Sittingbourne 1-0 East Grinstead Town - At this level of football you need to do the ugly stuff well and when you play badly you can still nick results, says Sittingbourne boss Darren Blackburn

Saturday 17th October 2020
Sittingbourne 1 – 0 East Grinstead Town
Location Woodstock Park, Broadoak Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8AG
Kickoff 17/10/2020 15:00

The Buildbase FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 17 October 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Woodstock Park

SITTINGBOURNE manager Darren Blackburn admits his side were not at their best and they won ugly against their league rivals East Grinstead Town in The FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round.

Leigh Dynan’s side were in third-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with maximum points from their opening three games, while Sittingbourne were in fourteenth-place with four points from as many games.

East Grinstead Town were the better side for large chunks of the game but with Sittingbourne goalkeeper Jordan Perrin, 21, in top form, a headed winner from right-back Sam Flisher, 25, with 17 minutes remaining grabbed the surprise win for the home side.

“Overall, really pleased just to get in the next round being a cup game. We didn’t have a great outing against Deal in The FA Cup as I’m sure everyone’s aware (a 4-1 defeat in the Preliminary Round), so to get into the next round of this one, I think, it’s just as important at this stage, especially this season to keep something going alongside the league for as long as we can,” said Blackburn.

“Our main focus, like everyone is obviously the league, just in case the worst-case scenario should happen and we should get cut short again. I’m sure everybody’s focus this season is on the league primarily but it’s nice for the fans and great for the club to get into the next round.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s the worst we’ve played in three matches with the ball, however, we’re starting to understand that at this level of football you need to do the ugly stuff well and even if you’re playing badly, you can still nick results.

“I thought Sam Flisher was absolutely immense today. I think he headed two or three ridiculous crosses that were certain goals off from underneath our bar.

“He scored the goal, his running and his defending, he’s cut out a lot of passes. I just think his all-round game today was probably the best he’s had for us. He played 45 minutes against Dartford in a friendly on Monday (losing 5-2) and he’s just come back from a three or four-week lay-off with a groin injury, so really pleased with Sam.”

Sittingbourne - playing with a 4-3-3 formation - created their first opening after only 36 seconds when Flisher and Harry Goodyer linked up before Enoch Adjei passed to big target man Goodyer, who cracked a first-time right-footed drive curling over the top of the right-hand post from 30-yards out.

“Harry will do bits and pieces, he works hard, he’s a big target man and he holds the ball up well,” said Blackburn.

“He has got an eye for goal from lots of different angles. That’s not an accident either when he takes on things like that. He does that in training all the time, he attempts clever things like that.”

However, East Grinstead Town started to dominate proceedings with holding midfielder Danny Waldren pulling the strings and they enjoyed plenty of possession as Sittingbourne’s front three often failed to keep the ball in the attacking third.

East Grinstead’s nine-goal lone striker Louie Theophanous played the ball in behind Sittingbourne centre-half Freeman Rogers to put Michael Uwezu in behind but his angled drive was comfortably saved by Perrin at his near post, inside the opening seven minutes.

Quiet Sittingbourne central midfielder Andy Drury - playing behind the front three - lost the ball to Theopahnous inside the Sittingbourne half and resulted in Waldren drilling a fierce right-footed drive from 25-yards, which was beaten away by Perrin.

“Jordan’s been brilliant for us the last three games. He’s literally pulled off save-after-save. I can’t give him enough credit for the way he’s performed and he had the armband today as well, so I’m pleased for him as that’s our first clean-sheet of the season.”

East Grinstead’s right-wing-back Sean Clohessy floated a cross towards Theophanous, who got in between centre-halves Rogers and Lex Allan but all he could do was poke the ball straight at Perrin, who sprung off his line to make the save.

Sittingbourne took nearly 17 minutes to create their first opening when they tried to capitalise on visiting goalkeeper Jacob Adams - who has represented the Great Britain Deaf football team - often staying on his line at the home side’s set-pieces.

Drury floated a deep free-kick into the box and Allan got around the back to steer his header straight at Adams from a tight angle.

Sittingbourne’s best chance of the first half arrived at the half-way point, following another Drury set-piece.

There were many players crowded in front of the keeper, who pulled off a great save to deny Kane Rowland, who steered the rebound past the foot of the near post.

“It was a great save by their keeper wasn’t it? A phenomenal reflex save,” said Blackburn.

“Kane’s been superb, he likes to play down the middle but he’s played a couple of games doing a job out wide as well but coming inside.

“I’m pleased for him, he’s got an assist today, he’s scored four goals and it’s nice to have him back. He’s my sort of front player and he defends from the front and he works his socks off.”

East Grinstead’s Glenn Wilson, the man on the right of a three-man defence - hit the right-channel to release Theophanous, who smashed his hooked shot on the angle flashing just past the foot of the near post.

Sittingbourne offered very little in an attacking sense and were relieved to go in at the break on level terms, especially as East Grinstead Town created two great chances to score.

Clohessy floated in a cross from the right, which was headed clear by Allan and holding midfielder Emmanuel Omrore curled his left-footed shot around the foot of the left-hand post past the diving keeper from the edge of the D.

Waldren hit a ball over the top, which was controlled by Uwezu’s chest before he sent his right-footed chip over the crossbar after getting in behind the two centre-halves.

“They’re a good side, they haven’t lost a league game yet this season so we knew we had to be at our very best and we weren’t unfortunately,” admitted Blackburn.

“Luckily, defensively, to a man we defended well. Teams are going to get chances in this league against you. We’ll create chances at one end, other teams will create plenty down the other end and it does come down to who takes their chances in this league.

“It might not come down to who has the best striker or best outfield player, sometimes it might come down to whose got the best keeper and Jordan has been brilliant for us.

“We couldn’t get to grips with how they were playing. They played a 3-5-2 but the 10 (Uwezu) went and pressed right up on the centre-halves as well and we discussed that at half-time.

“I think we were a lot more comfortable second half with it and played our way in. We’ve got some experienced players out there but with the experienced players they’re not always going to make those runs or do those other things that they probably would’ve done a few years back so you have to play to your strengths.”

When asked what he told his players’ at the interval, Blackburn said: “Well done! We’ve kept a clean-sheet for 45 minutes is what I’ve said because it’s the first time that we haven’t conceded for the first 10 minutes or had a man sent-off or any significant event happen in the first 10-15 minutes of a game so to ride out those 10-15 minutes that was the biggest for us.

“In a cup game you just want to be in a game at half-time, you want to go and give yourself something to play for in the second half.”

East Grinstead Town produced a well-worked move inside the opening seven minutes of the second half.

Omrore worked the ball out to left-wing-back Peter Wedgeworth, who played the ball inside to Uwezu, who found winger Daniel Thompson in a pocket of space inside the box. He took a touch and cut the ball onto his right-foot and Perrin swiftly rushed out to flick the ball around the post.

“Jordan has pulled off a string of fine saves in recent games but that’s what he’s there to do. He’s a great lad, he’s great in training, he’s just got a great temperament, young for a keeper so he’s got many good years’ ahead of him and we’re lucky to have him.”

Sittingbourne found some belief and enjoyed a dominant 10-minute spell, pegging their opponents back in their half and pressing for the winner.

The otherwise quiet Adjei sprung into life when he latched onto Rowland’s fine pass but chipped the ball over the crossbar when he only had the keeper to beat.

The Brickies’ had strong claims for a penalty as Adams came out to meet Adjei and clattered into the wide striker after the attempt on goal.

Blackburn said: “I’ll be honest with you, the keeper’s caught him after the ball’s gone. A couple of years ago you wouldn’t have got one, however, if you look at the Premier League this year, I’ve certainly seen it in games when the keeper’s are coming out and players are taking a shot and they’re being clattered.

“I have seen them given this season, not in our league but if the ref had given it I don’t think he could’ve had too many arguments.

“It’s a late challenge, If that is anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a foul, even though the ball has gone.”

Sittingbourne left-back George Monger floated in a cross, which was flicked on by Goodger in the middle and was met on a hooked angled volley from 16-yards by Rowland, which only just cleared the near post.

“That’s what Kane does. He’s an instinctive striker. He’ll get shots off from any angle from where ever. I encourage him to do it. He’ll never get a rollocking from me for doing it, shooting from anywhere. I don’t mind, as long as he keeps doing that, he’ll keep getting goals, he’ll keep creating chances,” added Blackburn.

Adams pulled off a great save in the 18
th minute of the second-half following a well-worked Sittingbourne move.

Central striker Goodger swept the ball out to Adjei, who ran with the ball at his feet to reach the by-line and no-one came out to meet him so he easily ran along the by-line down the left-hand side.

He rolled the ball out of the box for an unmarked Harry Miller, who controlled the ball with his right-foot before cracking a left-footed drive towards the top right-hand corner from 35-yards, only to be denied by Adams’ outstretched left-hand which pushed the ball over the crossbar for Sittingbourne’s only corner of the game.

“I thought their keeper did really well today because he’s not the biggest of lads to be fair. We tried to put him under a bit of pressure and I thought he stood up well. He took the challenge on really well and certainly that was a great save,” added Blackburn.

“From the sideline we were shouting at Eggy (Adjei) because we had four men in the box at that point for him to get something across the box but he’s picked out Harry on the edge of the box. We’re thinking that the chance was gone, it’s unfortunate because it’s almost nestling into the top corner.”

Sittingbourne sealed the victory with 27 minutes and 18 seconds on the clock through Flisher’s first goal of the season.

Flisher started the move by playing the ball into Rowland, who played a first-time diagonal pass out to Drury. He floated in a cross towards Goodger, who rose alongside Wilson inside the box.

Rowland pounced on the loose ball on the right-hand side of the box to chip the ball towards a couple of his team-mates at the far post and Flisher rose to bury his header into the top left-hand corner from close range.

“It’s the best passage of play, it’s probably the best passing move we put together,” admitted Blackburn.

“The thing I like about Sam, he’s so determined. He will make those runs from deep. He sees things happening in advance and he’s just got himself into an area where we didn’t have anybody, seen something develop out wide. We didn’t have anybody in the box, he’s made a gamble and got himself in there. A great delivery, a great chip. We thought he skewed it and it was going over but he’s literally been able to run it across the line so I’m pleased for the boy.”

Dynan responded by bringing on a couple of substitutes with Cameron Reardon coming on for Wilson to play alongside Jay Gasson at the heart of a four-man defence, with Omore and Waldren holding, with an attacking four in left-winger Chima Uchechi, Uwezu (remaining in the 10 role) with Theophanous joined by substitute Gil Carvalho up top.

East Grinstead Town were the dominant force for the final 10 minutes as they went in search of the equaliser that they deserved.

They were inches away following their eighth (of 10) corner of the game, swung in by Clohessy and Reardon rose to steer his header onto the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick.

“He came on that lad, he’s good in the air. I think when a sub comes on you’re not really sure whose marking him and whose picking him up and I think that was the case,” said Blackburn.

“We had a bit of a mix-match in there but certainly he had a couple of headers so I was certainly aware of that for the future set-pieces and made sure we had somebody a bit more dominant marking him.”

Sittingbourne substitute James Witt impressed during his 15-minute cameo, rising above his marker to glance his header across goal and past the far post after meeting Monger’s deep cross into the box.

“To be fair, Jim’s not renowned for his heading ability,” said Blackburn.

“He’s a great lad and he got on the end of it and probably with a bit more belief and been on the pitch a bit more longer, he’ll probably make a bit more of it.”

Drury released Witt down the right channel and he cut the ball onto his left-boot to cross towards Rowland, whose left-footed stinging drive was beaten away by Adams before the keeper grabbed hold of the ball at the second attempt.

“We put Kane down the middle in the end as well because he gives us a lot across that front line. He’s such a hardworking player, he defends from the front. He’s got all of the qualities I like in a striker and he just works so hard for the team. He’s a dream to have and I’m really glad to have him back at Sittingbourne.”

The outstanding Perrin pulled off a great save with 40:50 on the clock.

Substitute striker Dadigildo (Gil) Carvalho’s cross was headed clear by Rogers and fell at Uwezu, who played the ball to his right to an unmarked Clohessy, who swept his shot trickling towards the bottom near-corner, only for Perrin to get down low to his left and tip the ball around the post.

“He’s pulled off another one there. As a defensive unit, I thought we’ve worked really hard the last few games as a whole team and if you’re going to keep the ball out of your net your last line of defence is your goalkeeper and that’s his job, that’s what he’s there to do. Fortunately, we’ve got a lad whose very good at doing it and Jordan anticipates well as well. He makes some good decisions.”

The final exchanges were end-to-end and Clohessy’s deep cross was met by Waldren’s downward header but the angle was too tight and the ball bounced past the foot of the near post after Perrin flapped at the cross.

East Grinstead Town missed a glorious chance to take the game to a penalty shoot-out but Sittingbourne got lucky with 49:39 on the clock.

Wedgeworth’s through ball was sliced by Allan and this put Theophanous in down the left channel and he centred towards the far post for an unmarked Carvalho, who slid in to poke his shot towards the bottom far corner from inside the six-yard box, only for the ball to trickle past the foot of the far post.

“Louie Theophanous is scoring lots of goals for them, he’s a handful and I thought Lex Allan and Freeman Rogers did a great job. The whole of the back line did a great job trying to keep them as quiet as we could because they are a really good side, make no bones about it.

“East Grinstead are nowhere near what they were last season (rock bottom of the table), a completely different beast so I think for us to deal with that attacking threat as well, we did for the majority of the game.

“That was Lex’s only mistake that he made in the game, he just miss-skewed a clearance, getting into the last couple of minutes, tired legs but the good thing with Lex he’s not sat there and put his head in his hands. He’s sprinted back and tried to affect the game again.

“It was a good cross from the lad. I thought he scored but credit to the full-backs because I thought our full-backs covered brilliantly all game.”

Sittingbourne welcome eighth-placed side Whyteleafe to Woodstock Park next Saturday, before travelling to second-placed Hythe Town three days later before playing their FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round tie on 31 October.

“We’ve got Saturday, Tuesday next week so we’ve got a tough game against Whyteleafe on Saturday and then a tough game away to Hythe on the Tuesday night, so without doubt they’ll be a couple of changes I’m sure to freshen things up and bring in some fresh legs and give others opportunities because I trust them all,” said Blackburn.

“Whyteleafe are a really tough game. They’re a great side. I’ve never had an easy game against them. I don’t think you’ll ever get an easy game against them. They’re normally well- organised and well drilled.

“We’ll have to up our game from today as well because I think in fairness if this was a league game you’ll probably say on balance East Grinstead probably just edged it, both teams would’ve taken a draw. But it’s a cup game and it’s all about getting yourselves in the next round.

“I’ll just take a home draw or a day out for the fans and the players and hopefully we can progress a bit further, who knows?”

Sittingbourne: Jordan Perrin, Sam Flisher, George Monger, Daniel Stubbs, Freeman Rogers, Lex Allan, Enoch Adjei, Harry Miller, Harry Goodger (James Witt 75), Andy Drury (Vance Bola 90), Kane Rowland (Johan Caney-Bryan 89).
Subs: Cory Walters-Wright, Michael Freiter

Goal: Sam Flisher 73

Booked: Daniel Stubbs 40

East Grinstead Town: Jacob Adams, Sean Clohessy, Peter Wedgeworth, Jay Gasson, Ben Harrison (Chima Uchechi 75), Glenn Wilson (Cameron Reardon 75), Emmanuel Omrore, Danny Waldren, Louie Theophanous, Michael Uwezu, Daniel Thompson (Dadigildo Carvalho 62).
Subs: Jedd Smith, Drew Cooney

Booked: Danny Waldren 45, Glenn Wilson 67

Attendance: 175
Referee: Mr Joe McKay
Assistants: Mr Christopher Cannon & Mr Mark Gidman