It was a bad day at the office as a trip to Sittingbourne yielded our first defeat in 2018, writes James Barrett-Sterling.
Team news There was a first full start for Rio Davidson-Phipps, while Tommy Bradford and Jordan Cheadle returned and Danny Dudley was given the captain’s armband.
Kick-off We started on the front foot, knowing full well victory, coupled with a defeat for Lewes, would crown us champions.
We almost took the lead on five minutes as Dudley connected with a Cheadle free kick from the right, but he couldn’t keep the ball down and the chance flew over the bar.
But, just a minute later, Ola Sogbanmu played a neat one-two with Bradford before drilling a low shot past Harry Brooks from 19 yards – it was his fifth goal in five appearances.
Sittingbourne had more than one long-throw specialist in their squad and the bombardment began early – Lewis Chambers delivering one into our box on 11 minutes but David Smith smashed a shot over from six yards.
We went up the other end and won a corner which Dudley met running across goal, but he glanced a header just wide of the far post.
News had filtered through that Lewes were one-down at Faversham Town so our travelling fans were singing loud and proud.
The game settled after that – Sogbanmu and Raheem Sterling-Parker, whom forced a flying save out of Brooks, kept the home defence on their toes, while Smith did the same at the other end, but neither keeper really had much to do.
So it was a little out of the blue when Sittingbourne equalised on 38 minutes – Seyfattin Akdeniz made some space 20 yards from goal and his slightly deflected effort flew over the despairing dive of Billy Bishop.
Again, we went straight on the attack and Cheadle was teed up 35 yards from goal. He hit a powerful shot that flew millimetres over the crossbar.
HALF-TIME: 1 - 1
Much like the first-half, we flew out the blocks and Bradford was played clean through by Cheadle on 47 minutes. No offside flag came but our man seemed to hesitate at the last second and Brooks came out to block his eventual shot.
Ryan Healy then fired one just wide from the edge of the area, before Bradford this time played Peter Adeniyi in behind the home defence. He displayed quick feet to skip round Brooks but the angle was poor and his shot hit the near post.
Then, just before the hour mark, another corner was met by Mohammed-Idris Olishaja but he saw his header bounce off the crossbar.
So, yet again, when Sittingbourne took the lead on 59 minutes it came against the run of play – nobody picked up Smith as a corner came in and he headed home from about seven yards.
Although Lewes were still losing, we couldn’t let ourselves rely on other results and so Omar Koroma was brought on for Healy, but we struggled to fashion any real chances.
And we were caught cold on 73 minutes as yet another long throw came into our box and the unmarked Smith headed his second of the game.
Could we turn things around like so many times before? Well, it wasn’t for a lack of chances during the last quarter of an hour.
We threw on Brendan Murphy-McVey for the tiring Davidson-Phipps and threw caution to the wind a little, with Sterling-Parker forcing a fine save out of Brooks after connecting with an Adeniyi cross.
Sittingbourne looked dangerous on the break and substitute Germaine Dua managed to bustle past Olishaja, but Bishop stayed big to block the shot. Smith’s eyes lit up as he sensed a hat-trick goal but Cheadle had dropped back onto the line and cleared the striker’s shot away.
In the last couple of minutes, a Cheadle free kick broke for Dudley inside out host’s area but Brooks performed a miraculous save to push the ball away for a corner.
That delivery was met by Dudley and he powered a free header goalwards but, yet again, Brooks pulled out a spectacular stop – our man yelled at the heavens in frustration.
The second corner was blocked away but Murphy-McVey found Adeniyi on the far side of the area and his cross was blocked by a raised arm of the jumping Dua. The referee pointed to the spot and Sterling-Parker placed the ball.
News had just filtered through that Lewes were now losing 2-0 but the chance to reduce our arrears just before stoppage time had arrived – sadly Sterling-Parker blasted the penalty over the bar and this time there was no comeback.
Both these results now mean the league title will be won by either us or Lewes on the last day of the season.
Match highlights and post-match interviews coming soon via robins.tv
Next up We completed our promotion-winning season with a home game against VCD Athletic on Saturday 28th April.
Carshalton Athletic: Bishop; Davidson-Phipps (Murphy-McVey – 75), Dudley (c), Olishaja, Cheadle; Adeniyi, Healy (Koroma – 63), Bradford; Pattisson, Sogbanmu, Sterling-Parker Unused subs: Burns, Price, Morath-Gibbs Goal: Sogbanmu (8) Assist: Bradford Booked: Dudley
Sittingbourne: Brooks, Dorling, Blewordah, Chambers, Webber (c), Allan (Crimmen – 37), Hatfull (Elliott – 71), Guthrie, /smith, Akdeniz (Dua – 57), Loynes Unused subs: Allen, Riches Goals: Akdeniz (38), Smith (59 and 73)
Our ‘Man of the Match’: Ola Sogbanmu Attendance: 167 Current league position: 1st with 99 points