Sittingbourne continued their unbeaten start to the Bostik League South season with what I for one thought was an outstanding team performance in sunny Sussex.
So where to start? With:
The popular Tommy Loynes rejoining Sittingbourne the day before and celebrating his return with an excellent goal.
Harry Brooks coming in for his debut in goal when first choice keeper Darren Hawkes dropped out with a back injury and pulling off two spectacular second half saves.
Sittingbourne having a great chance to win it with virtually the last kick of the game only for a shot to roll agonisingly wide of an almost open goal.
Lewes went into the match unbeaten and – like Sittingbourne – with a two-out-of-two winning start to the league season.
But it was the Brickies who almost totally dominated the first half with an excellent display of determined and enterprising football.
They’d suffered disruption before the game when Hawkes showed he’d failed to recover from a back problem, with Brooks thrown in at the deep end.
The only other change from the team that lost in the FA Cup in midweek to Pagham was the return of Loynes to the side in place of Jidi Okimeji.
Sittingbourne began brightly on a lovely pitch in front of a good-sized450 crowd – though it was only the Brickies fans who made the noise throughout.
And they took an early lead when a corner was only half-cleared and Laurence Ball headed a pass to Kane Rowland in space on the left. His terrific cross beat all the defence and skipper Ben Gorham ran in for a simple headed goal from a couple of yards out.
Lewes took only a couple of minutes to equalise, forcing a corner from virtually their first attack. Gorham headed clear but Bosma, on the edge of the box, volleyed it first time into the far corner with an outstanding strike.
Sittingbourne hassled Lewes out of possession all over the pitch and were well on top the rest of the half. Rowland – who was terrific all game – went close, as did Loynes and David Smith, and I thought Rowland was fouled as he tried to break clear of the last defenders.
The Brickies lost Ball to a first half injury but Lex Allan was a capable replacement and made a terrific block on a Lewes shot as the home side began to make more headway in the second half.
Keeper Brooks suddenly had more to do and after tipping a shot away for a corner he made a terrific save from a close-range header, diving instinctively to his right to keep it out.
But Sittingbourne were also dangerous going forward and regained the lead midway through the half when Loynes dummied a defender to make room for himself on the edge of the area and then hit his shot through a crowded area to watch it go in off the far post.
A lot of the Sittingbourne success up till their last 15 minutes came from quickly closing down players in possession but perhaps they began to tire slightly in the heat of the afternoon.
So Conlon was given too much room for Lewes 10 minutes later and advanced to equalise with a good shot into the far corner.
Even then there was drama as both sides went for the winner.
Smith’s clever shot was well tipped away by the keeper at one end and then sub Gil Carvalho was penalised for an aerial challenge on the edge of his own area in the 90th minute. Brotherton’s powerful free-kick beat the wall but Brooks was equal to it with a truly brilliant save.
Back went Sittingbourne and when the keeper saved at full stretch from sub Miles Cornwell he was still struggling to get up as the rebound fell invitingly for Smith. But his attempt to sidefoot the ball first time into the huge gap at the near post was just inches wide.
So both sides lost their 100 per cent league records but maintained their unbeaten starts, Sittingbourne bouncing back impressively from the midweek FA Cup disappointment to show they should be a force this season if they keep up this level of play.
Ken Medwyn's video here CLICK HERE Photographs follow:
Bouwe Bosma (11')
Ronnie Conlon (78')
Ben Gorham (8')
Tom Loynes (67'
Referee: Matthew Russell
Assistants: Paula Wyatt, Declan Hellyer.
Laurence Ball (Lex Allan, 39 min),
Kane Rowland (Miles Cornwell, 80 min),
Tommy Loynes (Gil Carvalho, 69 min),
Subs not used: David Adekoya, George Blake.
Harry Reed (Yellow card) (George Landais, 80 min),
Lloyd Cotton (Yellow card),
Reece Williams-Bowers (Steven Brinkhurst, 32 min),
Shomari Barnwell (Jonte Smith, 78 min),
Subs not used: Liam MacDevitt, Matthew Hurley.
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