Published: 05:00, 13 October 2021
Sittingbourne lost to Herne Bay in the FA Trophy on Saturday - but there’s still plenty to look forward to this season.
Not least the chance to see the best of summer signing Ahmed Abdulla, who’s working his way towards full fitness.
The former Football League midfielder has caused plenty of problems already this season, including a debut hat-trick against Lancing, but there’s more to come.
It’s an exciting prospect for manager Darren Blackburn.
“Abs has probably been our best player but he’d admit he’s a 60/70-minute man at the moment," said Blackburn, whose side lost 3-1 at home to Bay in the second qualifying round of the Trophy.
"He’s not as fit as he wants to be but he’s already scored four or five goals. Imagine how good he’ll be if we get him fully fit.
"It’s not so easy when you’re 29/30, you’re going to find it harder to reach the levels you had at 23/24, especially because he’d have been training every day as a full-time pro.
"It’s harder here but he’s a committed lad and a player we all look to. He’s been brilliant.”
Abdulla came through the youth ranks at West Ham before cutting his teeth in the Football League at Swindon.
Brickies team-mate Toby Ajala is another with Football League experience, having played for Bristol City and AFC Wimbledon.
Sittingbourne did well to attract players of their calibre and Blackburn is enjoying the chance to work with them.
He said: “You’ve got the likes of Abs and Toby Ajala, who’ve played in the Football League, and sometimes it can be difficult coaching players who’ve played at higher levels.
“They’ve played for all sorts of managers who are far more experienced than me but I just call football how I see it and they've been good.
“If I know a team play a certain way and I think we can nullify or counter that, we do that but we still try to keep some sort of attacking intent.”
Sittingbourne were out of luck against Herne Bay despite taking an early lead through Johan Caney-Bryan’s fifth goal of the season.
Adem Ramadan squared the tie and Bay won it in the second half with Zak Ansah’s penalty and a late clincher from Bode Anidugbe which squirmed under keeper Joe Docherty.
Sittingbourne have a blank weekend before hosting Whitstable in a rearranged Isthmian South East match at Woodstock on Tuesday night.
The original date was postponed during the fuel crisis, since when the Oystermen have appointed former Thamesmead and VCD boss Keith McMahon as their new manager.
He's replaced Lloyd Blackman, who unexpectedly resigned after two years in charge, following a winless start to the season.