Waltham Forest were unable to keep their run of recent good form going when they came up against some awful weather conditions and a Sittingbourne side intent on getting their first win of the season in the League. Judging by the corner flags, Forest had the slight advantage in the first half but the wind and rain swirled so much it must have been a nightmare for both sides. Sittingbourne had the best of the first half as they managed to blunt the Stags’ attack but both sides are to be commended on a cleanly fought tussle under the circumstances.
Sittingbourne were the first to make an impact after only 3 minutes when David Cory had chance of gaining the early lead when he beat Gavin King to the ball but was only able to shoot across the goal and wide.
That was really the highest point of the game for the next thirty minutes. Sittingbourne pushed forward but made little impact whilst Forest found it difficult to get the ball up to their two fromt runners who would have devastated the rocky Sittingbourne defence given half a chance.
It took until the 4-0th minute for Sittingbourne to take the lead with what was both a well taken and deserved goal. Lee Browning ran up the right and passed inside to Paul Manning lurking on the edge of the Forest area, Manning turned and fired a well placed shot past King and the Brickies were in the lead.
The Stags showed much more urgency in the second half and should at least have shared the points but bad luck, some poor defending and an awful off side decision gave the spoils to Sittingbourne.
On 62 minutes Forest were unlucky not to draw level when Clarke at last found some space in the inside left channel and manages to cut the ball back for Papy Kanyuka whose shot beat the ‘keeper only to rebound along the line back into his grateful hands. It was not long after that Sittingbourne hit the post too.
On 70 minutes a Solomon Henry had a golden opportunity after cutting through the defence to receive Clarke’s long ball from the left. With only the goalkeeper to beat, the linesman’s flag was raised for an off side. Had the laws of the game been changed without our knowledge, only the FA and the Assistant Referee can tell us: he must have been watching Henry and not the three defenders playing him on side.
Forest began to get into their stride and both Clarke and Kanyuka found more space on their respective wings but some quick thinking from ‘keeper Fewell as he raced out to the edge of his area to dispossess Clarke before getting into a scoring position
With just seven minutes to go Mark Beeney had lined up substitute Paul Ainsworth to come on and bolster the defence however before he could come on Forest won a free kick which ended up at the feet of Kanyuku who although not hitting the ball cleanly managed to get enough impetus on it to avoid the desperate attempts of Hill to clear and nestle in the net.
With only 4 minutes left on the clock, King came out to the edge of his penalty area to make a clearance. The wind kept the ball in the Stags’ half and Sittingbourne were able to capitalise. Coyle fielded he ball and passed to Douglas who seemed to have an inordinate amount of time as he ran towards the penalty area. The Stags defence backed off and allowed Douglas to curl the ball around King for the winner.
The Stags had little time to equalise but with six substitutions and 30 seconds supposingly allowed for each substitution, one could wonder how it was that only 2mins, 30 secs. Could have been allowed at the end of the match when the physios had been on the pitch at least four times.
Whether another few minutes would have allowed the Stags to level is questionable: Sittingbourne shaded it and deserved their win. However, at Berkhamsted the referee was very pedantic about having to add 30 seconds for each substitution. I leave that one hanging in the hope that the FA or some referee might answer.