Town beaten after defensive howler
A TRULY awful goal settled this Kent derby at Homelands to give Sittingbourne the bragging rights over their former manager Steve Lovell.
Although Ashford created the better chances overall they were made to scrap all the way by a Sittingbourne side clearly up for the battle, winning most of the 50/50 challenges and forcing Town into increasingly desperate drives forward to try to rescue a point.
The deciding moment came five minutes from the interval when Town were clearly unhappy when a corner was given against them and Colin Richmond’s cross was perfectly swung into the box.
Ashford wasted three chances to clear the ball which bobbed about invitingly in the area until Tom Bradbrooke stabbed it into the net.
It was a disastrous moment defensively and all the more so in that it proved decisive in the end. Sittingbourne came into the clash prepared to battle and Ashford’s tactic of leaving Claude Seanla on his own up front clearly wasn’t working in the first half.
Town never had a shot on target in the opening period but they were left to rue one of the best openings of the half.
A terrific saving tackle by skipper Sean Ray, arguably Town’s best player of the night, broke up a dangerous Sittingbourne attack and Town swept straight upfield where Mitchell Sherwood found himself with a clear shooting opportunity only to see his well struck effort rocket back off the post.
Disappointingly Town’s only other dangerous attack saw Seanla head over from a Sherwood cross.
Despite having two wide players in Sherwood and Tony Browne, Ashford persisted in playing too narrow and ignoring the flanks and Sittingbourne twice almost embarrassed them, getting in byline crosses that were scram- bled away.
Town changed it again at half-time introducing former Bourne men Bradley Spice and Andy Doerr up front for Seanla with Daniel Brathwaite dropping back to replace full-back Robbie Ryan in a more conventional 4: 4:2 set up.
They looked more comfortable right through the half and Spice could have been an instant hero.
His first touch was to force a good save from keeper Matt Reed but then wildly blasted over when the rebound came straight back to him.
But Bourne were also still a threat, Jack Haverson having a shot cleared off the line.
Shewood saw a glancing header well saved by Reed but with Sittingbourne commanding at the back they in vain resorted to pushing Ray up front to boost the attack.