Horsham v Sittingbourne – Preview
Horsham v Sittingbourne – Preview

If Sittingbourne start the new football season the way they finished the last one then we’re in for a treat.

A new season, in a new league (now the Bostik South East League), kicks off this Saturday with their longest journey of the lot – apart from Guernsey. They travel to play Horsham, who are ground-sharing further into Sussex, at Lancing.

Sittingbourne won six out of their last ten games of last season – promotion form – and impressed with their energy, commitment, and organisation.

They won away at Phoenix and South Park, and finished the season on a high with an excellent well-deserved victory at Hastings on the final day of the season in front of a crowd of more than 500.

That was just a week after Aslan Odev was confirmed as manager following a successful spell as caretaker, and that on the day they beat a Carshalton side who needed the win to clinch the championship.

Carshalton got the points they needed the following week anyway, but Sittingbourne’s victory was a significant one and certainly raised expectations for what’s to come.

Most of the team who played that day have eagerly returned for a new season, though Sittingbourne have been left lighter up front with both Kane Rowland and David Smith moving up to a higher level.

Smith was a substitute for Dover Athletic on Tuesday night in their Conference derby at Bromley, though he didn’t get on, while Rowland moved last week to Bostik Premier Division side Folkestone Invicta.

Sittingbourne’s top scorer, and player-of-the-year last season, Rowland always looked certain to move to a higher level, though Folkestone left the Brickies little time to find a replacement with what’s become their annual swoop for a Sittingbourne striker.

The Rowland move follows previous Sittingbourne top scorers Joe Taylor, Harry Smith and Miles Cornwell, so whoever tops the scoring charts this season will have to be ready for the day Folkestone come calling!

Another attacking player who made a big impact in the final weeks of last season was Seyfattin Akdeniz, but he’s now playing in Austria.

Sittingbourne were impressive winners last time they travelled down to Lancing, nearly a year ago, winning 5-1 against a Horsham side who were somewhat in disarray that day.

The tables were neatly turned in January in the return fixture which Horsham won 3-1, a disappointing defeat for a Sittingbourne side who were struggling at the time, the day ending with Nick Davis resigning as manager.

Odev stepped up and although it took a few games to assert his style and demands on the team, the results and performances soon improved drastically, no doubt helped by the appointment as his assistant of Ian Varley – who himself was at Horsham for a spell.

Horsham have made some experienced signings themselves over the summer and will clearly be out to impress as a brand new season gets under way with all the optimism that’s always associated with opening day.

The shake-up of football at this level means there will be eight fewer league games this season, and although the division is now rebranded South East, most of last season’s teams remain with Sevenoaks, Haywards Heath, Three Bridges and Whitstable the newcomers to the fray.