The Lions carry the Brickies into an FA Cup preliminary round replay after Richie Hellen and Tom Simmonds’ side almost scored a shock win over higher-league opposition.
With the Bostik League South visitors having reached the second round proper of the FA Cup twice in their history, and with a thumping 5-1 away win in their last league game, no-one would have been surprised if Pagham had gone out of the cup at this stage.
That they didn’t is credit to the management team and a set of players who showed some real fight against the semi-pro visitors.
Things didn’t start well for the Lions, though, as an awful mistake in defence allowed Mobolaji Dawodu to strike the ball past a stranded James Binfield. It could have been two a minute or so later as Kane Rowland’s shot went just wide of the mark.
Joe Kilhams was again looking superb on the wing for Pagham, and one of his searing runs let Callum Overton in, a last minute scramble from Sittingbourne keeper Darren Hawkes closing down the threat.
It was now all Pagham, the Lions looking sharp against a side who only had fleeting periods of dominance. Their speed and strength were telling, but Hellen’s troops weren’t there for the taking.
When the away side did have sight of goal, it often ended with wayward shooting.
The half-hour saw Kilhams with a great chance of an equaliser, only for the ball to skew across goal. Pagham went again, Scott Murfin striking toward goal, the rebound falling to Kilhams, then on to George Bingham, who shot narrowly over.
A cynical foul by Kane Philip on Bingham saw the Sittingbourne player booked, but the Pagham free-kick was wasted. David Adekoya was given far too much space for the visitors, slicing a path downfield that only ended with him shooting wide.
Overton and Murfin both had chances to score, with Adekoya probably having the miss of the match at the other end.
Four minutes into the half, and the goal the Lions deserved came. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot when a Pagham player was scythed down. Up stepped Murfin, and the ball rocketed into the back of the net.
It was hearts in mouths time for Pagham just after the hour when a corner almost resulted in the Lions conceding an own goal. A second corner followed, with Binfield’s fingertip save seeing the ball to Overton’s feet. His run and long pass to Kilhams saw the latter just unable to get to the ball.
A trio of free-kicks for the Lions saw Lloyd Rowlatt foiled twice before Murfin took the third. The ball reached Lions skipper Jamie Horncastle, whose skimmed header was close to being on target.
Sittingbourne substitute David Smith’s wild shot on 74 minutes summed up their luck. A minute later off went Kilhams to well-deserved applause, George Cody coming on. He almost had an immediate effect, building up an attack which saw Murfin shoot, but the ball skimmed the bar.
A probing run by Rowland almost had Sittingbourne ahead, had his shot not been scrambled away for a corner.
With Bingham carrying a knock, on came Jake Hawker to fill the gap at the back. A three-pronged attack involving Cody, Murfin and Rowlatt saw the Lions nearly get a late winner, Hawkes getting to the ball first.
With three minutes of normal time left, Rowland raced into Pagham’s area. After a dive that would have graced the Olympics he could have no complaints as he was shown a yellow card. Time ticked down with both sides missing chances before the end, and a long mid-week trip awaiting the Lions in their quest for cup glory.
Pagham; Binfield, Kilhams (Cody 75), Wollers, Bingham (Hawker 84), Booker, Horncastle, Rowlatt, Chick, Overton, Murfin, Van Driel (Crouch). Subs not used: Rafferty, Lewis.
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