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Sittingbourne manager Ryan Maxwell says stats go out the window in the play-offs as he targets third place and a home tie for the club’s ‘phenomenal’ fans

Ryan Maxwell wants to reward fans with a home tie after Sittingbourne booked a play-off place for the first time.

The Brickies’ 2-2 draw with Lancing on Saturday confirmed a top-five finish in Isthmian South East.

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

And they’re four points clear in third place with two games left after winning 1-0 at Hythe last night.

They need to retain third to secure home advantage against either Chichester or Three Bridges in the semi-finals, but could still end up fourth or fifth.

Ramsgate and Cray Valley are fighting it out for first and second.

Maxwell’s side have been good away, losing just once on their travels compared to five defeats at Woodstock.

But the manager has Brickies fans in mind as he sets about securing third place.

Bourne play their penultimate match of the regular season at Phoenix Sports this Saturday (3pm).

Boss Maxwell said: “Personally, I’m not worried where we play in the play-offs but I would like a home tie for our phenomenal fans.

“They’ve been absolutely outstanding this season.

“In my opinion, they’re the best fans in the league.

“They’re so loyal and vocal and they’ve been nothing but supportive so I’d love to have the game at Woodstock for that reason.

“If you look at stats, you’d probably say you want an away tie but every single stat goes out of the window when it comes to the play-offs.

“It’s not about stats, I can assure you. It’s about whether we’re right on the day, whether we’re home or away.”

Sittingbourne occasionally flirted with the play-offs following their introduction in the early 2000s but were never serious contenders until this season.

It’s been a matter of when, not if, they would confirm their place in the top five, allowing Maxwell the luxury of experimenting in recent matches.

Chris Harris scored both goals in Sittingbourne’s draw with Lancing and grabbed the winner at Hythe. Picture: Ian Scammell
Chris Harris scored both goals in Sittingbourne’s draw with Lancing and grabbed the winner at Hythe. Picture: Ian Scammell

“Obviously it was going to happen, it was just a case of when for the last few weeks,” said Maxwell, who expects to revert to his first-choice system this weekend.

“In our heads, we’ve been in the play-offs for quite a while.

“I gave the players a challenge a long while ago to give me five games’ breathing space before the season ended and they’ve pretty much done that, although not mathematically.

“I’ve tinkered a bit and lost points because of that but it’s been for the greater good.

“Some might say why have you done that but I can assure you I know what I’m doing.

“I needed to see some things and it was the time to do it when there wasn’t overly much to play for.

“I like to be covered for every eventuality. I’m not going to look at something for the first time in a play-off game, so I have to look earlier.

“I knew the risks but the risks were worth the reward.

“We’re in the play-offs for the first time and we’re very proud of that.

“I was totally unaware it was the first time until a few days ago.

“I’m absolutely chuffed we’ve managed to do that but it’s only one part of the job and we move on very quickly.

“In my mind, that was the bare minimum.

“I’m pleased that first bit’s done and now our full focus is on being successful and getting promotion because that’s the reason we’re here.”

Sittingbourne trailed Lancing to a pair of Destiny Ojo goals but he was sent off - wrongly in Maxwell’s view - before the break.

Chris Harris launched the comeback early in the second half and made it 2-2 in injury time.

“Their goals came from individual errors from two throw-ins, which was poor from us,” said Maxwell.

“We hit the woodwork three times in the first half and had a goal disallowed for handball, which shouldn’t have been, and they’ve had a man sent off, which wasn’t a red card.

“The response at half-time was good and I was very pleased with our second-half performance.

“We’ve hit the woodwork again and had numerous other chances.

“Chris Harris has taken his first goal brilliantly and the second is from a fantastic delivery from Correy Davidson. Even I could have scored from the ball he put in.

“We should have scored more than two goals but it wasn’t to be.”

Harris also scored the only goal at Hythe while the hosts finished with nine men after Josh Stirman and Kian Garlinge were sent off.

The Cannons announced their new manager before the game.

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