Sittingbourne rallied hard, and they rallied well, but it was all a bit too late as Hythe Town held on for the win they desperately wanted in their challenge for a play-off place. The fact that goalkeeper Simon Overland was by far Sittingbourne’s best player tells its own story, as not only was he their best but he was also their busiest much of the time. Hythe dominated a lot of the game in their bid for revenge for a 4-0 defeat at Sittingbourne earlier in the season, but when the Brickies got at them in the final stages of the game it was all a different story. They pulled back a beautifully-taken goal through substitute Jason Ngandu, Hythe had a defender sent off, and suddenly it was all Sittingbourne until time ran out on them. They made two changes from the team that beat Molesey 2-0 the previous Saturday, Gil Carvalho stepping up for his full debut on one wing, and new signing Kane Phillip, from Herne Bay, making his first start on the other wing. Connor Wilkins and Hicham Akhazzan dropped down to substitute. Sittingbourne started shakily with Hythe looking by far the more decisive and powerful side. They missed a great chance early on, then Overland made a good save, but Hythe forced home their advantage from an 18th minute corner, which Sittingbourne manager Nick Davis will have hated to see being conceded. A simple corner beyond the far post was headed back across goal by unmarked skipper Cloke for May to touch over the line. Overland made a couple of excellent saves as Hythe kept up the pressure while at the other end Sittingbourne captain Jono Richardson couldn’t quite climb high enough to get proper contact on a headed chance. All in all it was a disappointing half for Sittingbourne, and the second would have started even worse had Wilson not missed a great chance from close range. Carvalho screwed his shot just wide when Sittingbourne did get forward, but Hythe’s Adams hit the bar after 58 minutes and they made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later. Again it was a horrible goal to concede with Johnson scuffing in a low cross from the left which drifted right across the six-yard box before Grant tucked in from close range. Overland made a great save to keep it at two, and suddenly Sittingbourne began to not only get back in the game but then get on top. A sweeping move starting on the right and finishing on the left with a cross by Akhazzan was cleverly volleyed in with his left foot by Ngandu, just two minutes after coming on as substitute. Hythe were rattled as Sittingbourne at last put them under pressure and began running at them, and when Ngandu was fouled as he challenged for the ball just outside the area, central defender Cook was sent off for his second yellow card. Sittingbourne finished with a flurry of corners but nothing to show for them, and the last action of the game featured another excellent save by Overland in a rare Hythe attack. A disappointing result for Sittingbourne after they’d previously found how to beat Hythe by going at them with pace and passion, and the defeat puts them back in the bottom half of Ryman South with nine games left now to force a top-half finish.
Victories over top teams like Greenwich Borough, Hythe Town and Walton Casuals have been high points of Sittingbourne’s season.
But it’s been their consistent ability to see off sides near the wrong end of the table that has made them a top-half team.
It took them over an hour to get the better of struggling Molesey, but it was comfortable in the end and gave home supporters their first chance to cheer a Sittingbourne win at Woodstock since early December.
But even more important was keeping a clean sheet – for the first time in 15 games.
Sittingbourne made just one change from the team that played Herne Bay on Tuesday night, with Joe Loft resuming in midfield and Jack Steventon switching back to central defence. After an impressively cool debut, Jardel Bunda-Kamara was unlucky to miss out.
It was a lovely afternoon, with an air of spring about it, and there was a lovely start to it, too, with the presentation of an award – and a spectacular picture by Ken Medwyn - to the legendary Hicham Akhazzan to mark his 100th goal for the club.
Sittingbourne began the match strongly and front-runner David Abe might even have scored in the opening minute when his pace surprised Molesey keeper Allen. Abe blocked his clearance but the ball rebounded over the goal.
There was a lovely move down the right by youngsters Josh Wisson and Craig Wilkins, combining with Sam Welch, but soon after Wilkins went off injured and Sittingbourne lost their early momentum.
They conceded possession a bit too easily, but Molesey’s finishing wasn’t anywhere near as efficient as some of their build-up play, and Simon Overland was comparatively untroubled in the Sittingbourne goal, apart from having to come out to block with his legs a shot by Lodge just before half-time.
Molesey went even closer just after the break when Welch cleared off the line after Grobler had a free header from a corner.
Sittingbourne began to get more of a grip on the game but it still needed an immaculately-timed tackle in his own area by impressive sub Gil Carvahlo to stop a dangerous Molesey move.
The breakthrough arrived on 71 minutes when Conrad Lee’s right-wing corner was powerfully met by captain colossus Jono Richardson to head home his sixth goal of yet another excellent season.
Molesey tried to press forward but left themselves under-manned at the back and when Sittingbourne broke from defending a corner they had a three-on-two advantage. Abe used the supporting runners as dummies and kept racing in on goal before scoring his first goal for the club in nearly three years with a powerful strike.
It could have been three near the end when popular unsung hero Lee worked his way clean through on goal but he just failed to beat the keeper in a one-on-one.
No late alarms this time as Sittingbourne eased calmly to a welcome win with the defence taking a major share of the honours for ending the run of goals conceded.
It was nothing like as dramatic or confrontational as the midweek clash with Herne Bay, but enjoyable and ultimately more rewarding in the end.