Sittingbourne go international on Saturday to play a Guernsey team who are struggling for the first time since they came into the league.
They’re currently in the bottom four of Ryman League Division One South after winning just two games all season.
Sittingbourne have never won on Guernsey but there’s probably been no better time to end that run.
Mind you, it’s never an easy trip with players having to get up before dawn to start on the long journey. It’s an hour or so drive to Gatwick, then a hang-around waiting for a mid-morning flight and – if it’s on time, which in Sittingbourne’s experience is a big if – more hanging around once they arrive in the Channel Islands. It’s difficult not to eat the wrong food at the wrong time and altogether it’s a long old day.
Several of this Sittingbourne squad, players like Jono Richardson, Hicham Akhazzan, Tom Brunt, Conrad Lee and Stef Wright, are old hands, though, and will be able to guide the younger players through their away-day.
The first time Sittingbourne went to Guernsey it was a night game and they drew 1-1, though it kicked off late because of flight delays. The match had been re-arranged from a Saturday when Sittingbourne’s players all arrived at Gatwick only for flights to be cancelled due to a computer glitch.
The following season they lost 3-0 and last season they went down by the same score, again after their flight was delayed and they arrived less than an hour before a delayed kick-off.
So three times out of four they’ve been left kicking their heels because of delays at Gatwick, or in one case kicking the ball into a waste bin after a series of team keepy-uppys which somehow ended up on YouTube.
The welcome at Guernsey has always been first class, and the attendance is up over 500 which makes for a half-decent, if pretty biased, atmosphere.
But out on the pitch the green-and-whites haven’t been doing so well, though a 4-2 defeat on Wednesday night by Faversham was actually the first game they’ve lost at home this season.
Before that, on Sunday, they were held to a 1-1 draw by a Godalming side who went into the game bottom of the league.
And to make matters worse for Guernsey, they lost their experienced goalkeeper Chris Tardif with a broken leg in that match. Which means home fans won’t be able to sing ‘There’s only F in Tardif’ which has always amused them in the past.
Sittingbourne manager Nick Davis should have some selection options for his final line-up with choices available all over the field following some squad rebuilding.
Jack Steventon is back after suspension and Ricky Gundry should be available after missing the midweek 2-0 defeat at Tonbridge through being cup-tied.
Sittingbourne have slipped into the bottom half of the table after a couple of home defeats, but their away record is strong as they’ve only lost twice on their travels in the league this season.
Saturday’s match kicks-off at 2pm so the players can round off their day by catching the last flight out of Guernsey at 6pm.
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