Monday 14th March 2005

To advertise telephone Stephen McCartney 07979 418 360


Cheer the Fleet into the Trophy semi-finals!

WITH less than 24-hours to go before the BIG FA Trophy quarter-final replay at Stonebridge Road, Gravesend & Northfleet boss Liam Daish is keeping his team selection close to his chest, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Fleet were held to a 1-1 draw at Woodside Park on Saturday, taking a 17th minute lead through Manny Omoyinmi's tenth strike of the season, firing home from seven yards after former Wycombe Wanderers hero Roy Essandoh, swept Andy Drury's cross against the far post.

However, two minutes later the Kent side were reduced to ten men when Justin Skinner was harshly sent off by Worcester referee Steve Dorr, for shoulder barging Duane Jackman to the ground, 24-yards from goal.

Ten-Man Fleet, however, created a couple of good chances in the second half but Bishop's Stortford grabbed a dramatic 91st minute equaliser through skipper Dave Rainford.  He met Ben Lewis' long throw into the penalty area to score his 9th goal of the season, the ball creeping inside the far post to earn them a lucrative replay at Stonebridge Road.

There are only four games involving Kent non-league sides on Tuesday night - Margate travel to Crawley Town in the fourth round of the GLS Cup, Deal Town host Lordswood in the Go Travel Kent League and local pride is at stake at Eden Park Avenue in a friendly between Kent Senior Trophy finalists Beckenham Town and Ryman Leaguers Bromley.

So if your team aren't in action, turn up at Stonebridge Road in your droves and lets all cheer the Fleet into the semi-finals and make tomorrow night a special night for Kent football.

"The fans were magnificent at Bishop's Stortford and they really gave us a lift, when we went down to ten-men and got right behind us, right to the last minute," reflected Daish on Monday evening.

Despite playing with only ten men, Fleet kept possession well, keeping the home side at bay but Daish admitted: "We looked very much in control and maybe on reflection we thought the only way we were going to concede a goal would be by a set-piece."

So how does he think his side will progress into the semi-finals?  A two-legged semi-final with either Hucknall Town (Nationwide North) or Nationwide Conference rivals Hereford United awaits them if they dispose of Bishop's Stortford on Tuesday night (extra time and penalties will be required if necessary).

"With a lot of effort," added Daish.  "We will try and stick to what we did Saturday but with an extra man.  We created enough chances in the second half to bury them.

"Our pitch is quite heavy, it's had quite a lot of games on it but I think there will be more factors than just the pitch tomorrow.  It will be who applied themselves the most and best."

Daish, however, won't be drawn into which side he would like to face in the last four of the national competition - they have to get past Bishop's Stortford first.

Grays Athletic, the leading goalscorers in the FA Trophy, in partnership with Carlsberg, will meet Burton Albion - the only team not to have conceded a goal in the competition in the other semi-final.

Nationwide South leaders Grays produced an inspired home performance in front of 1,800 fans to swamp Nationwide Conference promotion hopefuls - and the side that held Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford in the FA Cup - Exeter City  - 4-1 on Saturday while Burton Albion ended Woking's nine-match winning streak with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Eton Park.

It will be Burton Albion's second FA trophy semi-final in four seasons.

The two sides will meet over two legs on Saturday 2nd and 9th April, the first tie being played at Gray's Recreation Ground in Bridge Road.

If the Fleet get past Bishop's Stortford on Tuesday they will be at home in the first leg of their semi-final against the winners of the replay between Hucknall Town and Hereford United, also taking place on Tuesday night.

This season's final is to be held on May 22nd at Villa Park.  The FA Trophy is then due to return to it's spiritual home at the newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium in 2006.

It will be the fifth consecutive season that Villa Park has staged the final.

Meanwhile, after a two weeks break due to the bad weather conditions AEI Gravesend returned to league action on Sunday playing Brighton based Whitehawk ladies at home in the South East Counties Women's Premier League.

After a convincing win in the league last time out, AEI Gravesend were hoping to continue this run and gain valuable points in their push for top spots in the table.

The Kent side expected Whitehawk would provide tough opposition on the day - they have been in the top three places over the last three seasons and haven't been out of the top two in this current campaign, 

Unfortunately for AEI Gravesend the break seemed to have disrupted them more than their Sussex opponents and they found it very difficult to get a hold in the game from the kick off.

The physical strength of a strong Whitehawk team disrupted the normal passing play of Gravesend and left them chasing and working hard to build an attack on the Whitehawk goal.

Although the beginning of the game saw AEI Gravesend with the most play and possession it didn't provide too many scoring opportunities.

Disappointingly for the home team it was Whitehawk who opened the scoring within the first ten minutes of the game, after their striker latched onto a through ball and slotted home pass the oncoming goalkeeper.

Whitehawk followed this up by a similar goal within the next few minutes, and then rounded of a good half from them by scoring a headed goal from a corner.

It is difficult to say what went wrong in the first half and fair to say AEI Gravesend were working hard as a team without results and the Hawks finished the few chances they had.

The second half saw Gravesend come out more determined and the team worked hard to create opportunities.  But it was just not a good day for the Kent side when in the opening minutes of the second half Whitehawk received a free kick just outside the box, which they converted. 

Credit must be given to Whitehawk, putting in a strong disciplined display on the day, nothing special but they got their basics right.

AEI Gravesend need to regroup now in training and concentrate on next week's important fixtures.  They face Whitehawk, this time away, in two weeks time and AEI Gravesend will be determined to put in a much-improved performance to achieve the results they deserve to gain promotion this season. 

AEI Gravesend (squad):  Tania Law, Lisa Chickelday, Rebecca Pattenden, Gayle Millard, Amanda Spry (c), Stacey Grey, Tina Martin, Lorraine Grinyer, Chelsea Fowler, Jade McDermott, Zoe Morrell  Subs: Sally Appleton , Emily Hampton, Kirsty Feris and Kealey O’Hanlon.

I am sure everyone will be smiling again if/when Fleet progress through to the semi-finals of the FA Trophy at Bishop's Stortford's expense.

Full Live Match commentary from 7pm on BBC Radio Kent 774 MW - with Mike Green and Charles Webster and on the website www.bbc.co.uk/kent/sport

Gravesend & Northfleet v Bishop's Stortford
FA Trophy Quarter-Final Replay
Tuesday 15th March 2005
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Stonebridge Road, Northfleet