A super goal by young sub David Smith with his first touch in his first game for Sittingbourne gave his delighted teammates a winning start to the season.
The Brickies fought back from an early goal down to secure a deserved victory, their first on the opening day of the season for three years.
Their new-look side, with Kane Phillip the only survivor from the starting XI that played at Chipstead only at the end of last season, blended together impressively and could prove quite a force this season.
They had pace and strength, an excellent back two in new captain Ben Gorham and the experienced Laurence Ball, and a whole lot of determination to go with it.
Only the returning Miles Cornwell and Ollie Brown – who was sent off for a second yellow card in injury time – had played for Sittingbourne before, along with Phillip and the mercurial Gil Carvalho.
The rest were all new, and manager Nick Davis had no choice but to throw them in at the deep end following the mass exodus of last season’s squad. And if they were indeed in at the deep end, they swam rather than sunk.
Sittingbourne started the game really brightly and it was no surprise when a Chipstead player urged his mates: ‘Come on, they’re playing with us.’
Yet it was the home side who went ahead with just 11 minutes played, a right wing corner headed on at the near post for defender Martin to head comfortably home at the far post.
A setback, yes, but not a terminal one for battling Sittingbourne and the equaliser came from their own right wing corner, on 26 minutes. The ball was played back to full-back Chris Webber and his cross to the far post would probably have gone in anyway before Ball made sure by heading it over the line from a yard out.
Sittingbourne grew in confidence and the hard-working Kane Rowland had a header saved by the keeper at the second attempt from Gorham’s pass, and then saw his shot kept out by the scrambling keeper at full length.
And just before half time, Jide Okimeyi – they call him Lawson – headed wide from Carvalho’s cross after doing excellently to get forward from midfield to create the scoring chance.
Sittingbourne went for it in the second half, with four forwards up much of the time, but they didn’t create a lot for a while, with Darren Hawkes comfortably keeping out a couple of Chipstead efforts at the other end.
Youngster Smith, who has been kept under wraps a bit by Sittingbourne, came on after 73 minutes and immediately took control of the situation when his team won a free-kick 25 yards out. And no wonder, as he confidently hit a tremendous shot into the top corner with the keeper nowhere near it to put Sittingbourne 2-1 up.
And his influence on the game didn’t end there as Smith took the free-kick which Ball thudded against the bar a couple of minutes later and he then set up a close range chance for Rowland which the keeper saved well.
So Sittingbourne were by no means clinging on to their lead in the last 15 minutes, though their day was somewhat spoiled deep into injury time when left-back Brown picked up a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge and was sent off.
It’s a long, hard season and there are bound to be setbacks ahead, but what a start by Sittingbourne and how delighted Davis and his management team must have been with how well his thrown-together side knitted together.
Next up it’s Herne Bay on Tuesday evening at Woodstock – a Kent derby to relish in the circumstances.
Ken Medwyn's Photographs follow:
Jordan Martin 12 mins
Laurence Ball 26 mins
David Smith 75 mins
Referee: Michael Begley
Assistants: Stuart Smith, James Field
Ollie Brown (Red)
Ben Gorham (C)
Kane Phillip (Yellow)
Kane Rowland, (David Adekoya 90 mins)
Miles Cornwell (Tyrone Guthrie 78 mins)
Gil Carvalho (Yellow) (David Smith 73 mins)
Subs not used: Lex Allan, Harry Brooks
Jordan Martin (Adam Allen 37 mins)
Karl Parker (Keanu Williams 76 mins)
Tobi Adaji (Ollie Twum 70 mins)
Subs not used: Taylor Woodcraft, Mathew Warren.
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