Thursday 01st September 2005

Magnificent seven keep Kent's Vase dreams alive


It's the second round of the FA Vase on Saturday where seven Kent clubs carry our hopes of emulating Deal Town's success in 2000, writes Stephen McCartney.

Roly Graham scored the only goal of the game to give Tommy Sampson's side the silverware in the last FA Vase final played underneath the twin towers against Chippenham Town.

Herne Bay, who are currently seventh in the Kentish Observer League table, have the hardest tie for our sides when they travel to holders Didcot Town.

The Oxfordshire side are currently top of the Hellenic League five points clear of North Leigh and have won their last seven games.

Herne Bay boss Jason Lillis said in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk that he's under no illusions for Saturday's game, but will know Kent League rivals Maidstone United thrashed North Leigh 4-0 in the last round.

Lillis, whose side knocked out Ryman Leaguers Epsom & Ewell 4-2 in the last round, said: "Obviously we know what we're expecting.  I went to watch them last night (where they beat Shortwood United 5-3 at home) to see if they had any changes from the side that played us twice in the FA Cup but they didn't.  They're still a very good side."

Herne Bay were knocked out of the FA Cup in the first qualifying round 6-2 at Winch's Field after holding Didcot to a goalless draw at the impressive Loop Meadow Stadium.

"I am never going to be over confident about anything but I'm not under any illusions about playing them," said Lillis.  "We have seven players that didn't play them last time so hopefully we can get a good result."

After finishing runners-up to Ramsgate last season, Lillis admitted he isn't happy with their position after 11 games, but due to financial cut-backs he is forced to work on a lower budget.

"It's going to be a very tough game allround," he admitted.  "We are building up to it, our preparations are going right so it's down to the lads on Saturday to put it right.

"I'm not pleased with the position we're in but the start we had wasn't the best with the injuries and suspensions and with a small budget we can't go out and get players to cover for players that are suspended or injured," the former Gillingham star revealed.

"Our guy who was dealing with the finances at the club resigned at the start of the season so the club is not in a position not to expect things this year.

"The club was left with a massive bill which had to paid off.  It's not just affected me but the club as well as we are not in a strong position financially."

Lillis, however, admitted he's the only one putting pressure on his players - and has no pressure from the club to emulate or better last season.

"You never know at this level how players perform as they blow hot and cold so I'm the one to put pressure on the players."

Lillis has a full strength squad, which has been boosted with the return of centre forward Darren Hare.

Meanwhile, Hythe Town boss Paul Fisk will be hoping his side forget about their farce at Park View Road last Saturday.

Roy Godden, Jason Brazier, goalkeeper Paul Rogers and Lee Winfield were sent off during their game at Erith & Belvedere and when Winfield was dismissed referee Mr J D'Arcy halted proceedings with only three minutes left.

Hythe were winning 4-2 at the time of the abandonment, which left Fisk stunned.

But with his side struggling in the Kent League, Fisk hopes for better luck in their FA Vase tie against
Thatcham Town at Reachfields Stadium.

After beating Wessex League sides Moneyfields and VT FC, Fisk hopes his side can beat a side who are second in that league.

He said: "Our form is picking up.  We've got the Vase game on Saturday and we are looking forward to it.  We are getting better."

Fisk's men were beating fourth placed Erith & Belvedere before the abandonment and he added: "It's a good victory against a side fourth - we are on the up."

Looking ahead to the challenge, he warned: "We've beaten Moneyfields and VT from their league, but Thatcham are better.

"We are going into it as confident as we've been all season.  I think we'll surprise a few teams."

Fisk, however, confirmed he wasn't banished to the stands last week as reported elsewhere.  His assistant, Scott Porter, was.

Hythe have already beaten Pagham (6-2), Moneyfields (2-1) and VT (2-1) to get this far.

Deal Town travel to Sussex County League minnows Mile Oak trying to avoid another cup shock.

The hosts knocked out Slade Green in the last round and have sprung a few surprises against higher league opposition in various cup competitions this season but Deal manager Derek Hares feels his side will end the second division side's hopes.

Hares' side, who start at this stage of the competition after reaching the third round proper last season, thus going the furthest since their 2000 Wembley success, are looking to progress again this season.

"It's a good draw for us," admitted Hares.  "It's a game we'll be looking to win and on our day I think we can.

"We just need to be more consistent.  We've improved in the last two years."

With his side currently sixth in the table with 18 points from their first 10 games, the manager has set his sights high.

"If we can finish in the top six this year that will be a big step for us," said Hares.

Martin Ford, meanwhile, takes his VCD Athletic side to Colliers Wood United, and having watched their recent Combined Counties League game against Southall, thinks "their beatable."

"I went to watch them against Southall," long serving stalwart Ford revealed.  "A long old trek but I was glad I watched them.

"They're not a bad side, they're organised, got a couple of nippy wingers but they are beatable - I think we can beat them."

Ford will be without central defender Martin Driscoll (holiday), which is a "big minus" for him.

"We haven't got Martin, which is going to be a big blow for us," admitted Ford, who wants to improve on his own personal record in the competition:  "He's a big minus for us as he's been doing so well at centre half with Paul Foley but we're looking forward to it."

VCD have won three away matches to get this far, beating Oakwood, Saltdean United and Cove.

Keith McMahon, the assistant manager of Thamesmead Town hopes his side haven't given too much away in their League Cup group game on Tuesday night when they beat local rivals Slade Green 3-0.

The Bayliss Avenue outfit's hopes were dashed last season by holders Winchester City, and face another tough test when Brook House are the visitors to Bayliss Avenue, and the West Londoners have recent Vase pedigree.

The Mead have comfortably beaten Sevenoaks Town (1-0) and local rivals Slade Green (3-0) in League Cup action during the past seven days, and both sides have down their homework.

"We have had Brook House looked at and they appear to be a good side," admitted McMahon.  "Having made the last 16 in the competition last year we know we will have to be on our best.

"But if the lads can take advantage of the home draw and with the spirit in the squad at the moment we are hopeful of the right result come 5 o'clock on Saturday night."

He added: "We believe Brook House were watching us on Tuesday night and I think the lads must have given them something to think about, as this is as good as we have played in several weeks.

"All goals coming from set pieces is pleasing too, and I thought we could have added to our three goal tally."

Thamesmead, like neighbours VCD, have won matches on the road during this season's FA Vase campaign, winning at Lymington Town and Wantage Town.

Maidstone United player-manager Lloyd Hume is fully aware what visitors Andover are capable off, as they knocked out Whitstable Town (3-1) in the last round at the Belmont.

Hume, who has a fully fit squad to choose from for their game at Sittingbourne's Bourne Park, feels his side are capable of making it through.

"To be honest at this stage in the Vase once you've gone through a couple of rounds all games are going to be tough," he said.

"I just think at this stage if you don't expect anything other than a tough game you'll be mistaken.

"I've had reports about Andover from two sides that have played them recently and we've been told they are a good organised side and very strong through the middle.

"Having said that, that's where we're at our strongest, and I maintain  what I've been saying for a year and a half now.  If we perform we are capable of beating anybody and if we underachieve we will lose the game."

The Stones have seen off Cowes Sports, Eastbourne Town and North Leigh to get this far.

With £1,000 up for grabs for the winners, Erith Town will be looking for a lucrative pay-day with a victory at Sussex League outfit Sidley United.

The Dockers knocked out Andover New Street in the second qualifying round before putting two past Whitehawk in the last round.

And manager John Kasapi hopes his side can beat a side lower down in the table but he has been boosted with the return of four players into his squad.

Richard Usherwood (winger), Aaron Hamilton and Mark Hynes (central defenders) and striker Sam Cook will be drafted into the squad after missing their last game due to work commitments.

"We know they are in the same league as Whitehawk who we beat in the last round," said the former Greenwich Borough manager.

"What we've found out we expect them to be a similar standard to us. 

"We beat Whitehawk and we were up against it at times and I hope we can beat Sidley as they are lower in the table.  Their home form is good but unfortunately we've got them away."

He added: "I would like to get any kind of result as we can.  We are in a rut and we aren't scoring too many goals and letting in quite a few but we'll be hoping to change that on Saturday."

Kasapi is fully aware of the financial rewards his club can gain if they win and he added: "If we can win on Saturday it will be the furthest the club have been so it's a massive game."

We would be grateful if clubs can send in their match reports from Saturday's FA Vase matches.

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