THIS AFTERNOON'S MATCH PREVIEW – SITTINGBOURNE (HOME) KO 3.00PM
Turbulent times for this afternoon's opposition at the Hill as visiting Sittingbourne arrive in East Dulwich reeling from the news that the coffers are empty with Gary Abbott and his team informed by the chairman, Andy Spice that they would no longer collect a wage for representing the club. Early cup exits and a host of weather-enforced postponements, including the potential money-spinner of a Boxing Day derby with Faversham Town, coupled with plummeting attendances at Bourne Park, eventually left Spice with no choice but to withdraw the playing budget.
Since the announcement was made to the players after Saturday's home defeat to Eastbourne, striker Tom Bradbrook is the only Brickies player to have attracted interest from other clubs, with Margate, Thamesmead Town, Leatherhead and Whitehawk all approaching the club with seven-day notices to speak to the player. Despite the lack of money, there was no lack of loyalty the following Monday when every available player reported for duty at Walton Casuals where another goal from the freescoring Bradbrook and a penalty from former Hamlet man, Billy Manners, helped the Brickies to a crucial point. However, whilst the club is confident most of the playing squad will stay at Bourne for the time being, it is feared Abbott's days in the home dugout may be numbered.
More critical though is the future of Sittingbourne FC itself, a club that has enjoyed a rollercoaster ride of disaster of triumph in recent years. The vast edifice of Central Park that o'ershadows their current humble home serves as a painful reminder of the days when the Brickies dared like Icarus to fly too close to football's sun, before crashing back to earth. Bourne Park itself, to some ramshackle and tumble-down, too bears witness to those faithful fans who reawakened the corpse of the club, kept it alive in first Southern League, then Isthmian, often flirting with a return to the Kent League but punching above their weight in recent campaigns.
This term, despite a sluggish start to the season, the Brickies once more have proved more than a match for the moneyed mercenaries, currently lying two places and one win outside the last playoff position. It took them a while to get going, knocked out of the FA Cup by Andover at home and without a league win until 7th September when Kent rivals, Ramsgate were beaten 3-0 in front of just 97 fans. The result had the effect of applying the jump leads to the Brickies' season, winning six of their next eight league games before holding loadsamoney Whitehawk to a commendable draw at Bourne Park. As October turned into November, wins over Whitstable and Whyteleafe were tempered with narrow single goal defeats to Fleet Town and highflying Burges Hill along with a Championship Manager Cup exit to Premier Division Tooting.
The snow wiped out all home games in December though road trip to Horsham YMCA (5-0) and Folkestone Invicta in defence of the Kent Senior Cup (2-0) were especially fruitful. As the year turned, the form has deserted Sittingbourne, two points out of a possible twelve as Sword of Damocles hovered ever closer.
Not surprisingly, the much-envied Bradbrook will prove the key threat to the Hamlet this afternoon, the hitman having bagged 15 goals already this term. Only Ryan Golding with seven comes close with the normally deadly Hicham Akhazzan back in the pack on three goals.
Barring central defender Laurence Harvey who has been released to join Maidstone United, the Brickies should be at full-strength.
Gavin Rose has promised changes after last Tuesday's nightmare display against Ramsgate and the starting XI may well see a number of changes from the last two outings. There may be returns for Paul McCallum up front whilst Justin Bowen could be pressing for a place at the back as looks to make a return from injury. Dulwich have been missing the creativity and kapow of Kevin James recently whilst Rose may take the bull by the horns and restore himself to line-up.
This afternoon's game kicks off at 3.00 pm and at the time of writing there is unlikely to be a pitch inspection with the pitch damp but eminently playable.
Admission, £6 adults, £2 concessions, Under 12's free with a paying responsible adult. Correct change would be appreciated, thanks.