Thursday 10th February 2005

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I'm desperate for promotion

TITLE favourites Ramsgate went top of the Go Travel Kent League premier division with a 3-1 win at Erith Town on Monday night and manager Jim Ward wants his side to stay there for their remaining twelve league games, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Southwood Stadium outfit are now in a dual with local rivals Herne Bay and both sides look forward to home games this weekend to harness their championship credentials.

However, both sides entertain top six sides in fourth placed VCD Athletic with Jason Lillis' side hosting big-spending Maidstone United.

Oh yes, Thamesmead Town could stand in the Rams way of a treble with the Bayliss Avenue club playing Ramsgate in the semi-finals of both the Kent League Cup (over two legs) and Kent Senior Trophy.

When asked if his side could win the treble, Ward replied: "I think we are the only team that can win it but if doesn't mean we will."

The Broadstairs based boss, however, is whetting his appetite as his side face three massive games in the next seven days.

After hosting Martin Ford's side they make the short trip to Deal Town on Tuesday (15th) before making the trip to Thamesmead Town next Saturday.

"We've got a massive week this week," said Ward.

"We've got two London teams in VCD and Thamesmead, which is always difficult and sandwiched in between we've got the derby at Deal.

"Deal and VCD aren't losing many games and to be fair, Thamesmead are one of the form teams.

"We will know more about ourselves this time next Saturday."

Other managers in Kent League football have, this week, voiced their opinions on where they think the championship is heading.

Tunbridge Wells boss Kevin Metcalf, whose side were held to a goal-less draw by Deal Town at Culverden Stadium on Wednesday night, said: "Jim Ward is a wily old fox.  He's been there, done it and he knows the players and a lot of them come from Ramsgate.  He's got a strong side and I think they will win it."

Ward replied: "It's nice to have other people talking about you but I've got a very experienced backroom staff with Mark Harrop (coach) and Danny Ward (assistant).

"We've all won a lot of things.  I've already won ten trophies in the Kent League and been runners-up a few times as well.

"All you can do is play one game at a time.  We've got a massive week this week and with Herne Bay playing Maidstone on Saturday that helps as well."

The Rams booked their place in the two-legged Kent League Cup showdown with Thamesmead Town with a 1-0 victory at Sevenoaks Town last Saturday.

Reflecting on the game, the former Maidstone United boss added: "That was a right dour game.  We'd disposed of VCD and Maidstone in our previous games and to be fair it was like after the lords mayor show.

"But on the face of it their new manager - Gary Davies - he looks like he's got them together and they also drew VCD in midweek.

"I think they will take points of teams.  I'm glad we've finished with them."

Ward, however, was grateful to Erith Town officials for getting the game on after the Erith Sports Stadium was plunged into darkness before kickoff, delaying the start by 45 minutes.

The game finally went ahead, and after going a goal down early on,  two goals from Mo Takaloo - who lives in Margate - and a strike from in form striker Shaun Welford - whose now scored nine goals in ten games after arriving from Dover Athletic - sent the Rams to the top of the table for the first time this season.

"To be fair to Erith Town they moved heaven and earth to get the game on, which I was very grateful to them," Ward praised.

"We played a little bit better than we did against Sevenoaks and to be fair Takaloo and Welford came up with the goods once more."

Welford is the only player in the Rams squad that doesn't live in Thanet as he commutes from Maidstone.

"I think they are the best two centre forwards in the Kent League," Ward said.

"Herne Bay might argue the point that they've got (Danny) Kedwell and (Dave) Masters but a lot of players know I've got the experience of winning and players want to win things.

"When Shaun Welford has seen the set up at Ramsgate, he and I felt we could add to it and he wants to be successful."

Ward and club officials are putting plans in place to make sure Southwood Stadium can hold higher league football next season  - but Ward is relishing the challenge to bring the title to the club.

"The committee are putting things in place.  We've still got a lot of work to do.  The committee know what my views are on promotion.

"I am desperate for promotion.

"Richard Lawson (chairman) and I have spoke about this loads of times.  I know everything is positive at Ramsgate regarding promotion."

The club field 21 youth teams - the biggest youth section in Kent, girls teams and is a friendly club, according to Ward.

He added: "The committee, the secretary and the vice-chairman are really the hub of the club with some great other people behind the scenes.

"We are waiting for the criteria of what we need to do to upgrade the ground - as soon as we get that it will be all hands on deck.

"There's a small matter of winning the league. I've got to do my job first before they do there's but it does go hand in hand."

With Simon Pettit and Shaun Brown both added to Saturday's squad against VCD Athletic, Ward added: "We've got no excuses - we just have to get on with it now."

Over at Winch's Field, Herne Bay boss Jason Lillis is anticipating a tough time against Maidstone United.

He said: "It will be a hard game. I know they've had a bad run but their players and their management team that they've got I know they will instill a fighting spirit in them, that's for sure."

Lillis, however, played down talk that the title race is just between his side and Ramsgate.

"I won't say it will be close yet.  Ramsgate have some hard games coming up and you never know in football.

"I just think there could be points lost and gained with different sides (in contention) so all we can do as a team is pick up as many points as we can."

Herne Bay progressed into the semi-finals of the Kent League Cup with a 5-1 win over injury hit Tunbridge Wells at Winch's Field last weekend.

With Danny Kedwell scoring a hat-trick and strike partner Dave Masters netting a brace, Lillis insisted his side isn't all about their front pairing.

"Obviously they are scoring goals and I am pleased with the whole team.

"They are taking their chances but there's a lot of build up from other players.

"Obviously it's team play that gives them the goals and goalkeeper Jack Delo is playing well."

When asked if Herne Bay can fight of Ramsgate's title bid - Herne Bay have got to play Ramsgate (home) and third placed Whitstable (away)  in the space of three days over Easter - Lillis added: "At the end of the day we've put ourselves in a position where we have as much of a chance as anyone else.

"I can't see why we can't have a go at it but there's a lot of points on the board to be taken.

"We are picking from a full squad which is pleasing.  We've got to turn up and keep enjoying our football."

Saturday 12th February 2005
Kick off 3:00pm
Go Travel Kent League Premier Division

Stephen McCartney editor of www.kentishfootball.co.uk                
(Match report and reaction on this website over the weekend)
Ramsgate v VCD Athletic
at Southwood Stadium, Prices Avenue, Ramsgate

Matt Gerrard reporting for BBC Radio Kent
(Regular updates on 96.7fm from 2-6pm)
Herne Bay v Maidstone United
at Winch's Field, Stanley Gardens, Herne Bay

Please credit this article to: Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk