Friday 22nd October 2004

The Kent Website
Supporting Kentish Football

North Kent rivals ready to entertain

FANS attending the Southern League Division One East showdown between Dartford and Erith & Belvedere at Stonebridge Road on Saturday are in for a treat, writes Stephen McCartney.

With both teams sitting in the bottom seven in the table, there have been goals a plenty when these two north Kent sides play.

Dartford have found the back of the net eighteen times in twelve games but have leaked 23 goals and visitors Erith & Belvedere have scored 19 and conceded 29 from eleven matches.

In the 23 games these two sides have played there have been a total of 89 goals in their matches this season.

So giving this match all the hype that it will be a high scoring clash, what’s the betting the defences, for once, close up shop and ground out a goal-less stalemate?

Both sides, however, go into the derby clash without losing in midweek.  Dartford fought back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw with Aveley and Erith & Belvedere defeated a strong Wivenhoe Town side 2-0.

Darts’ manager Tommy Sampson, however, has an injury crisis at the club, that leaves him with only one fit recognised striker in Tostao Kwashi.

Paul Sykes (knee), Jim Carter (groin), Ted Ansell (ankle ligaments) Danny Hill (ankle ligaments), Tommy Planck (hamstring), Dominic Elmes (groin) and Graham Knight (cut eye) are all keeping the club’s physio employed at present.

It appears the Darts’ have a curse on their number nine shirt this season.

“We’ve banned the number nine shirt because everyone whose worn the shirt has got injured.  It’s been an unbelievable jinx for me.” Sampson said.

Graham Knight, his recent acquisition from Ryman League Division One side Banstead Athletic, cut his eye open 50 minutes into his debut.

Sampson revealed: “They couldn’t stitch his eye in, and they’ve glued his eye together and he will be out for two weeks at least.

“If he heads the ball and opens it up again they won’t be responsible as it’s a nasty cut.”

Sampson praised striker Kwashi – a player the Deres tried to sign in pre-season – after scoring 11 goals in 15 games.

“He has scored some fantastic goals. At the moment he is struggling as players he has played with have all got injured.

“We have got a crisis at the club with front players – all the lads that have got injured are big, physical lads, and leaves us with a team of dwarfs.”

However, Sampson admitted he can field a side against the Deres and praised the club for having such a strong youth and reserve team set up.

“I think we must be the strongest club in the county for depth,” Sampson said.

“I don’t know any club in the county at our level outside the Conference that could lose 7-8 first team players and still put a team on the pitch that are competitive.

“The depth of the club is fantastic. We have a very good youth side and a very young reserve side.

“I think it’s a credit to everyone at the club.”

Looking ahead to their fixture with Erith & Belvedere, Sampson has whetted his appetite for the game, that should, on paper, see many goals crashing into both nets.

“I think it will be a good game, our home football has been terrific but we just have to stop conceding goals.

“Traditionally Dartford are a massive club with massive tradition and I think it’s going to be a lively atmosphere.

“If people are expecting to see a 0-0 - they will be sadly mistaken.

“We’ve only had one 0-0 draw this year – some of our matches have been unbelievable.

“We must defend better, we are a bit young defensively but some of the games we’ve been involved in have been great.

“I am sure there will be goals in the game. I don’t think both teams are good enough not to make mistakes. 

“We make mistakes but it’s a learning process and I think Erith are in the same boat.”

Sampson, however, revealed he is trying to bring somebody in on loan from a Ryman League club before the game to support Kwashi.

“I am waiting on another club to come back to me regarding a forward.

“If I can’t sign someone on loan before the weekend we will have to play a midfield player up front.

“Kwashi needs to play with someone with physical presence.”

The meeting will also be the first time Erith & Belvedere manager Barry Lakin comes face to face with Sampson, his manager at Deal Town.

31-year-old Lakin wasn’t in the sixteen-man squad for Deal’s famous FA Vase victory at Wembley Stadium in 2000.

However, there is no rift between the pair and they will be pleased to have a drink together after the game – but both will want to collect the three points for their clubs, obviously!

Sampson said: “It will be great to see Barry Lakin and Steve Robinson on Saturday.

“Barry is a good lad, a very young manager and he is probably realising all the pitfalls (of being a manager) now.

“Steve (Robinson) has probably been one of the top non-league players Kent football has produced in the last 25 years.

“He holds the record for Dartford appearances and was my captain at Ashford.

“He was Dartford’s reserve team manager and then I promoted him back into the first team for half of last season and he was fantastic.

“I was probably responsible for Barry’s disappointing moments in football when I left him out of my FA Vase sixteen at Wembley.

“In the sixteen, he gets a chance to play but I selected Ricky Bennett. 

“Barry was a wonderful midfielder, a great footballer – a wonderful touch player.

“It would be nice to see the lads – they are both great lads.

“Win or lose I will always have a beer with them and shake peoples hands but we will all want to win the game.”

Now a manager himself, Lakin admitted he was “gutted” when he was dropped for the Vase winning squad.

“I made the squad but I didn’t make the sixteen – I was the 17th man.

“As a manager it’s a decision Tommy had to make.

“At the time, as a player, I was absolutely gutted.”

However, Lakin admitted he won’t hold the Dartford manager a grudge and will be looking to collect three points for Erith & Belvedere and not looking to put one over the man that denied him his best day of his footballing career.

“I think it’s three points for the club – and then it’s three points next Saturday when we are playing for another three points.

“There are no grudges what so ever.”

Lakin, however, admitted he respected Sampson and learnt a lot from the experienced manager.

“As a player, I learnt an awful lot playing for Tommy.  I never felt so motivated to win a match before playing for him.”

However, Lakin admitted he used to watch the Darts from the Watling Street terraces and his first away game without his dad was at Burton Albion in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy, when he watched Robinson – now his assistant at Erith & Belvedere – in action.

Lakin revealed: “I used to follow Dartford on the terraces at Watling Street when I was younger.

“I used to live on the Fleet Estate in Dartford before I moved to America.

“My first away match without by dad was in the FA Trophy semi-final at Burton Albion and Robbo was playing.”

However, Lakin will definitely be motivating his side to beat the Darts, and will not allow any soft spot for his boyhood team get in the way of this massive local derby.

“I am employed by Erith & Belvedere but have a big soft spot for Dartford – but I am a professional and Erith & Belvedere manager.”

Speaking about the Deres midweek win over Wivenhoe, Lakin, who is working very hard to bring success to the Deres, added: “Wivenhoe are one of the strongest teams in the league, I feel.

“It was the best team performance we’ve had all season.

“Hopefully we can take it on to Saturday’s game and continue with a good run.”

And looking ahead to the Darts’ clash, he said: “I think we go into the game as the underdogs just due to the fact that Dartford are a big club. 

“They have the biggest support in the league and are a sleeping giant.

“I just hope my team are up for it.  I think they are and if we perform well, we can win the game.”

Former Welling United midfielder Dean Standen has been snapped up from Southern League Division One East rivals East Thurrock United, and the 23-year-old will make his debut at Stonebridge Road.

Lakin said: “I’ve signed him but it’s taken over a month to sign him as East Thurrock United have messed me around, because they wanted to keep him but Dean wanted to play for me.

“He is going to be a great addition to the team and I look forward to watching him play.”

Danny Fletcher who missed the Wivenhoe victory with a sore neck is also in the Deres squad.

However, Sam Keevil, who played only 180 minutes in a Deres shirt, after signing from Ryman Leaguers Walton & Hersham, has been told to leave the club by Lakin.

“I wasn’t happy with his opinion of my team,”  explained Lakin.

“He thought he was bigger then the club, and we’ve let him go to pastures green.”

Dartford v Erith & Belvedere
Southern League Division One East
Saturday 23rd October 2004
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Stonebridge Road, Northfleet