Not much love around on Valentine’s Day as these Kent rivals battled – and that was the right word at times – for the points.
Despite handing out nine cards, and not always for the worst fouls it seemed, the referee struggled for much of the time to control the match.
He infuriated Herne Bay by reducing them to 10 men in the first half and after that almost every decision was questioned and argued over.
So what should have been a night to remember for Sittingbourne legend Hicham Akhazzan as he scored his 100th goal for the club will probably stick in the mind for all the wrong reasons.
Sittingbourne gave a debut in defence to Jardel Bunda-Kamara, who put in a mature performance, and up front after a gap of at least 18 months David Abe returned and he worked hard all night.
Bay started the stronger and Sittingbourne ‘old boy’ Mark Lovell put a free header wide in the first minute.
With goalkeeper Simon Overland on the ground, Sittingbourne were rescued by Jono Richardson clearing off the line in the 12th minute but Bay maintained the attack and Williams shot them ahead with a low drive into the far corner.
Sittingbourne responded and a magnificent through ball by Josh Wisson put Abe clear on goal in the 25th minute, but he was brought down by Sayer as he prepared to shoot.
It looked a clear penalty and the referee gave it, as well as bravely sending off Sayer for the foul, all under enormous pressure from the Bay players.
Akhazzan, though, struck the penalty against the post and what followed until half-time was an unsavoury 20 minutes with fouls all over the pitch.
The worst – in my opinion, though it somehow didn’t merit a yellow card – was on Connor Wilkins which left him with stud marks up the length of his thigh. Plenty of bottle shown by him to carry on after treatment.
Sittingbourne had obviously talked at half-time about the wisdom of moving the ball about up against 10 men and they took control of the match.
With just 10 minutes of the half played, Wilkins closed in from the right and when the ball fell loose, Akhazzan swept it first time into the corner from the edge of the box for the equaliser.
He celebrated by sprinting to his Dad, and having seen virtually all the 100 goals he’s got in his remarkable 10-year service to the club, I would say this was as sweetly struck as nearly any of them.
The momentum was truly with Sittingbourne now and they went ahead on 76 minutes when Akhazzan and Wisson both had shots blocked and Akhazzan then kept his cool to play it across the goal where courageous youngster Wilkins raced in to stab it over the line.
Overland made a couple of good saves as Bay tried to rally but surely Sittingbourne would be able to see it out, even though they’ve been vulnerable to losing leads late in games previously this season.
It all got a bit silly as the referee started flourishing cards for players rolling the ball back to where a free-kick should have been taken, yet ignoring blatant fouls.
But there was nothing silly about Bay’s 90th minute equaliser, a beautifully-struck free-kick by Turner from 25 yards that somehow got past the defensive wall and in at the far post.
Bay probably deserved a point for their resilience, while Sittingbourne will be kicking themselves for not seeing out the game safely to the end.
What a learning curve, though, for the promising young players they’ve been able to bring on this season, proving to them you’ve got to be tough and brave at times to complement all their obvious skills and potential.
Ken Medwyn's photographs follow.
Match Day programme, Best viewed in Google Chrome
Hicham Akhazzan 55 mins
Connor Wilkins 76 mins
Danny Williams 13 mins
Michael Turner 90 mins
Referee: Michael Marsh
Assistants: Kirstie Dowle
Sam Welch (Yellow) (Tom Brunt 52 mins)
Jono Richardson (C)
Connor Wilkins (Bradley Schafer 77 mins)
Conrad Lee (Yellow)
Josh Wisson (Yellow)
Hicham Akhazzan (Gil Carvahlo 85 mins (Yellow)
Subs not used: Jake Embery, Jason Ngandu
Nathan Eastwood (Toby Wood 88 mins)
Gary Sayer (Red)
Liam Quinn (C) (Yellow)
Connor Saunders (Yellow)
Michael Turner (Yellow)
Mark Lovell (Yellow)
James Turner (IzzyAdebayo 81 mins)
Subs not used: Chris Elliott, Caleb Afoke
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