Whitstable Town 1-1 Sittingbourne
Whitstable Town 1-1 Sittingbourne

Signed in the morning. Scored in the afternoon. Home in the early evening after getting sent off in the first half.

Young on-loan striker Roman Campbell had a day to remember/forget as Sittingbourne drew their opening game of the season in the newly-named BetVictor Isthmian League South East Division.

Playing with 10 men for more than half the game was a tough proposition but Sittingbourne were resilient and determined and thoroughly deserved their point from this Kent derby.

Campbell had given them a huge boost by joining on loan from Gillingham for a month just hours before the game – Sittingbourne know all about him as he spent the final part of last season with them and ended up sharing the golden boot award for top scorer with Tom Loynes.

(Incidentally, Loynes was watching the match at Whitstable on crutches, three days after his knee operation, and hopes to be playing for Sittingbourne again in a couple of months’ time).

But while Sittingbourne know what Campbell can offer, so too, apparently, did Whitstable and he was goaded into two yellow card offences and sent off after just 41 minutes.

Sittingbourne had given four new players their debuts – goalkeeper Tom Benham, defenders Lewis West and Cory Walters-Wright and winger Enoch Ako-Adjei – with other newcomers on the bench.

It was the Brickies who had all the spirited singing support from the crowd, but it was Whitstable who started strongly, going close twice early on before Benham had to make a good diving save from a header after 16 minutes.

Sittingbourne gradually got a foothold in the game and went in front on 27 minutes after Chris Barnard was pushed over in the area following Campbell’s pass. Just as he did in the last game of last season, Campbell comfortably converted the penalty and Sittingbourne were in front and in control.

Campbell was booked soon after, on the insistence of the assistant referee, who drew the referee’s attention to an off-the-ball incident with a Whitstable defender.

And not long after it got worse, Campbell getting involved in another off-the-ball clash with Whitstable captain Bryant, and was spotted by the referee kicking out in retaliation to the provocation.

Understandably, he got another yellow and was sent off, albeit by a referee who had missed one of the incidents that cost Campbell a booking and had clearly only seen half the incident that cost him the other one.

Much, though, for the youngster to learn from allowing himself to be wound up, as playing 10 v 11 for all the rest of the match was a huge burden to leave behind for his teammates.

Not surprisingly, Sittingbourne had to defend for much of the game after that, but they did it well, forcing Whitstable to rely too much on the long ball forward and shots from distance that were way off target.

Lex Allan and the impressive Walters-Wright were at the heart of the resistance, but they couldn’t prevent Whitstable levelling on 70 minutes when Benham stopped a shot from the edge of the area but allowed the ball to momentarily squirm free for Jadama to nip in and score.

Sittingbourne looked threatening in the occasional counter-attack and sub Shaun Brown was narrowly wide after a good move and Lewis Chambers and Tommie Fagg will be disappointed that their finishing didn’t match their approach work.

They finished with a couple of dangerous corners into the six-yard box, the second one ending disappointingly with the referee penalising them for a push. Also disappointing was the booking for a foul by sub Tyrone Guthrie which seemed identical to one by a Whitstable defender on Enoch Ako-Adjei in the first half that warranted just the free-kick.

In the end, this was a point gained by Sittingbourne, rather than two lost, and will give them plenty of optimism that they can improve on last season’s 16th place finish. Playing with this amount of commitment and passion is a pretty good starting point when all’s said and done.