Eddie McClements whilst Sittingbourne were still without the injured James Campbell and Paul Manning was missing as well.

Paul Ainsworth was playing all be it still feeling the affects of an injury. Clint Gooding started his first game for the Brickies for a little while and like the rest of the team had a fine game.

Beeney revealed he only has twelve players available for Tuesday's trip to Maldon Town in the Southern League Cup second round.

"As of this moment in time, I have twelve players available for selection so we will certainly not be fielding a full first team," Beeney revealed.

"We will be fielding whatever is available.  We are struggling at the moment, we've picked up injuries.

"Three of my regular back four will certainly not be involved.

"Obviously I've got a goalkeeper, Kevin Fewell not available.  He has been working for the last two weeks away in Birmingham, missing the last two midweek games, so I've brought in Pat Mullin on loan from Dover.

"Everybody else will be reporting for treatment."

Sittingbourne started the better of the two sides and on 10 minutes Bradley Spice, who had his best game so far this season, had a shot from a free kick go just over the Dartford bar. 

Four minutes later Browning turned beautifully just outside the area and smashed the ball past Dartford goalkeeper Dale Brightly and into the corner of the net to give the Brickies an early lead. 

The 19-year-old goalkeeper would be disappointed that he didn't do  better with the shot.

Spice was taking on players and looking a danger whenever he got the ball. 

On 23 minutes he had a good shot which Brightly palmed away for a corner. Then Shane Campbell won a corner for the Brickies and from the kick Kieran Marsh had a shot which Richard Avery deflected onto his own cross bar.

Dartford were rarely troubling Pat Mullins in the Brickies goal and he easily held a shot from Craig Dennis. 

Apart from that effort it was the Brickies who were making all of the running. The half ended with a Marsh shot deflected for a corner and then a fine Spice / Neal move ended with Jamie Coyle's header held by Brightly.

Sittingbourne started the second half as they had finished the first, attacking, and Marsh had a shot held by Brightly. 

Jon Neal almost intercepted a back pass but the keeper just reached the ball and this was
followed by  both Adam Douglas and Neal firing narrowly over the Dartford bar.   

Dartford then came into the match and had a short spell of supremacy. A shot was blasted over the Brickies bar then a Brickies free kick was intercepted giving a chance to Jim Carter but the ball deflected to Danny Heale who fired wide. 

Dartford's period of supremacy ended with Carter trying a bicycle kick but the effort went wide.

Sittingbourne regained the ascendancy and on 64 minutes a good run by Spice won a corner. Spice was in action again after Coyle had picked him out with a pin point 30 yard pass but his shot was blocked by Brightly. 

On 76 minutes a poor kick out by Brightly was latched onto by Spice but his ferocious shot
hit the side netting. 

It was one way traffic and Marsh had a shot go just wide.

On 78 minutes the Darts Darren Brown was penalised some 25 yards out. Up stepped Marsh whose low free kick into the area deceived everyone, including Brightly, and the ball nestled in the corner of the net to put the Brickies further ahead.

Dartford tried to strike back and an effort by Carter went wide then a ferocious Pearson shot was well held by Mullins. But this brief Dartford threat fizzled out and Sittingbourne were soon back on top when the speedy Shane Campbell set up Coyle with a chance which he blasted over the bar.

Sittingbourne sealed the points on 88 minutes when Marsh and Spice interchanged passes and  Spice fired home.

The game ended with the Brickies cruising and  Douglas had a shot deflected and Spice fired just wide.

Beeney added: "We've been doing quite well in the league, we've moved up the table now and got a couple of games in hand over some people.

"If we get results from them, we should be where we should be."

When asked what has turned his season around, Beeney quite simply added: "Basically scoring goals!"

"All of a sudden we've been taking our chances and that takes a bit of pressure of the defenders."

The Brickies make the trip to Wivenhoe Town - a bleak place to go and watch a football match in winter - and Beeney added: "Obviously we don't know too much about them.  I don't really worry about our opponents, more worried about how we play but if we play to our full potential we are a match for anybody in this league.

"So subject to players availability, we just need to keep up our good run of league performances of late."

Beeney revealed he tried to snap up right-back Dan Whelan - formerly of Cray Wanderers - who has just left tenants Maidstone United, but couldn't agree personal terms.

"We tried to get a lad in Dan Whelan.  Maidstone have let him go.  We have spoken to him but at the moment we are struggling to agree personal terms.

"Basically he is a defender, he is available and we are struggling for people in that position.  

"He fits the criteria but his valuation for his services is a little but different for what our chairman is prepared to pay."

Dartford: Brightly, Brown (Olsen 79), Osbourne, Horan Dennis, Avery, Hawkes, Elmes (O'Keefe 59), Carter, Heale, Pearson,  Subs: Maguire, Knight, Merufu

Sittingbourne: Mullins, Coyle, Hill, Gooding, Douglas, Ainsworth, S Campbell, Marsh, Neal, Spice, Browning, Subs: Hassett, Tanner, Jacobs, Fewell