There were some positives for Sittingbourne at Carshalton in the first game of 2018, despite it ending in a disappointing seventh successive defeat.
Firstly, Harry Brooks made some splendid athletic saves in goal.
Secondly, the players worked very hard to stick with great discipline and commitment to the game plan. Thirdly, they prevented fifth-placed Carshalton from scoring a goal in open play until the last kick of the match.
And last but by no means least, their ever noisy and optimistic supporters gave Carshalton’s fans a lesson in how to get behind their team.
But all that apart, it was a game to forget, and they didn’t force a single save out of the home keeper all afternoon.
New signing from Dartford, Alfie Cue, was named in the Sittingbourne side but was replaced after the warm-up by Tyrone Guthrie. John Coker, after suspension, and Kane Phillip returned to the starting line-up.
The first half-hour was possibly the dullest first 30 minutes of the season. Sittingbourne pressed high and energetically to stop Carshalton playing out from the back – in a typical performance by a team playing on a 3G pitch - and the home side didn’t seem to have a plan B.
Sittingbourne forced a couple of corners and Miles Cornwell tried his luck from distance but almost breached the high fence behind the goal.
Carshalton, with the silent majority in a decent 378 crowd presumably willing them on just in their heads, had one chance quite out of the blue, but Brooks made a lovely one-for-the-camera save, arching backwards to tip it round.
It was a very committed job by Sittingbourne to keep the home side successfully at bay, but it went pear-shaped just before half-time when Bola Dawodu was judged to have fouled right on the edge of the area and Miller confidently converted the resulting penalty. It looked harsh to me, as the forward seemed to be going over outside the box already, as he tried to dart between two players, but the referee was admittedly 50 yards or so closer.
He was also closer seconds later when Kane Rowland whisked the ball into the six-yard box straight from the kick-off, but he picked out another foul by a Sittingbourne player, Cornwell penalised for a push.
Plenty to play for in the second half, with Carshalton having created very little to earn their lead, and Ben Davisson wasn’t far off the target with a 20-yard shot.
Just after Dawodu seemed to be very harshly booked, Carshalton won a second penalty when an attacker went down under Chris Webber’s challenge, Miller again converting, this time low into the opposite corner.
Sittingbourne saw more of the ball in the last half-hour but Carshalton showed how comfy they were at defending and quickly counter-attacking, Brooks keeping the score down with a string of excellent saves.
Disappointingly, Sittingbourne lacked either the pace or ingenuity to get in at the other end and threaten to pull the game back, as they had done a year ago on this pitch, pulling back from two-down in the last ten minutes to draw 2-2.
It all seemed to be petering out when Lawson Okimeji misplaced a pass in his own penalty area and Miller picked up his hat-trick goal with a confident finish into the far corner.
Over half the defeats in this seven-match losing run have been away to promotion-chasing top five teams, and Sittingbourne now have a couple of potentially winnable home games to put an end to their sorry sequence.
Carshalton, 44 mins, Mickel Miller (Pen)
Carshalton, 64 mins, Mickel Miller (pen)
Carshalton, 90 mins, Mickel Miller.
Referee: Craig Green
Assistants: Paul Agboola, William Davis
Chris Webber (Yellow card),
Ben Davisson (Dan Parkinson, 74 min),
Kane Phillip (Chris Elliott, 74 min),
Bola Dawodu (Yellow card),
Miles Cornwell (Jidi Okimeji, 58 min),
Sub not used: Jordan Carey.
Ola Sogbanmu (Paris Hamilton-Downes, 77 min), Tommy Bradford,
Mickel Miller (Yellow card),
Mohammed Idris Oshilaja.
Subs not used: Mekheil McCloughlin, Josh Phillips, Levi Phillips, Brendan Murphy-McVey.
To be harsh, Sittingbourne made too many mistakes on the day and VCD were able...
Up in the top 10 again after back-to-back wins, and what an excellent and...
So long since a home win. So long since a point after seven successive...
There were some positives for Sittingbourne at Carshalton in the first game of...
That’s the faith in Sittingbourne restored after an energetic and...