The Hillians just don’t lose penalty shootouts, do they?
Burgess Hill travelled to Sittingbourne hopeful of carrying on the penalty shootout winning exploits of the previous round when we dispatched Felixstowe & Walton Utd after drawing in 90 minutes. What happened next over the course of this 90 minutes was a bit of a case of deja vu….
Injuries, suspensions and general unavailability hit the Hillians hard for this one but it also presents opportunities for others to step up and impress. One of those given a start was Charlie Pitcher and he almost opened the scoring in the 6th minute. Connor Tighe found himself dictating the play and he slipped a lovely ball through for Pitcher but his right footed effort was well saved by Matt Cafer before the rebound almost landed at Jeff Duah-Kessies feet but it just evaded him. It was an end to end opening 10-15 minutes that saw Sittingbourne go very close to opening the scoring. Danny Taylor was given to much time on the edge of the Hill penalty area and he unleashed from distance. Enos Duah in the Hill goal had no chance and was very thankful that the ball came crashing back down off the crossbar instead of landing in the goal hole. Harry Pollard was deployed at RB for this one with Reggie Ward out injured and Brad Santos suspended and the Hillians were indebted to him midway through the first half. A wicked low cross in from the right hand side saw the bill zip across the Hill box and it would’ve been a certain tap in at the far post had Harry Pollard somehow not hooked the ball over his own bar on the stretch. The fast and frenetic opening passage of play had been taken over by a mid half slumber from both teams, neither side looked very threatening offensively with all of the play happening in the midfield seemingly. A rare chance came in the 38th minute when Connor Tighe whipped a free kick in from wide out on the left, the ball missed everyone but almost caught Matt Cafer out in the Brickies goal but the ball just sailed wide. The half seemed to be drifting towards a 0-0 first half but one final chance fell to the hosts. A cross from the left just hit Nic D’Arienzo, the ball could’ve ended up going anywhere but thankfully Nic was also the quickest to react to the loose ball in the box and he smashed the ball to safety.
The second half started with pouring rain from the heavens and for the second time in the afternoon, the Brickies hit the crossbar. It was only 3 minutes into the second 45 but Sittingbourne won an early corner, they delivered it and Donvieve Jones’ header came back off the bar and Hill scrambled it clear. The Hill were living dangerously at the start of the second half, Enos Duah pulled off a fabulous reflex save from Jerry Puemo’s thumping header to keep the scores level. It had been all Sittingbourne in the second half but on the hour mark, Jay Lovett introduced Dan Perry who was returning from a knock and 6 minutes later, Hitman had opened the scoring. Hayden Skerry won the ball back high up the pitch for Hill, he played it out wide to Connor Tighe on the left hand side and he spotted Dan Perry free in the middle. Connor crossed the ball in for him, Hitman took a touch to pluck it out of the sky and then buried it through Matt Cafers legs to give the Hill the lead at Woodstock Park. Sittingbourne were quickly looking to get themselves back level, and I can’t really tell you how they didn’t. Sittingbourne have pinched Lewis Chambers from Faversham, and for those who aren’t familiar, he is the man with the ginormous long throw. Twice he hurled the ball into the Hillians box and twice a goalline scrambled ensued with a goal looking like a formality both times, somehow though, on both occasions, Hill managed to clear the danger and survive, with Jay Lovett getting greyer by the second on the touchline. With the clock passing 90, there was barely seconds left on the clock but Sittingbourne’s relentless second half pressure finally paid off. A cross in from the right hand side was flicked on by Donvieve Jones and it nestled into the far corner sending this game into a penalty shootout.
The only positive for Hill was that they had been in this exact position before with penalties. Would that help them? The Hill took first and Connor Tighe, as he did against Felixstowe, scored his penalty. Sittingbournes first penalty hit the bar and that gave Dan Perry a chance to put us 2 up and Hitman was never going to miss. Sittingbournes second penalty was brilliantly saved by 17 year old Enos Duah and that gave Lewis Finney a chance to put one foot in the next round but he hit the crossbar. Sittingbourne eventually scored with the third penalty before Hillians debutant Ben Delisle showed no nerves, tucking his kick away. Sittingbourne had to score to stay in it with the 4th pen and they duly did before Martyn Box, like he did against Felixstowe, had the chance to win it but his effort was saved by Matt Cafer. Sittingbourne still had to score the 5th pen to take it to sudden death which they did. The pressure was on Hill Captain Josh Spinks but the Mid Sussex Maldini eats pressure for breakfast, absolutely walloping his kick into the bottom corner. That left former Cray Valley man Matt Warren needing to score to keep us going but he sent his effort sailing over the crossbar and the Hill went marching on, on, on.
We do not ever do things either smoothly, easily or without some form of drama, do we?! 17 year old Enos Duah on loan from Sutton United was the hero and we eagerly await our Third Qualifying Round Draw on Monday at 1pm.
Next up for Hill, it’s Velocity Trophy action as we make our way to Chichester City on Tuesday night.