No matter what stage you enter you never want to go out to a team that is below you in the pyramid – you don’t want to be that scalp, says Sittingbourne boss Darren Blackburn

Friday 20th August 2021

SITTINGBOURNE manager Darren Blackburn says he wants to enjoy a FA Cup run this season.

The Brickies sit proudly at the top of the Isthmian League South East Division table after last Saturday’s impressive 4-0 home win over newly-promoted side Lancing on the opening day of the season.

“I had a couple of sleepless nights over selection and expectations at the club and then to compound things we saw the prediction table that was published saying that we were nineteenth out of twenty – at least we weren’t predicted to be relegated though, which has to be some silver lining,” said Blackburn.

“So, if you could have written the dream start against opposition we knew next to nothing about, then it would have been exactly as the game panned out.

“We saw a couple of videos about Lancing but found out on the day before the game that they’d had seven or eight new players come in from last year.

“We still went out with our game plan and to be 3-0 up at half-time was the absolute dream start – it was a fantastic day!

“Three-nil gives you that extra confidence and to get it just before half-time on Saturday was massive as it gave us a little more freedom for the second half and something to defend.

“A two-goal lead can still let the other side back into the game – in fact anything at this level can get a team back in the game but our third goal gave us that cushion and the boys put their bodies on the line for the win and I’m proud of every single one of them.

“You have to remember that the starting 11 hadn’t played 45 minutes before Saturday at all so for that team to produce a 45 minutes like they did was fantastic.”

Confidence is high going into tomorrow’s FA Cup Preliminary Round tie against Littlehampton Town at Woodstock Park.

Littlehampton Town are in third-place in the Southern Combination Premier Division table having beat AFC Varndeanians 6-4 on the opening day of the season, before beating Broadbridge Heath 6-2 in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round two weeks ago.

Littlehampton Town then beat Horsham YMCA (4-0), lost 2-1 at Peacehaven & Telscombe before bouncing back with a 6-0 midweek win at Steyning Town.

Sittingbourne’s club captain Kane Rowland sits out after testing positive for Covid-19.  Right-back Neville Rivilino faces a late fitness test after picking up a knock in training, while Nick Treadwell is a doubt following a back procedure this week.

“Realistically, our aim has to be to try our best to win two or three games to get as far as we can and see who we get,” said Blackburn.

“We’ve all grown up with the Magic of The Cup – the famous beatings of sides who have gone out to so-called smaller opposition.

“No matter what stage you enter you never want to go out to a team that is below you in the pyramid – you don’t want to be that scalp – and that’s what we face at the weekend.

“But we won’t approach Littlehampton any differently to Lancing or any side in our own league – we will approach every single game in exactly the same manner.

“Of course, the dream is for us to go as far as we can but from a practical point of view if you can get through two or three rounds, the prize money, especially this season, is so vital to our club – and every club – at this level. That has to be the main goal for the weekend – enjoy the day, try and get a win and if you do try and enjoy the day out in the next round.

“I've done a bit of research on Littlehampton, they're a free-scoring team at the moment and have had a great start to their season, based on last weekend’s results should be two sets of confident players that will hopefully make for a good game of football for both sets of fans.

“I also appreciate that our fans would so love a Cup run. All fans do – they’re great as are all football fans who get off their backsides on a Saturday afternoon and go and support and back their local football team, then in my book all credit to you!

“I’m lucky enough as manager where I get to watch two good teams every week in this League and to me on a Saturday that’s my luxury on a Saturday afternoon – watching a game of football and that’s something that not everyone has been able to do for such a long time.

“Our fans are brilliant, and they were outstanding on Saturday. The bar was buzzing after the game and it was great to see the smiles on the faces, it was incredible.

“I sometimes question why we put ourselves through it every week and I can’t speak for other managers but what we saw on Saturday is a massive, massive part of why I do it – the players reactions afterwards with the fans and yes I know that the players get paid, but they have to enjoy it just like your job or mine.  

“For them you have to enjoy who you’re playing for and with, but the fans pay to get in and it’s that group that we have to deliver for and to give each and every one of you our supporters a Cup run would be amazing!"

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Sittingbourne  v  Littlehampton Town
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 21 August 2021
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Woodstock Park, Broadoak Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8AG