Sittingbourne 0 Bognor Regis Town 0

Saturday 10th September 2011
Sittingbourne 0 Bognor Regis Town 0
Ryman League Division 1 South
At: Bourne Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £1-50 (32 pages)
Attendance: 122
Weather: mostly sunny, no rain
Duration: first-half: 46:06; second-half: 48:00

Since we moved to the Midlands from Tolworth in 2001, I hadn’t seen a match in Kent apart from when Stafford Rangers travelled down to Welling, Gravesend and Northfleet, Dover or Folkestone. Today provided a perfect opportunity to head to the 'Garden of England' as a neutral fan following my run this morning at City of London orienteering event.

I managed to complete my course by 11-30 am (some satisfaction as the first to finish the Newcomers Course and the early leader; final position 18th out of 61). So, there was plenty of time to get to St Pancras International station, catch the train to Sittingbourne (which followed the high-speed line to Ebbsfleet) and walk (slowly) the 1.6 miles from station to ground by 2 pm.

The match proved to be an anti-climax as my Ryman League Division 1 South ‘champagne job’ also turned into a ‘tram job’ as a 0-0 draw though ‘Garstang Bob’ wasn’t present to witness it!

Sittingbourne moved to Bourne Park around 10 years ago, a fact I wasn’t aware of until a couple of years ago as I had assumed they were still playing home games at the Central Park greyhound stadium (visited 1991). As I’d also seen Sittingbourne play at the old Bull Ground in 1990, I could only think of one other team off the top of my head I’d seen play home games at three different grounds – the old Runcorn FC at Canal Street, Halton Stadium and Prescot’s Valerie Park.

I pondered a couple of questions. My last Ryman League game? Not 10 years ago as I thought but April 2010 at Tooting and Mitcham United. And my last non-Stafford Rangers game in Kent? That was 10 years coincidently in Sittingbourne at the UK Paper Ground home of Milton Athletic with an impressive white pavilion.

I picked up both a badge and copy of Chris Harte’s Watching Brief from the club shop, tea from the refreshments bar, borrowed a teamsheet from a spectator sat near me and settled down for the game.

Looking at the league table in the programme, visitors Bognor Regis went into the game in second position (12 points from four games) with a 100% record. Dulwich Hamlet who defeated them in last season’s play-off topped the table on goal difference. Sittingbourne (4 points from 4 games) stood just below mid-table in 14th position and were looking to bounce back from two straight league defeats.

Bognor (in white shirts, green shorts and white socks) got the game underway attacking the entrance end in the first half.

At about the quarter hour mark, I looked down at my notes (or lack of them) and pondered what on earth I would I have written had I been in my former role of providing running copy for the Sporting Star and Green’Un. No attempts on goal, no corners, no bad tackles, no bookings, in fact only a contentious back pass in the 12th minute from Bognor defender Stuart Axten into his keeper’s hands which the referee chose not to punish. Defences were very much on top.

Then, in the 17th minute, Josh West, on the left, turned and fired a right foot shot straight at the Bognor keeper Craig Stoner. Sittingbourne by the way were wearing red shirts with two black vertical stripes, black shorts and socks.

Bognor started to create the odd chance and Tom Bond powered a free header over the bar from Ben Johnson’s corner.

Half-time – no rain, no goals – so tea and chips much needed from the excellent refreshments bar. I got chatting to one fan who asked how far I'd travelled after initially assuming I was a Bognor fan. He told me about his caravan trips to Cannock Chase and also that the stand at Bourne Park came from the old ground.

Sunshine greeted the start of the second half and Terry Dodd lobbed the advancing home keeper Tim Roberts only to see the ball land wide of an unguarded goal.

Roberts produced a decent dining save in the 65th minute to keep out James Fraser’s left-foot shot and ten minutes later Stoner tipped over a rising drive from Billy Manners.

And that was just about it. Sittingbourne won an injury-time corner from which substitute Carl Harold headed well wide.

Will there be a goal next Saturday when the teams meet again at Bognor for an FA Cup with Budweiser Preliminary Round tie?

The PA announcer kept us updated on the substitutions and minutes added by the referee. It liked his piece for every home change: “Please show you appreciation as he leaves the field for number 7 Jack Hooper!”

Neil Morris texted me to say the forecast rain had hit Bearsted during the match he was watching 30 miles away. I though the clouds had missed me – no, as they heavens opened during my walk back to the railway station!

Sittingbourne (red with two black vertical stripes / black / black): !. Tim Roberts, 2. Ryan Cooper, 3. Dan Palfrey, 4. Jamie Coyle (capt), 5. Jerry Nnamani, 6. Billy Manners, 7. Jack Hooper, 8. Colin Richmond, 9. Ryan Golding, 10. Josh West, 11. Hicham Akhazzan. Subs: 12. Sam Groombridge (for Hooper, 64), 14. Elie Kayembe (for Golding, 76), 15. Carl Harold (for Akhazzan, 34), 16. Luke Girt (not used), 17. Matt Read (not used).

Bognor Regis Town (white/green/white): 1. Craig Stoner, 2. James Crane, 3. Matt Whitehead, 4. James Fraser, 5. Stuart Axten, 6. Tim Bond, 7. Dan Beck (capt), 8. Kane Wills, 9. Jason Prior, 10. Terry Dodd, 11. Ben Johnson. Subs: 12. Luke Nightingale (for Dodd, 70), 14. Jon Marzetti (for Whitehead, 80), 15. Chris Breach (not used), 16. Lewis Ide (for Fraser, 88).


Sittingbourne: Jamie Coyle (YC, 87)
Bognor: none