Sittingbourne 0-2 Guernsey - We haven't got enough points yet to stay in the league, says Nick Davis

Saturday 20th December 2014

Ryman League Division One South
Saturday 20th December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Broadoak Road

SITTINGBOURNE manager Nick Davis admits he is suffering from sleepless nights as the club’s poor run of form continues.

Seventeen-placed Guernsey flew in for a one o’clock kick-off at Woodstock Park and sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Matthew Loaring and Dominic Heaume.

Sittingbourne remain in eleventh-place in the Ryman League Division One South table with 35 points from 27 games but have now tasted victory once in their last nine games in all competitions.

“I don’t think we started at all first half, I think (for the) first 25 minutes,” said Davis, after the club suffered their 12th league defeat of the season.

“Second half was a bit better.

“We’re giving the ball away when we’ve not got any pressure on the ball. We’ve got to keep the ball better, it’s as simple as that.”

Sittingbourne have now failed to score in their last three games and Davis admitted: “At the moment I’m looking where our next goal is going to come from.  It’s a little bit of a worry if I’m being completely honest with you.

“I tried to be a bit more attacking today, putting people forward.  David Abe’s back now, which will hopefully be a plus. Stephen Okoh’s missing today.

“Defensively we’ve been quite solid all season in all fairness.  We might’ve had the odd one or two freak results but we’re not scoring. 

“The alarm bells started ringing because we haven’t got enough points yet to stay in this league, which is a bit of a worry.”

The Channel Islanders went into the game with nine away league defeats but Tony Vance’s side were on the front foot for most of the first half.

They went close to opening the scoring inside five minutes when Ryan Zico-Black swung in their first corner from the right which sailed out to Angus MacKay, who was given space to fill his shot past the near post from sixteen-yards.

Sittingbourne also went close from their first corner but George Crimmen came up from the back to plant his header wide after Hicham Akhazzan’s flag-kick from the right.

But a smart save from Sittingbourne keeper Adam Molloy denied Guernsey a seventh minute lead.

Craig Young played a sublime through ball in between central defenders Crimmen and Matt Harden to put David Rihoy through on goal but the keeper advanced off his line to block with his legs.

“I wasn’t pleased about it in all fairness.  There was no pressure on the ball from deep in midfield and we got (caught out) a couple of times,” said Davis.

“I said to them the first rule that I’ll always say as well if there’s no pressure on the ball, you can’t keep a high line because third man winners and people running behind causes problems - and it did.

“We tried to play offside. We’re still a bit naïve at the back. It didn’t quite hurt us so much second half but I told them about that at half-time.

“We can’t hold high lines if there’s no pressure on the ball.  They’ve got some decent players and put balls in decent areas.”

Mackay penetrated the Sittingbourne defence on a run from the halfway line to reach the by-line before cutting the ball back past Molloy but striker Heaume nipped in front of his man to direct his header over from six-yards.

Crimmen’s long ball out of Sittingbourne’s defence almost put striker Joe Nwoko through on goal but keeper Chris Tardif showed more desire to get to the ball first on the corner of his penalty area.

This marked the Kent side’s best spell of the game and they were to be denied by two great saves from Tardif.

Sittingbourne left-back Jono Richardson reached the channel and played the ball inside to Nwoko who played in Akhazzan with a reverse pass and the club’s longest serving player clipped over a cross towards the far post which was met on the volley by an unmarked Tom Brunt, but Tardif stood tall to beat the fiercely struck drive towards safety at his near post.

Richardson stayed up and met Ollie Brown’s cross from the right with a downward header but was denied by another great save from the Guernsey keeper, who dived to his right to use a strong outstretched right hand to prevent the hosts grabbing the lead.

Davis said: “It was a great double save.  It’s not been going for us at the moment. We created probably as much as they have maybe, maybe they shaded it but we still haven’t scored have we?

“Last week we missed a penalty when we was dominating the first half against Horsham and we lost the game 1-0. If you don’t win games, you don’t get points do you? It’s just not going for us at the minute.”

But while Tardif excelled in goal for Guernsey, Sittingbourne’s keeper Molly gifted the Green Lions a deserved 27th minute lead.

His kick went straight to Mackay inside the Sittingbourne half and he clipped a sublime defensive splitting pass to release Loaring through on goal, who poked his shot tricking past the keeper to nestle inside the bottom far corner.

“It’s one of those ones, one of the free ones and Adam wasn’t too pleased about it.  It was one ball and it’s not good defensively,” said Davis.

The manager admitted he was concerned with the way that Guernsey comfortably clipped balls over the top of his back-four on more than one occasion.

“Defensively, we’ve been outstanding since I’ve been here, other than the Merstham game (when we lost 5-0 at home two weeks ago), so it’s hard to be critical to the back four. We’ve got to defend those better.”

Zico-Black’s fine diagonal pass released Loaring down the left but the striker’s poor first touch allowed Molloy to race off his line to gather the ball.

Guernsey right-back Liam Mahon then clipped a diagonal ball forward and with one man running back from an offside position, Loaring latched onto the precise pass but drilled his left-footed shot over when he only had Molloy to beat.

Molloy then caught Rihoy’s left-footed volley from 25-yards after Cochrane clipped another long ball out of Guernsey’s defence.

Davis was clearly disappointed with Sittingbourne’s first poor first half performance.

He said: “They were the better side. I’ve seen them four or five times now, they’re a side that’s never a big side so they’re good footballers, they keep the ball, technically they were better than us on the ball.

“I said to them at half-time, you’ve got to win your battles first of all to earn the right to play and when we do get the ball, we do try to play.”

Guernsey created the first chance of the second half after only 77 seconds when Rihoy played in a low cross from the right and Young’s left-footed drive from 22-yards rolled into Molloy’s gloves.

Sittingbourne, who were kicking down the slope during the second half, should have equalised in the 52nd minute.

Crimmen won his midfield battle and poked the ball inside to skipper Brunt, who cut inside and his initial shot was blocked and the ball fell to substitute David Abe, who steered his first time right-footed shot past the near post from eight-yards.

Davis said: “David Abe’s back, he’s been out for three or four weeks.  I thought it made a difference when he came on. He was very mobile, he’s a good athlete. He’s got a lot of pace.  It’s a big plus having him back.”

Young released Rihoy into the Sittingbourne penalty area on the hour-mark but his shot took a deflection and looped just over the crossbar.

Sittingbourne right-back Brown played a diagonal pass to release substitute Abe, who cut inside and drilled his right-footed angled drive into the side netting from 25-yards.

The muddy, bobbly pitch was not conducive to playing attractive football and Sittingbourne failed to find a way back into the game.

Davis said: “It’s difficult in conditions like these – I’m not slagging the pitch off alright!

“It looks like some of my players have ice-skates on though, they’re falling all over the place.

“It is what it is.  As I’ve said before, we’ll win one, we’ll draw one and we’ll lose one and on our day we’re a good side but unfortunately that day doesn’t come round every week. It comes around one in three.”

Rihoy won his battle and cut in from the right and a left-footed drive from midfielder Zico-Black from 22-yards brought a comfortable save from Molloy.

Richardson looped his header over the Guernsey crossbar after he met Brunt’s cross from the right.

But Guernsey sealed a comfortable and deserved victory with 77 minutes on the clock.

Sittingbourne switched off at a free-kick and Mackay slipped the ball to Young down the left channel and he cut the ball across the face of goal and poacher Heaume tapped home his eighth-goal of the season from close range at the far post.

Davis said: “I think we’ve switched off actually. They played a little ball through. I’ve said they take things very quickly. They’re not the biggest so their set-pieces are spot on and everything they do is very quickly. They do a lot of work on the training ground.

“Adam is adamant the boy’s offside.  I can’t tell. I’ll look on the video and I can tell then.

“It was the killer punch. We’re not going to get back at the moment being two goals down because we can’t score.”

Sittingbourne’s holding midfielder Peter Smith cracked a speculative right-footed drive high and wide from 30-yards in his last action before being replaced by diminutive winger Ehis Izokun, who drew a couple of comfortable saves from Tardif with efforts from outside the penalty area as the game came to a close.

Sittingbourne have now failed to score in their last three games and Davis admitted he is concerned with that statistic.

“That’s been the story unfortunately. We’re trying to rectify that in training.

“Before the start of the season the loss of Ryan Golding and Joe Taylor would be huge for us to replace them and we haven’t really replaced them.

“The forwards we’ve had have huffed and puffed but to lose the quality of Taylor especially is huge.  I don’t want to keep dwelling on it but if you don’t score goals it’s always going to be an issue.

“I’ve given the boys a good fair crack of the whip and I said I weren’t going to make changes. I’ve given them many opportunities.  Maybe now is the time that I have to look elsewhere.”

Sittingbourne are thirteen points clear of relegation and have nineteen games of the season remaining.

“I’m a little concerned,” admitted Davis, who admits to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of the season.

“It’s not going for us. It’s not like we’re not playing badly every week.  I weren’t pleased with the first half performance today.  We need to keep the ball better. If you keep the ball and keep good possession and the opposition haven’t got it then and they can’t score.  It’s not rocket science. It’s as simple as that.

“We didn’t do that well enough today but it is a concern and that’s down to me to fix.

“We probably need another fifteen points actually to be safe.  I think you’ve got to look at that first and foremost.

“We had some decent results earlier on but I think the position we were in was potentially false if I’m being completely honest.

“It’s difficult. It is tough. I have sleepless nights and I’m on the phone a lot. I don’t miss playing actually through the fact that I’m so stressed over it.  I haven’t had time to think but it’s a job in the Ryman League at a big non-league club.”

Sittingbourne: Adam Molloy, Ollie Brown, Jono Richardson, Matt Harden, George Crimmen, Ollie Bankole, Peter Smith (Ehis Izokun 82), Tom Brunt, Joe Nwoko, Elie Kayembe (David Abe 50), Hicham Akhazzan (Gary Webb 62).
Subs: Bryan Bell, Nick Davis

Guernsey: Chris Tardif, Liam Mahon, Jason Winch, Sam Cochrane, Josh Steel, Angus Mackay, David Rihoy (Daniel Hale 86), Ryan Zico-Black, Dominic Heaume, Matthew Loaring (Paris Perira 64), Craig Young.

Goals: Matthew Loaring 27, Dominic Heaume 77

Booked: Ryan Zico-Black 75

Attendance: 123
Referee: Mr Stuart Butler (Coxheath)
Assistants: Mr Garry Worrell (Thornton Heath, Surrey) & Mr Gerry Heron (Beckenham)