Up in the top 10 again after back-to-back wins, and what an excellent and determined victory this was for Sittingbourne.
It sounds so easy to score twice in the first few minutes and then hold out for the rest of the game.
In fact, it’s one of the hardest ways to win a match and takes real commitment and hard work by the whole team to keep out a decent side like Hastings for a whole hour-and-a-half.
Following on from the 4-0 midweek win over Guernsey and the first clean sheet for 17 matches, this was Sittingbourne back to something like their best form of earlier in the season.
John Coker was brilliant, Harry Brooks and Kane Rowland made excellent and vital contributions, defenders Chris Webber and Sal Kisitu, midfield dynamos Dan Parkinson and Ben Davisson, young winger Rhys Bartlett, all of them put in terrific contributions.
Sittingbourne understandably kept the side that beat Guernsey in midweek with new signings Richmond Ayaloo and Alfie Cue waiting on the bench for their chance.
Restored to leading the line in midweek when he celebrated by scoring twice, Rowland made an immediate and stunning impact on the game.
Sittingbourne had already gone close through a deflected effort by Bola Dawodu – he had a good game too! – when they went in front with just two minutes played. Parkinson picked up on a misplaced pass in midfield and hit an instant through ball for Rowland to score with a clinical and confident finish.
And one became two just a couple of minutes later when Davisson tried to thread Rowland through, and as a defender hesitated he reacted quickest to stab the ball past the advancing keeper. That’s 19 goals already in a highly-impressive first season at this level by the young striker.
He almost completed a first half hat-trick by nicking a touch on Chris Elliott’s huge throw-in as well as heading over from Kisitu’s cross.
But to be fair, it was Hastings who had the majority of the first half possession, passing the ball around well without ever cutting out much in the way of clear-cut chances, even though they were helped by quite a long succession of free-kicks.
Hastings came out for the second half looking full of determination to get back in the game but Sittingbourne carved out half-chances for Rowland and Dawodu, with Bartlett showing some clever creativity in setting them up.
It was tense for a while with the feeling that just one mistake and the visitors would be right back in it, but Sittingbourne defended well despite having to rejig following an injury to Elliott, with Coker pulling off one exceptional block and Brooks called on to make a good save.
Into the dying minutes – when Sittingbourne have been at their most vulnerable in some recent home games – and Hastings put in one last effort.
Sub Lex Allan stretched for a tackle on the very edge of the area and for the second weekend in a row Sittingbourne had conceded a penalty in a hardly-threatening position. But Brooks pulled off a terrific save, flinging himself to his left to parry Rodari’s shot and keep a second successive clean sheet.
Brooks has done excellently this season to clinch for himself the No 1 shirt above Daren Hawkes and then Jordan Carey, and thoroughly deserved the hugs of his teammates at the end of the game just minutes later.
Sittingbourne look better balanced and more at ease with themselves in the last couple of games – they’ve never found Hastings easy to beat and this was an important and rewarding success for them.
Ken Medwyn's Video / pics
Ken Medwyn's Pics
Match Day Programme
3 Mins, Kane Rowland Sittingbourne
6 mins, Kabne Rowland Sittingbourne
Referee: Gerry Heron,
Assistants: Christoper Price, Notis Liappis.
Chris Elliott (Lex Allan, 51 min),
Dan Parkinson (Tyrone Guthrie, 68 min),
Bola Dawodu (Yellow card),
Kane Rowland (Yellow card),
Rhys Bartlett (Alfie Cue, 85 min).
Subs not used: Richmond Ayaloo, David Smith.
Sam Crutwell (Kenny Pogue, 71 min),
Davide Rodari (Yellow card),
Sam Adams (Yellow card),
Calum Davies (Zac Kieran, 78 min),
Ansu Janneh (Jack Dixon, 45 min),
Subs not used: Jamie Fielding, Daniel Ajakaiye.
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