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Sittingbourne 1 Three Bridges 2 match report: Isthmian South East play-off semi-final defeat after Chris Harris’ first-half opener

Sittingbourne were knocked out of the Isthmian South East play-offs on Tuesday night after a dramatic comeback by Three Bridges.

The Brickies appeared to be on course for a place in Friday night’s showdown but lost their way in the last 20 minutes as they conceded twice to see their campaign come to an abrupt end.

Sittingbourne manager Ryan Maxwell. Picture: Ian Scammell
Sittingbourne manager Ryan Maxwell. Picture: Ian Scammell

Three Bridges signalled their intent after just 10 seconds when Noel Leighton tried an audacious long-range effort but his shot sailed harmlessly over the bar.

It didn't take long for Sittingbourne to gain the upper hand. They nearly led with their first sight of goal on 10 minutes as the excellent Chris Harris played in Bagasan Graham and his low right-foot shot came back off the inside of the post with keeper Jasper Sheik beaten before being cleared to safety.

The home side's pressure told on 22 minutes when they made the breakthrough. Sheik never looked comfortable trying to punch clear Correy Davidson's corner under pressure and, when the ball was kept alive in the penalty area, Harris eventually forced it over the line.

Sittingbourne's double was nearly doubled two minutes later when Graham was allowed space to advance and his cross picked out Donvieve Jones at the far post. His shot was deflected over the bar and the resulting corner again posed problems before Three Bridges cleared the danger.

Jones is always a threat going forward and he proved it again on the half-hour, advancing before playing in Mitchell May who forced an excellent save from Sheik.

With Davidson influential and the Brickies marking Brannon O'Neill out of the game, every time the home side attacked they looked dangerous. Defender Billy Irving went into the book five minutes before the break for taking out Harris after Jones intercepted a crossfield pass.

The visitors threatened just before the break but one long-range shot aside, keeper Bobby Mason was a spectator for large periods.

The opening period of the second half was a largely stop-start affair, which suited the home side as it took time out of the game.

Jones was booked for a foul before O’Neill’s free-kick was beaten away by Mason and then excellent defending from Joe Tyrie blocked the follow-up attempt.

Three Bridges were handed a way back into the game with 20 minutes left when Tyrie’s rash lunge on Leighton left excellent referee Ross Murphy with no choice but to point to the spot. Ibrahim Jalloh stepped up to send Mason the wrong way from the spot.

The visitors were in the ascendancy and Graham had to clear from the feet of Nabeel Ghannam, who then dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area.

There was nothing between the sides but then Three Bridges nipped in to score the winner when Leighton beat Mason to the ball and scored into an empty net.

It was a harsh blow for Sittingbourne, who struggled to get much momentum as an attacking force in the second half and ultimately paid the price for two poor pieces of defending.

Three Bridges will now host Chichester in the final on Friday, after the latter won at Ramsgate on Tuesday night.

Sittingbourne: Mason, Jones, Graham, Thomas, Tyrie (Uyi 90mins), Regis (Piorkowski 81mins), Davidson, Harris, El-Mogharbel, (Osei-Owusu 87mins), May, Arthur. Subs not used: Ilic, Bentley.

Three Bridges: Sheik, Ferreria, Woollard, Villavicencio, Jalloh, O'Neill, Leighton, Ghannam, Rivera, Donaghey, Irving (Difika 65mins). Subs not used: Anderson, Hanslow, Adam, Euba.

Referee: Ross Murphy.

Attendance: 809.

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