Thursday 01st September 2005
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Beeney - We will rise up the table

MARK BEENEY, manager of Southern League Division One East Sittingbourne, is confident his team can climb the table, despite a disappointing start to the season that has seen the Bourne Park outfit slump to second from bottom, writes Stephen McCartney.

Sittingbourne's poor start to the season, now worse than last season at this stage, continued after their 2-1 home defeat to local rivals Dartford on Tuesday night.

But the 36-year-old Ashford based manager, has addressed the problem with his side - they need to start taking their chances. 

Lady luck has certainly seemed to have deserted his side, as they struck the woodwork no less than three times, and had a good shot for a penalty turned down.

Beeney insisted: "We didn't play well and there is no point beating around the bush.

"We haven't played well all season, and basically if we had taken our chances last night, we would have come out on top and got the three points we deserved."

Dartford started the better of the two sides and almost opened the scoring after ten minutes when Paul Sykes latched onto a long punt upfield from eighteen-year-old defender Richard Avery, but with only goalkeeper Kevin Fewell to beat the former Margate striker fired wide of the right post.

On 18 minutes, however, Sittingbourne had a good attempt when Paul Manning's corner was met on the far post by Ben Taylor but his powerful header was palmed away by visiting goalkeeper JImmy Simpson.

Dartford took the lead on 22 minutes when Avery did well to break down a Sittingbourne raid and passed to midfielder Eddie McClements.  Sykes' took the ball off the former Gravesend & Northfleet midfielder and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed 35-yard thunderbolt that screamed into the roof of the net.

Dartford boss Tommy Sampson praised Sykes for his all round display.

He said: "Paul Sykes is a great player.  He played centre forward and centre half tonight and he has played great - probably the best player on the pitch by a long way and he is such a dominant force.

"We tried to go for some young players at the back and it hasn't really worked - it cost us a little bit.

"Sykes made us look so solid and the goal was fantastic!"

Sittingbourne, whose Shane Campbell was causing problems with his speed, almost equalised just two minutes later when Manning's free kick found Jamie Coyle and his 20-yard snap shot crashed against the left post.  The ball rebounded out to Adam Douglas but his hurried shot sailed over the bar.

Just a few minutes later Tom Berry struck a post when he picked up the ball following an impressive run from David Cory.

Sittingbourne deservedly equalised on 43 minutes when Dean Hill's fierce drive, which appeared to be going wide, was stabbed home by Cory, finding the bottom left hand corner.

Dartford were almost gifted a second goal six minutes after the interval.  Fewell lost the ball whilst dribbling the ball out but he recovered quickly blocking McClements' shot.

The game then settled into a sedate midfield battle with little happening until 62 minutes when Simpson seemed to misjudge a Brickies free kick, but he managed to palm the ball over his head and wide of the goal.

Dartford's winner came out of the blue when on 71 minutes.  Tostao Kwashi raced down the right and crossed the ball towards McClements whose volley crashed into the back of the net.

Sittingbourne brought on Jon Neal and Bradley Spice in place of Cory and Hill and began to pile forward.

However, Darts' defence, well marshalled by Sykes, was repelling everything the home side could throw at them.

With eight minutes remaining, Campbell was making good ground in the Dartford penalty area, when he seemed to be brought down but Sevenoaks referee Mr Basten adjudged him to have fallen over.

Beeney, however, is confident his side can dust themselves down, and get back to winning ways, starting with Saturday's trip to ninth placed Wingate & Finchley.

He said: "Fisher were better than us, and I think they will eventually go on and win the league, but the other games, there has been nothing between the teams really.

"At the moment we make a mistake and we are getting punished and conceding goals from it.

"By the end of the season we will certainly be top half if we stop making silly individual mistakes -  then we will move up the league quickly.

"We need to get a win, but obviously they will be doing their best to win the game as well.  We have got to play our game instead of worrying about them."

The Sittingbourne boss revealed he will be without three key players for the trip to North London.

Tom Berry (kick on ankle) and Dean Hill (knee) picked up injuries last night and Jamie Coyle will be unavailable for two weeks as he is in Cyprus attending a wedding.

Darts' boss Tommy Sampson, however, was pleased with his team's performance -  that saw his side pick up their first league victory of the season.

He said: "We've had three games where we've only picked up two points but we played really quite well.

"You saw the best and worse of us at Sitttingbourne.

"A great start, but we could have been out of the game at half time.  Twenty minutes before half time, after we scored, we got very negative, foolish and naive."

Sykes dropped into the back four in the second half, and Sampson felt sorry for the home side, and felt they could have got something out of the game.

He added: "I changed it around for the second half.  I though we played super and worked hard.

"Sittingbourne aren't the worse team in the world - the mere fact they have only got one point under sells them a little bit.

"I thought we defended well, could have scored a couple of goals and I am really pleased with the points."

The Dartford manager added: "I thought in the end we deserved to nick it because we were away from home.  We've worked ever so hard tonight, the post saved us twice in the first half.

"But we are fit, we've worked hard and we just have to find the right balance and I thought we deserved it because of how hard we worked.

"I feel a bit sorry for Sittingbourne because if we had worked as hard as them and didn't get anything from the game, then I would be disappointed."

Dartford face a sterner test on Saturday at East Thurrock United.

Sampson prepared his side, and said: "I think it might be against all odds - it's going to be tough!"

Samspon  praised 18-year-old defender Richard Avery, and added: "At 18, he is going to be a very good player.  

"He has come straight from youth team football into men's football, never played reserve team football and he handles it very well.  He looked an accomplished lad, and I hope we can get a good season out of him."

Sittingbourne: Kevin Fewell, Jamie Coyle (Capt), Dean Hill (Bradley Spice 79), Adam Douglas, Paul Ainsworth, Ben Taylor, Clint Gooding, Paul Manning, David Cory (Jon Neal 76), Shane Campbell, Tom Berry (Kieran Marsh 68).  Subs: Joe Dowley, Mark Beeney (GK)

Dartford: Jimmy Simpson, Barry Gibson, Tommy Osborne (Capt), Mark Horan, Lee Coburn (Jimmy Carter HT), Richard Avery, Tostao Kwashi, Tommy Martin, Paul Sykes, Eddie McClements, Ted Ansell.  Subs: Brad Potter, Chris Nunn, Kwabena Amaning, Obey Murefu (GK)

Referee: Mr M Basten (Sevenoaks)
Assistants: Mr P Kelly (Chatham) Mr D Moran (Folkestone)