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Sittingbourne manager Ryan Maxwell glad he listened to Chris Harris after striker pleads for a start

Sittingbourne striker Chris Harris didn’t disappoint after begging his manager for a start.

Brickies boss Ryan Maxwell has been treading carefully with Harris while he regains match fitness following a pre-season ankle ligament injury.

Sittingbourne striker Chris Harris. Picture Ian Scammell/Isobel Scammell
Sittingbourne striker Chris Harris. Picture Ian Scammell/Isobel Scammell

But after scoring in substitute appearances against Ashford United in the Kent Senior Cup and Ashford Town (Middx) in the FA Trophy, Harris felt ready to start Saturday’s league game at Merstham.

He made his case to Maxwell, who’d been planning to name him on the bench, and had an excellent match as the visitors won 1-0 with a Donvieve Jones goal to go fourth in Isthmian South East.

“I was really pleased to have Chrissy Harris starting his first game for us - he made a huge difference to our approach,” said Maxwell, whose side visit Swale rivals Sheppey in the FA Trophy this Saturday (3pm).

“He begged me to start him to see how he got on and he ended up lasting 90 minutes.

“I was absolutely delighted with him and it gave everyone a lift having him out there from the start.

“We got to the ground and in my mind he wasn’t starting, the reason being he’d made two positive impacts from the bench, scoring an equaliser and a winner, and we’re trying to manage his minutes.

“I pulled him over and said, ‘Look, I think we’ll leave it one more week’ and he said, ‘Gaffer, please, I’m ready, I can give you 70 minutes’.

“I remember being a player and sometimes you have to support your players’ opinions and trust them.

“I’m glad we did because he’s better for it, we were better for it, he’s got 90 minutes under his belt and I’m delighted he pushed me to start him.”

Sittingbourne’s dominance was finally rewarded with Jones’ 85th-minute header.

The defender was the Brickies’ 12-goal leading scorer last season.

“He’s been playing a bit deeper than last year so far, which we are rectifying,” said Maxwell.

“He got into some very good areas on Saturday and the goals will come.

“It was a great header and he was full of beans after the game.

“When he’s on form, there isn’t a better right-back or right-wing-back in this league.

“We’ve got to get him to the heights he reached last year but he’s certainly on the way.”

Sittingbourne defender Donvieve Jones is staying at Woodstock. Picture: Ian Scammell
Sittingbourne defender Donvieve Jones is staying at Woodstock. Picture: Ian Scammell

Maxwell was delighted with Sittingbourne’s performance at Merstham, having read his players the riot act after limping through in the FA Trophy.

They took his words on board - delivering the perfect response.

“To a man, everyone gave me a real strong seven-and-a-half out of 10, and there were a couple of eights in there too,” said Maxwell.

“We were totally dominant and had we come in at half-time two or three up, it would certainly have been a fair reflection.

“I made very clear my expectation levels and my standards after last weekend, so the players had to sort it out.

“We gave them a challenge to go and play within their capabilities - that’s all we were asking - and not leave things to one another.

“That was evident in the goal we scored - Donvieve has taken responsibility and scored a great header.

“There were lots of positives.

“The only negative was the small scoreline but you only get three points however many you score.”

Sittingbourne’s FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round tie at Sheppey is an all-ticket fixture.

It’s the sides’ second meeting this season, following a 2-2 draw at Woodstock in the league last month.

Maxwell said: “I’m really looking forward to that game.

“It’s a derby game and a cup game and all the things that come with that.

“We’re hoping for a big crowd and the two clubs are working together to achieve that.

“Sheppey are a decent side but we felt we should have won the league game.

“We were at home, we had plenty of chances, but they stayed in the game and equalised late on.

“It was a game of decisions and a game of missed chances from ourselves, but I’d like to think we’ve learned from that.”

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