What a week! Last Tuesday night there was all the euphoria and excitement of decisively beating Herne Bay. Seven days later, on the same pitch and at the same time, there was the abject disappointment of crashing out of the FA Cup to a County League side.
This was the second year in a row Sittingbourne have gone out of the Cup in a preliminary round replay, but whereas last year they were soundly beaten by Hythe Town, this time they should surely have found a way to beat Pagham at either the first or second attempt.
Mind you, all credit to the side from deepest Sussex who defended excellently, battled well, had the best player on the field in central defender Ryan Davidson, and hid the most dangerous player in Terrell Lewis until he turned the game as a second half substitute.
Sittingbourne tried hard enough but after an exhilarating first 15 minutes they didn’t create enough chances from open play, and got nothing at all from any number of corners and free-kicks which Pagham defended well.
Such a shame from a financial point of view for a club who would have loved a near £2,000 pay-out from the FA for winning, and such a blow to morale for this newly-assembled side to suffer their first defeat in such a way.
After the honours-even 1-1 draw in Sussex on Saturday, Sittingbourne made two changes, Ollie Brown returning from suspension at left-back, and David Smith preferred to Gil Carvalho as he came in for his full debut.
Pagham showed what they thought of Smith by immediately upending him for two of the sort of deliberate fouls that were later earning yellow cards all over the field.
Smith took it all in his stride and shot wide from Kane Phillip’s cross before Bola Dowadu was narrowly off target from Ben Gorham’s header across goal and Tyrone Guthrie rattled a brilliant shot against the Pagham bar from 25 yards.
All this in the first quarter-of-an-hour and Pagham were on the ropes, but they somehow survived what was pretty much an onslaught with Sittingbourne tigerishly winning all the tackles all over the pitch.
Kane Rowland was wide with a couple of openings while at the other end Darren Hawkes made a good diving save and then watched as Murfin’s free-kick sailed narrowly wide.
Half-time and you’d have put your money on Sittingbourne winning against lower league opposition in the second half, over-powering and out-witting them just like they did Herne Bay the week before.
But it just never happened. There were chances aplenty as they dominated possession, but too many passes went astray and the attacking all got a bit urgent and lacking in control.
They went close when Lawson Okimeji had a shot tipped over, Phillip hit a shot just wide on the turn, and right at the end Rowland’s header was too close to the keeper to trouble him.
Sittingbourne’s defence had little to do but they were caught out in the 70th minute when Pagham sub Lewis unleashed a tremendous shot past Hawkes aimed at the far corner. It crashed against something, looking for all the world like the side stanchion, and rebounded straight back into play with the referee waving play on. Pagham were furious but the officials can’t give it if they don’t see it and on this occasion Sittingbourne looked like they’d got away with one.
They hadn’t learned the lesson as Lewis again got in unmarked at the back post in the 82nd minute and this time made no mistake with his finish, Sittingbourne looking in vain for an offside flag that was never raised. It was the first goal Sittingbourne have conceded in open play in all four league and cup matches played this season.
Pagham, so disciplined in most of what they did, then lost full-back Hawker to his second yellow card – his first had been for dissent after the goal that wasn’t – but they managed to hold out with 10 men against Sittingbourne’s earnest but fruitless late attacks.
It’s the hope that kills, said a famous football fan once, and Sittingbourne’s players and supporters will have felt that only too well at the end of a night of such disappointment.
Ken Medwyns Photographs
Match day Programme
Terrell Lewis 82 mins
Referee: David Harrison
Assistants: Richard Joss, Dan Baruch
Jide Okimeji (Yellow)
Ben Gorham (C) (Yellow)
Laurence Ball (Lex Allan 86 mins)
Kane Rowland (Yellow)
David Smith (Gil Carvalho 72 mins)
Subs not used: David Adekoyal, George Blake, Harry Brooks, Nick Davis
James Binfield, (Yellow)
Jake Hawker (Red)
Jamie Horncastle (C)
Lloyd Rowlatt (Yellow)
Calum Overton (Terrell Lewis 66 mins)
Scott Murfin (George Bingham 86 mins)
Subs not used: Johan Van Driel, David Crouch, Josh Iriish,
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