A brave effort by Sittingbourne to halt the highly-organised juggernaut that is Dorking Wanderers’ drive for football at a higher level.
In the end, one goal settled it as Dorking became only the second team this season, along with runaway league leaders Tooting and Mitcham, to complete a double over Sittingbourne.
But this was much tougher for them than the home 3-0 win over December, though the fact they’ve kept two clean sheets against Sittingbourne this season tells its own story.
Sittingbourne made four changes from the team that drew at Chipstead the previous Saturday, with Joe Loft suspended for ten bookings, Tom Carlse not having recovered from injury, and David Abe and Connor Wilkins also out.
In came new midfielder Chris Regis, recently released by Colchester, with Josh Wisson, Sam Welch and Gil Carvalho all recalled.
Dorking started with plenty of possession – that’s the way they like to play – but Sittingbourne energetically countered that by pressing all over the pitch and refusing to let them settle.
The result for a long spell was Dorking restricted to half-efforts that Simon Overland, in the Sittingbourne goal, comfortably dealt with. And he also made a good save when Dorking’s Beard got in behind the home defence.
Sittingbourne’s best attack of the half ended with Wisson racing into the area on a move conjured up by Regis and Kane Phillip, but the keeper just got to his cross first.
Dorking were gifted the opportunity to take the lead on 41 minutes when Jack Steventon won a high challenge and headed clear against a visiting player who seemed to make no effort to go for the ball.
Very harshly, in my opinion, the referee penalised Steventon, but Overland was up to the task, dramatically saving Tolfrey’s penalty with judicious use of his legs.
Sittingbourne had done well to hold Dorking in the first half, but they stepped it up in the second half and really took the game to them.
Second-placed Dorking have by far the best defensive record in the division, but they were rocking for a bit against Sittingbourne’s high tempo attacking.
Regis had a cross diverted behind for a corner after a great run, Wisson hit the top of the bar following Carvalho’s corner, and Keanu Williams, who had very little chance to make an impact after his two-goal debut the previous week, blasted a shot wide.
Dorking made two substitutions to try to get back into the game and almost immediately got the only goal of the afternoon. They won a disputed free-kick and when Sole fired it in, captain Boulter scored with a bullet header.
Sittingbourne went close in a frantic scramble after a corner, though it ended tamely with Conrad Lee shooting over, and at the other end Overland completed a good afternoon’s work with a fine one-handed save low down by the post.
Dorking showed all their considerable experience to nick this win, and while Sittingbourne will be disappointed at having nothing to show for an afternoon’s hard graft, at least they can be satisfied that they gave it their all to match a team heading at least for the play-offs.
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Chris Boulter 64 mins
Referee: Ricky Adams
Assistants: Joe Kasper, Piotr Zachwieja
Jack Steventon (Yellow)
Jono Richardson (C)
Kane Philip (Bradley Schafer 71 mins)
Josh Wisson (Steven Ita 80 mins)
Gil Carvalho (Connor Wilkins 80 mins)
Subs not used: Tom Carlse, Nick Davis
Chris Boulter (C)
Guiseppe Sole (Gareth Chendlick 77 mins)
Sam Beard (Dean Gunner 63 mins)
Tom Tolfrey (Dan Pearse 60 mins)
Subs not used: Alex Wells, Thomas Summerfield
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