Sittingbourne 3-1 Faversham Town - We've let the club, town, supporters and everyone down and I apologise because that's not an acceptable performance in a derby, says Faversham Town boss James Collins

Tuesday 31st August 2021
Sittingbourne 3 – 1 Faversham Town
Location Woodstock Park, Broadoak Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8AG
Kickoff 31/08/2021 19:45

Isthmian League South East Division
Tuesday 31 August 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Woodstock Park

FAVERSHAM TOWN manager James Collins issued a post-match apology after admitting his side put in an unacceptable performance during their derby defeat to Sittingbourne.

The Brickies climbed above seventh-placed Faversham Town into sixth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with both sides collecting six points from their opening three league games.

This was a hard-fought battle with the ball spent most of its time in the air as Sittingbourne’s direct style was enough to claim the local bragging rights by winning a poor game of football, watched by a crowd of 309 at Woodstock Park.

Sittingbourne’s first two goals came from set-pieces which were superbly volleyed home by left-back Taylor Fisher and striker Johan Caney-Bryan, who has now scored three goals so far this season.

Sittingbourne were reduced to ten-men with four minutes remaining when striker Kane Rowland collected his second yellow card for persistent fouling before visiting keeper Luke Watkins gifted midfielder Toby Ajala the third goal, which was rather flatting as the Lilywhites were the more attacking team after the break.

Faversham skipper Harry Harding, who sent his 20th minute penalty into orbit, bundled in a late consolation, which didn’t stop Collins locking his players’ inside the away dressing room for over 30 minutes for the post-match inquest.

“We got exactly what we deserved. We weren’t at the races. The game was lost in the first half and we weren’t good enough to get back into it in the second so a hugely disappointing night for us,” admitted Collins.

“A hard-fought game was exactly what I expected.  I know how disappointed people at Faversham will be. We’ve let the club down, we’ve let the town down and we’ve let the supporters down. We’ve let everyone down and I apologise on behalf of the players because that’s not an acceptable performance in a derby.”

Sittingbourne manager Darren Blackburn added: “I’m over the moon. It’s the first time I’ve beaten a side managed by James Collins. He always has his teams well-organised. He’s a great manager and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the guys he’s got in the dug-out.

“You know you’re going to be in for a battle bare minimum and to get a result and get our just rewards that we’ve probably haven’t had the last couple of games but we’ve bounced back massively, showed great character and great attitude from the boys and they stuck to the game plan and it worked and we got the result.”

Sittingbourne were clearly up for this game and created an opening after only 61 seconds.

Pacey right-back Neville Rivelino Nza burst down the right and put in a low cross but Ahmed Abdulla - who has turned down approaches to stay with the Brickies - nipped in front of his marker to poke a poor shot harmlessly wide.

However, Sittingbourne took advantage by taking the lead with only three minutes and 46 seconds on the clock.

Centre-half Freeman Rogers relished smashing balls upfield during the game and he swept a first-time ball into the Faversham penalty area and Caney-Bryan stooped to steer his header towards the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the six-yard box, which forced Watkins into getting down low to his right to claw the ball away before Fisher ghosted in to smash his shot into the top far corner from a tight angle from eight-yards.

Blackburn said: “Since Taylor’s come in – we signed him at Christmas – we’ve encouraged him to get on. He’s a good attacking full-back. At first, we couldn't get him too far up the pitch but now he’s really starting to do what we want him to do and it was centre-back to full-back type of goal.

“It’s how I encourage my teams to try to play. We’ve got to be balanced, we’ve also got to get men in the box if we’re going to score goals and that’s what we need to do.”

Collins added: “Everything we spoke about in the changing room about it being a local derby and them wanting to win games and wanting to beat us in a local derby, sort of went out of the window.

“I didn’t think it was quite that early but I don’t think we were competing before that. It looked like the goal was coming to be honest.  We didn’t get out of the blocks and I felt they wanted it all over the pitch more. I said 1-11 and I include everyone in that, I don’t think anyone turned up for the first 20 minutes.”

Sittingbourne’s deliveries from set-pieces were decent, however, Faversham’s dead-ball situations were very poor indeed.

Faversham’s long-throw specialist Lewis Chambers scythed down Rivelino Nza on the right touchline and Ajala whipped in a quality delivery which came back out to Harrison Pont but the centre-half lashed his shot over the crossbar from the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Holding midfielder George Monger floated a free-kick into the Faversham box where Rowland threw his head at the ball despite being put under pressure at the near post by Luis Dos Santos, who was ineffective in an attacking sense as a left-winger and it was no surprise when he was replaced at the break.

Rowland’s header, however, flashed across goal and harmlessly past the near-post.

Faversham Town were given a lifeline when Harding’s through ball released Emmanuel Oluwasemo in behind Pont and he was heading towards the corner flag after rounding keeper Brooks, who sent him crashing down to the ground.

Brooks was correctly booked as the attacker was going away from goal but Harding’s penalty will go down as one of the worst in history, drilling his right-footed attempt high into orbit with 19 minutes and 35 seconds into the game.

Collins said: “To be fair, it was against-the-run-of-play but it was a lifeline. It’s what we do. We sort of hung in, we find a way and yes it was a poor penalty, Harry will be the first to admit that.”

Blackburn said: “Do you know what, that’s three penalties that I’ve seen in two games, one by us and two by the opposition and all of them have ended up in the same place!

“The trouble is there’s games where it’s difficult and taking penalties is never easy. Harry Harding is a great player by the way and I fully expected the net to bulge when he stepped up to take it but in the course of a 38 game season we’re going to get some go for us and some go against us.”

A clearance from keeper Watkins gave Rowland a chance to try to score with a first-time speculative drive from 35-yards, which flew harmlessly wide of an open goal, such was the poor quality in front of goal from both sides in open play.

Faversham Town’s assistant manager Steve O’Boyle could be heard screaming to his players to “liven up!” but they conceded a second goal with 43:34 on the clock and just couldn’t recover from it.

Rowland drew a soft foul from Dos Santos and Ajala swept in the resulting free-kick from the right-wing, which was headed away only as far as Caney-Bryan, who smacked his volley screaming into the top far corner from 12-yards.

“It’s a great finish from Johan,” said the Sittingbourne manager.

“I’ve said the only thing he needs to add to his game is goals. He’s a great lad.  I’ve had him for nearly three years now since I’ve been here and he’s just a wonderful lad to have around.  He never moans about anything. He’s like your favourite child. He never gives you any grief or any hassle.  He always works hard and whether he starts or whether he’s on the bench, he always puts in a shift.”

Collins admitted: “Good delivery, which is something that we spoke about, our deliveries were horrendous all night and they’ve had that bit of quality.

“We’ve conceded in the first four minutes, we’ve conceded right on the stroke of half-time and we’ve missed a penalty in between that and not competed.  You’ll do well to only be 2-0 down at half-time. It was just a disaster, first-half.”

At half-time, Blackburn said: “Just keep doing the same thing. That’s what we said to them, keep your discipline.

“We felt with two up top we could get at their two centre-halves because Matt Bourne is a phenomenal player. He’s been amazing for years. I played into my 30’s so I know how the legs can struggle a little bit as we get a bit older.

“We just felt it was a bit of a gamble with two up top because they’re such an attacking threat and they’ve got so many great players in midfield.  We felt if we could do the right things and keep sticking to the game plan, we could get a result.”

Collins added: “We told them that’s ‘absolutely not acceptable!’

“Listen, I’ve just said it to them in there, last season and this season they have been unbelievable and they have been a great group of players and they’ve given everything that they’ve got and we have the way we play, it’s such a fine margin of error. We just didn’t turn up today.

“I can’t be too critical of them because they deliver week-on-week in the main and they’re only not giving me everything I need for a couple of minutes in the game but it’s costing us.”

Faversham Town made a tactical switch and went with three at the back with substitute Joshua Dorling coming in on the right, with Matthew Bourne in the centre and Joe Denny on the left.

Sittingbourne substitute Toby Bancroft was in a pocket of space some 30-yards from the Faversham goal but his drilled right-footed shot flashed past the right-hand post.

Faversham Town upped their desire levels after the interval and looked the more likely team to score, as Sittingbourne were satisfied to see the game out without threatening too much.

Faversham’s best chance arrived inside the opening nine minutes when Sam Bewick took a short run-up to punt his right-footed free-kick into the box where striker Ronan Campbell glanced his header straight into Harry Brooks hands from six-yards.

“Second half, I don’t know if you agree, but it was one way traffic, wasn’t it,” said Collins.

“There was a reaction, we just lacked that quality to score. The quality they had in the first half with set-pieces and balls in the box but we just couldn’t match. There were quite a few chances I felt we could’ve got something but it just didn’t fall or we didn’t have that quality.”

Blackburn added: “Harry Brooks is an experienced keeper. Young Magnus Lewis came in for a couple of games and was fantastic but there were a couple of areas of the pitch and as a team we looked like we lacked a little bit of confidence.  Magnus doesn’t lack confidence, we lacked confidence just in that general area. It’s a back five and they have to work together and Harry’s got an abundance of talking and experience so I expect him to contribute with saves throughout the game and he did that.”

The introduction of central midfielder D’Jean Spencer ignited some spark into Faversham’s play and he latched onto Donvieve Jones’ pass before curling his left-footed shot around the post from 25-yards.

“He got on the ball and looked good. He tried to make things happen and he was brave and he was something a little bit different for us, probably the only positive of the evening,” added Collins.

Chambers put plenty behind eight long throws on the night – most of them hitting the back stick - but this long-ball tactic was meat and drink for a well-organised Sittingbourne defence and it became predictable and boring.

“It’s something that we use. I thought they defended it well though but there were lots that dropped down. Did it drop for us or did we not want it enough? I don’t know. It was a poor day at the office for us,” admitted Collins.

Rivelino Nza released Oluwasemo charging towards the corner flag and he put in a low cross from the right but Campbell flicked the ball up with his boot and as the ball dropped all he could do was poke the ball behind for a goal-kick from a tight angle.

There was no surprise when Rowland got his marching orders in the 86th minute for a second yellow card, after fouls on Chambers and Denny.

Referee Peter Conn was poor, as he allowed tackles to fly in from both sides on several occasions during this hard-fought battle and Rowland could have been sent-off earlier on for a poor challenge on Chambers.

Blackburn said: “There were a few tackles in there, it was just a group of 22 honest players. I didn’t see a real malicious tackle. Of course during the game it’s an emotional time but I think on reflection even Kane getting sent-off, I said to the referee I think if he has the luxury of VAR, which obviously he hasn’t and you can look back at a monitor, the ball goes under Kane’s feet and the lad kicks Kane’s foot yet look from the referee’s angle and the sound I can understand why he’s given it.

“It’s a block tackle (from Joe Denny), it’s a foul but in the emotion of it all, I think there were a couple of fouls before but I think it’s persistent fouling.

“We don’t want to overshadow the result. I thought the officials on the night had a difficult job to do and I thought all three of them were superb. I know it’s easy to say that when you win a derby but I generally did think they got all of the big decisions right and the sending off is a bit of a tough one to take because Kane’s just come back from a broken foot and getting fitter and sharper and we’ll miss him for three games.”

Collins added: “The officials were really poor tonight. Listen, let me make it quite clear we didn’t lose because of the officials, we lost because we weren’t quite good enough but I thought the referee missed lots of challenges. It looked like fouling football at one stage.  Everyone was allowed to get away with it. I thought someone would get badly injured. I felt he didn’t get a grip on the game and it could’ve boiled over a couple of times. I thought they (the officials) were weak for a derby.”

Faversham almost responded immediately as Brooks rushed off his line and was relieved to see Jones’ chip drop over the crossbar as Faversham pressed for a goal.

However, Sittingbourne notched a flattering third goal with 44:38 on the clock, courtesy of a gift from Watkins.

Watkins clearance was controlled by Ajala, before his right-footed 35-yarder sailed over the stranded keeper – who stuck up his arm – but couldn’t prevent the ball sailing over his head into an empty goal to the delight of the Sittingbourne fans, who won’t care what this game was like to watch – their side have just beaten their local rivals.

Blackburn said: “It’s a phenomenal finish from Toby. He's a great player, he’s a great lad, he’s experienced and has been around the leagues. He’s had a few clubs, which is always a bit of a worry when you sign a lad because you don’t know why he’s had so many clubs.

“We had a good chat yesterday, on Saturday he actually turned up to the wrong ground, he turned up at home (instead of Whitehawk in Brighton). I had to give him a big fine for that, a club fine, he’s taken it on the chin.

“We had a good chat yesterday and I told him what I want from him tonight and he's turned up and he’s delivered, he’s delivered everything that I asked of him and for him to seal the win with a goal like that, a great finish, absolutely payback for turning up late because he was in the starting line up on Saturday and I had to change the line-up.

“It’s something that you expect maybe from a Sunday morning outfit. It does happen and it’s unfortunate but he’s repaid me, the team and the club and phenomenal attitude by taking his fine on the chin and finishing off with a great goal.  I thought his work-rate deserved that.”

Collins added: “Listen, poor from Luke but if it was us, we’d probably smashed the ball back into Faversham. It was a class finish. They out-worked us, they out-fought us and they had more quality than us and they fully deserved the win.”

Faversham kept plugging away, however, as Dorling’s deep cross was knocked down and Clark Woodcock teed up Denny, who struck a first time deflected drive from just outside the box which flashed past the near post.

Faversham Town notched a consolation goal with three minutes and 26 seconds into time added on.

Good wing-play from substitute Woodcock saw him put in a low cross from the right and Harding had two or three attempts to bundle the ball into the bottom near corner of the net, despite Rogers’ attempt to make a goal-line block.

Collins said: “I actually thought how poor as we were, I felt if we’d have got one, we’d probably get two and then we conceded the goal and that killed us.  We scored a little bit late, it’s a consolation isn’t it. It keeps our goal difference at two as opposed to three. I’m not taking many positives out of it.”

Blackburn added: “It’s just one of them when you get deeper and deeper and deeper and you’ve got that three-goal cushion. Every team does it, even though the manager is screaming from the side ‘don’t do it!’

“We dropped deeper and invited pressure on. We went with five at the back (with George Crimmen coming on) to try to accommodate that.  I can’t complain with Faversham getting a goal because I don’t think 3-0 is a true reflection. They competed, as well as we did, in the game, they missed a penalty.

“James will deal with all of those things that he’s got to deal with tonight and they’ll bounce back, I’m sure.”

Both sides are not playing on Saturday due to losing in The FA Cup in the Preliminary Round stage to Littlehampton Town and Chipstead respectively but Sittingbourne travel to newly-promoted side Corinthian on Saturday 11 September, while Collins welcomes his old club, Cray Valley to Salters Lane on the same day.

Blackburn said: “We’re paying decent money, we’re paying what we can afford to. The board have tried to push it just that little bit more, not a lot, but just a little bit to help us compete more with the likes of the Faversham’s and that and some of the bigger clubs in our league. We can’t compete with them all but for our club this result shows that we’re competitive.  That’s all we are, we’re hard to beat and we’ll be competitive and that’s all I want from my team.

“Tonight, the heart and the character that’s what it means. It shows me what kind of lads I have in the dressing room and we can be competitive and that’s’ all I ask.

“We won’t roll over, we won’t accept defeat and people turning up and going through the motions. We will just keep working hard for each other as a team and we’ll see where that takes us at the end of the season and hopefully we can be fighting for those top half of the table spots and not looking over our shoulder as we have been over the last few years.”

Looking ahead to facing Kevin Watson’s side Collins added: “I’ve watched Cray Valley, I think they’re a really good side, a really, really good side and it’s another chance to test yourself against good players, a good manager and a good management team.

“Kev has done so well there. The club has moved on so much since I was there and we’ll look to get a result there against a very good side and any result will be a great one for us.”

Sittingbourne: Harry Brooks, Neville Rivelino Nza, Taylor Fisher, George Monger, Freeman Rogers, Harrison Pont, Daniel Taylor, Toby Ajala, Kane Rowland, Johan Caney-Bryan (Tom Lyons 90), Ahmed Abdulla (Toby Bancroft 42, George Crimmen 90)).
Subs: James Witt, James Hawkins

Goals: Taylor Fisher 4, Johan Caney-Bryan 44, Toby Ajala 90

Booked: Harry Brooks 20, Kane Rowland 41, Toby Bancroft 55, Harrison Pont 67

Sent Off: Kane Rowland 86

Faversham Town: Luke Watkins, Donvieve Jones, Abdul Lyoubi, Harry Harding, Matthew Bourne, Joe Denny, Luis Dos Santos (Joshua Dorling 46), Sam Bewick (D’Jean Spencer 60), Roman Campbell, Emmanuel Oluwasemo (Clark Woodcock 77), Lewis Chambers.
Subs: Alfie Spiers, Joe Jarvis

Goal: Harry Harding 90

Booked: Lewis Chambers 10, Matthew Bourne 65, Joe Denny 66

Attendance: 309
Referee:  Mr Peter Conn
Assistants: Mr Piotr Zachwieja & Mr Wayne Horsfall