Two Maddison Massey second-half penalties saw Sittingbourne ladies edge past Sevenoaks ladies in the Kent Women’s Plate Final at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium on Thursday night.
Massey struck twice from the spot, the second time in the dying moments after Sevenoaks’ Ellie Hyner had been sent off, to ensure the impressive Ami Wybrow’s strike proved only a consolation in their 2-1 defeat.
Sittingbourne manager Chris Baacke said: “We’re absolutely over the moon.
“To be fair, we knew it was going to be a tough game. Sevenoaks have been playing well in the second half of the season.
“It was a tough game and I think it was a game of fine margins. Full credit to Sevenoaks, they pushed us all the way.
“Sometimes, you need a little bit of luck and we managed to get the winner and hold them back, so it was great.”
Sittingbourne were dealt an early injury blow. Forward Wybrow produced a good run down the left and unleashed a shot which forced Bourne keeper Gemma Norton into her first action of the night. Sittingbourne - just about - cleared, although not before a strong fourth-minute challenge by the Sevenoaks winger had ended Kiera Madden’s game.
“Unfortunately she’s at the hospital,” revealed Baacke post-match. “We don’t know yet but she may have had a fracture in her foot.
“So we had to reshuffle but, luckily, we did regroup and get to some kind of a strong defensive line. I just hope she’s all right. The main priority is for her to, hopefully, go to work tomorrow and be okay.”
Seven minutes later, Sevenoaks again threatened from a long free-kick. Nancy Housego threaded through forward Thea Willmore but she missed the target.
Bourne’s first opportunity came on 16 minutes as substitute Fallon Minto-Hay turned well on the right and crossed for striker Sarah Fletcher whose volley landed on the roof of the net.
But, despite having lost twice to them in the South East Counties Premier Division this season (4-2 and 4-0), Sevenoaks were shading the first period and they went close again on 26 minutes. Skipper Natalie Graves’ strike appeared to be deflected wide - although a goal kick was awarded.
Sittingbourne were threatening when they could get up the other end, though, and the 33rd minute saw Sian Boswell’s drive deflect wide after a Fletcher tackle.
The same striker also fired wide of Sevenoaks keeper Emily Orchin’s left-hand post in first-half stoppage time after she had found space.
A fast start after the restart saw Fletcher shoot wide for Bourne inside the opening 30 second-half seconds. With both sides pushing hard for the first goal, Norton saved low from wing-back Housego before Orchin twice thwarted Boswell at the other end, either side of the hour mark.
But the 65th minute did see Sittingbourne draw first blood with a penalty after midfielder Eleanor Walker swung in a corner and, after Orchin could only parry, one of her team-mates was adjudged to have handled a goal-bound shot by referee Tabitha Campbell-Wroe. Massey kept her cool from the spot to blast the ball into the roof of the net.
Graves was presented with a free-kick in a good area, seven minutes later, only to send the set-piece right down Norton’s throat.
With seven minutes left, though, Sevenoaks equalised. Central midfielder Graves showed great vision to thread the ball through to Wybrow who slotted under the on-rushing Norton.
Sevenoaks all of a sudden were on top and could then have taken the lead, Housego firing wide from a tight angle.
But Bourne claimed the all-important third goal. Boswell rounded Orchin and looked set to win the match for her side, albeit she was dragged down by defender Hyner, who was dismissed for denying the clear goal-scoring opportunity. And with the Final now in the last 10 seconds of normal time, Massey, once again, kept her cool from 12 yards.
“She knows how to finish a penalty,” said manager Baacke. “We said before the game: ‘Maddie, you're on the penalties - if there are any penalties.’ Lo and behold, we didn’t know we’d have two!
“But we’re glad we got those penalties because we knew we had a great penalty-taker taking them.
“She has done that right throughout the season, comprehensively taking her penalties, so we were really chuffed.
“Even though both teams were creating, there wasn’t much clear-cut and so it was one of those opportunities where, if you get two penalties, you must take them.
“The pressure was on the last one. That was a bottlejob, my heart was pounding, but she did great.”
The entertainment wasn’t over just yet, though, with all the stoppages meaning nearly 10 minutes of injury time had to be seen out by Sittingbourne.
But Graves sent a 93rd-minute free-kick over and - despite goalkeeper Orchin having come up for another free-kick as the game neared the 100-minute mark - Sevenoaks could only flick their captain’s set-piece behind for a goal kick.
Both teams still have league fixtures to play before the end of this term, Sevenoaks are sixth, while Bourne are third. They are only behind second-placed XL Football Club, who they have two games in hand on, on goal difference.
Brickies boss Baacke said: “We want to secure that second spot. That’s what we are after.
“Whether or not we can, that remains to be seen because we still have some tough games coming up that aren’t going to be easy. But we need to get that place secured.
“With Ian [Jackson], my co-manager, I’m sure we’ll put up a good fight. We’ll give it a go.”
Sevenoaks Town: Orchin, E.Wybrow, E.Hyner, Lane, Clearly, Housego, Parson (Dorling 62mins), Kemp, Graves, Willmore, A.Wybrow (Duffield-Goodyear 97mins). Subs not used: S.Hyner, Blake, Mai-Lucas.
Sittingbourne: Norton, Jackson, Baacke, Ferreira, Burden, Walker (Corbel 84mins), Massey, Morse (Kemp 54mins), Madden (Minto-Hay 7mins), Fletcher (Reeves 75mins), Boswell (Newbury 94mins).
Referee: Tabitha Campbell-Wroe.