Sidlesham’s home defeat to AFC Varndeanians had more to it than meets the eye – and was the second time this season that circumstances have conspired to make it difficult for the club to get a team out.
For the story behind it, Sids manager Steve Bailey recalls a sequence of events that occurred just before Christmas, when Sids were due to travel Saltdean for a cup game on a Tuesday night for a 7.30pm start.
He said: “A 100-mile round trip after a day’s work is not easy but those are the joys of county football and we all knew that when we signed up to join the SCFL.
“We managed to get 13 players together for the trip but on the night one of the players who was a driver and due to pick up three other players was held up at work which left us with just nine players and with much regret we informed the league that we could not raise a team.”
Bailey said their secretary received a phone call from a football official saying they should consider their status as a senior club, which shocked them.
Fast forward to last Saturday, initially a free week for Sids, and with this being the case the first team arranged a trip to Cardiff to celebrate a player’s birthday.
Then the league asked them to play a recently postponed game. Bailey said: “We pointed out we had players away and asked if the game could be played on a Tuesday as is the normal practice for rearranged games.
“The league’s response – ‘No you have to play on the Saturday as you can’t expect teams to travel on a Tuesday night!’
“So, with ten first-team players in Cardiff and the reserves having a league game as well, to say getting two teams out was a challenge would be an understatement.
“However we did it and credit goes to all those involved. The game itself was a good advert for county football.”
SCFL chairman Steve Nealgrove said national rules meant clubs knew there was also a chance that free Saturdays could have fixtures added – up to six days in advance. He said the league tried to be fair and reasonable with all clubs and avoid the need for longer trips on Tuesday nights.
On the pitch on Saturday, Sids started well and went close with chances falling to Jono Fryatt, Brad Dean and Dave Rough but none was taken.
The visitors started to play some good football with neat passing which was too quick for Bailey’s makeshift side. On 36 minutes the deadlock was broken as Luke Manley finished a slick Varndeanians move.
Sids win but suffer injury blow
In the second half, fitness told. Lewis Boughton, making his Sids debut, had a fine game in goal, making three exceptional saves – one in particular from close range brought both benches to their feet to applaud.
Two late goals from Varndeanians took the game away from Sids though their last-minute consolation was the best of the game. Skipper Ryan Chittock picked up the ball on halfway, strode past two defenders and hit a ferocious drive into the top corner.
Littlehampton v Sidlesham in pictures
It was just reward for Chittock, who with Sam Agostinelli, had worked tirelessly in midfield for the entire game.
Manager Bailey paid tribute to the players, saying they were a credit to the club and themselves. He gave a special mention for assistant Shane Brayson who at 46 years old came on for the last 15 minutes for his first game of football in five years... and hopefully his last!
Sidlesham FC had their tractor stolen from the compound behind the clubhouse last week. Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact the club.