That’s the faith in Sittingbourne restored after an energetic and committed display saw them so nearly rescue a point at Whyteleafe.
After what was a sour Boxing Day at Ashford, this was altogether sweeter – though for all their effort it still ended up a sixth successive defeat and they’re now in the bottom half of the Bostik South League table.
What a turn-around from earlier in the season when these teams last met, Sittingbourne winning 2-1 themselves that time and finishing the day second in the league.
Whyteleafe have been on a poor run themselves before ending it with a Boxing Day win over Chipstead, but they’ve got a very good home record and certainly know how to battle and fight for every ball.
Without Tom Loynes, Chris Elliott, Kane Phillip and the suspended John Coker, Sittingbourne didn’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of team selection even if they had been contemplating changes after the disappointment of losing to struggling Ashford United four days earlier.
Laurence Ball and Tyrone Guthrie returned to the starting line-up, and Dan Parkinson came on as a late substitute in his first appearance for more than a year after injury.
Both teams straightaway turned it into a much quicker and more intense game than the one at Ashford with plenty of challenges and hefty tackles that a lenient referee allowed to take place.
Bola Dawodu had a good early effort saved but it was Whyteleafe who took the lead in the 14th minute following a lofted clearance aimed towards the inside-left channel. The slightly higher bounce on the artificial pitch seemed to wrong-foot the otherwise sound central defensive pairing of Ben Gorham and Ball, and Hutchings was able to get in a square pass for Day to easily convert.
Back came Sittingbourne in a well-contested and even first half, with the hard-working Ben Davisson having a rare Brickies free-kick blocked, Guthrie putting a couple of shots wide and Dawodu winning headers in the area only to see no-one latch on to the second ball.
Whyteleafe were lively themselves and Hutchings, who has faced Sittingbourne many times over the years for various clubs, missed a good chance in first half injury time.
Sittingbourne came out very determined for the second half and took the game to the home team in a desperate search for an equaliser.
That left them vulnerable to the counter-attack and just such a quick break down the right earned Whyteleafe a second goal, the cross turned neatly in at the near post by Hutchings.
But there was no backing away from the challenge by Sittingbourne and they continued to press forward, sub David Smith looking to pull a goal back with an audacious shot from the halfway line that only just missed the target with the keeper racing to get back in goal.
All that effort was rewarded on 71 minutes when Kane Rowland showed great dedication to close down a Whyteleafe defender and then win the ball off him in a fierce little battle. He still had plenty to do but from an acute angle Sittingbourne’s top scorer lifted a delightful chip into the far corner – what potential this lad has, and no-one worked harder for the cause all game.
Sittingbourne mounted an awful lot of pressure but it was Whyteleafe who probably had the best chances in the last 20 minutes as they countered quickly whenever the opportunity arose against an understandably stretched defence.
Goalkeeper Harry Brooks made three good saves to keep it at 2-1, but – and it wasn’t for the want of trying – Sittingbourne just couldn’t force an equaliser at the other end.
By far the best chance fell to that man Rowland again in an almighty scramble in front of goal but a Whyteleafe defender cleared with the keeper beaten. Rowland appealed that it had crossed the line and it must have been a pretty close thing but the assistant referee kept his flag down.
That’s the way the luck goes when you’re on a losing run – but Sittingbourne have four home games coming up in January and surely they’ll get back on track sooner rather than later if they retain the commitment and endeavour shown in this game.
Ken Medwyn's photographs follow
15 mins, Scott Day Whyteleafe
59 mins Tom Hutchings Whyteleafe
72 mins Kane Rowland Sittingbourne
Referee: Jonathan Cresswick
Assistants: Anand Desai, Michael Hayden
Jidi Okimeji (Yellow card) (David Smith, 60 min), Ben Gorham,
Tyrone Guthrie (Dan Parkinson, 80 min),
Miles Cornwell (Lex Allan, 88 min),
Subs not used: Nick Davis, Jordan Carey.
Callum Adonis-Taylor (Yellow card),
Hassan Ibrahim (Shawn Clement-Peter, 54 min), Scott Day,
Tommy Hutchings (Vance Bola 67 min),
Subs not used: Joseph Debayo, Jake Connaris, Oliver Milton.
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