With all due respect to Ashford United, Sittingbourne won’t have many easier £3,000 pay-days than this.
That was the amount offered for the winners of this Buildbase FA Trophy preliminary round, and Sittingbourne didn’t really have to raise a sweat to win it at a canter.
An in-form and confident side swept to a fifth successive win, and collected a fourth successive clean sheet – that’s six hours of football without conceding a goal.
The only puzzle about what’s turning into quite a season for Sittingbourne is that one week back in August when they couldn’t beat Ashford in a goalless league game and lost to Pagham in the FA Cup.
OK, they were a new side still gelling together at the time, so praise the players and management for the huge steps they’ve taken forward since then.
Sittingbourne made two changes from the team that won at Herne Bay in midweek, Daren Hawkes returning in goal for Harry Brooks and Ollie Brown back in midfield with top scorer Bola Dawodu on the bench.
The Brickies dominated from the start, winning possession back all over the field when Ashford occasionally got on the ball, Brown and Tyrone Guthrie doing a lot of unsung work in the middle of the pitch.
But it was the home side who had the first real chance of the game, Watters using his speed to burst clean through only to hit his shot past the advancing Hawkes and beyond the far post.
Sittingbourne weren’t able to turn their superiority into any real chances until the 28th minute, but it was then that they took the lead.
Guthrie won the ball back in midfield, John Coker found Gil Carvalho in space on the right and he burst into the area before a powerful low drive had keeper Kamurasi saving at full stretch. But he couldn’t hold onto the ball and Kane Rowland was quickest to react to divert it into the net.
Sittingbourne passed the ball around a lot at the back in the first half, with Ashford not showing much intent to win it back, and they obviously decided to get it forward much quicker in the second half.
A couple of substitutions helped with that, Tom Loynes adding skill and positivity to the forward momentum, and the keeper saved from Brown and Carvalho, while Dawodu went narrowly wide just after coming on.
Ashford showed how precarious a one-goal lead could be as Davisson shot just past an open goal from distance after Hawkes miscued a clearance to him.
The second goal soon followed, though, as Carvalho hit the ball beyond the defence after Ben Gorham had won possession, and Rowland calmly lobbed his second of the afternoon over the keeper. A first double of the season for a lad who works extremely hard at all times and deserves every success.
The floodgates were open after that and it could have been four or five with Loynes hitting the bar and then leaning backwards to miss an easier chance, while Miles Cornwell shot just over.
Ashford had a rare breakaway opportunity when the otherwise outstanding Chris Webber missed his kick but Hawkes saved well, turning the ball onto his own post and then catching the rebound.
Sittingbourne wrapped it up in the last minute when Coker’s powerful header from a Loynes corner was saved by the keeper, but again he couldn’t hold it and sub David Smith swept in the loose ball.
Rare defensive mistakes apart, this was a competent and classy Sittingbourne performance and a deserved place in the next round at the end of the month against Merstham.
Photographs by Ken Medwyn
Kane Rowland 29 mins
Kane Rowland 70 mins
David Smith 90 mins
Referee: Ryan Head
Assistants: Joshua Howard
Ben Gorham (C)
Kane Phillip (Tom Loynes 52 mins)
Tyrone Guthrie (Mobalji Dowadu 52 mins)
Kane Rowland (David Smith 76 mins)
Substitutes not used: Lex Allan, Chris Elliott
Michael Phillips (Isaac Boateng 76 mins)
Max Watters (Conner Westney 68 mins)
Substitutes not used: Clarke Woodcock, Jonathan Difford, Joseph Bingham
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