Hythe searching for more belief
Leaguers Tonbridge Angels gave Kentish Observer League outfit Hythe Town a
good test at Reachfields Stadium on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.
Two goals from Angels' player-boss, Tony Dolby and a Nick Barnes strike, secured a 3-0 win, but Hythe Town's assistant manager, Justin Luchford admitted it was a good test for his players.
Tonbridge sent two squads to Kent League sides on Saturday, with a another squad going to Sevenoaks Town.
But Dave Forster's first half strike sealed a 1-0 win for Gary Davies' Sevenoaks, who bounced back from an embarrassing 5-2 defeat at Kent County Premier League side, Rusthall.
"Well Saturday was certainly a test for our players," Luchford said in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk
"A strong Tonbridge side came down to Reachfields to show that they are going to be right up there this season battling it out for the title in the Ryman first division.
"I would have said that the majority that lined up against us, at times were simply excellent."
Luchford revealed Dolby is pleased with the way things are going pre-season at Longmead Stadium, as they bid to bounce back following their relegation.
The Angels opened their pre-season campaign with a 1-0 win over Sutton United before losing to Margate by the same score seven days later.
"I spoke with Tony Dolby, who is a friend of mine, before kick-off, and he explained how pleased he was with his squad, and that there is certainly a battle for places in his team before he finalises for the opening day of their league season," Luchford revealed.
Dolby lined up holding the midfield together in front of the back four, allowing Nick Barnes to concentrate on linking the front two together.
Hythe Town boss Paul Fisk, however, set his side up in a 4-4-2 formation and for the first 15 minutes their higher league visitors knew they were certainly in a game.
"It was unbelievably the fastest start to a friendly I have seen for sometime," admitted Luchford.
Hythe had the ball in the net after 15 minutes with Jason Brazier smashing in from ten yards after the ball had dropped from a Lee Winfield cross.
However, Lee Blackman, a summer signing from Ashford Town, was judged to have fouled in the area and the referee blew for a free kick.
Hythe were without Kevin Readings for the game due to work commitments, so reserve team goalkeeper Leigh Holdway stepped in for the former Dover Athletic goalkeeper.
However, around the 25 minute mark, a well struck shot from 35 yards out finished in the top left hand corner from Nick Barnes.
"Admittedly Holdway could and should have done better," admitted Luchford.
"However, he did well five minutes later when he dived low to his left to keep out a drive from the edge of the box."
Luchford added: "After the goal we gave the ball away a little cheaply and let Tonbridge take a little more control of the game.
"Our back four coped well with the pace and fantastic movement from the Tonbridge players and were rarely troubled to a large extent.
"The front boys had some good touches but the distribution was not as it should have been.
"Although, some of it could be put down to the work rate of the Tonbridge players, who didn't allow us to settle throughout the game.
"The fitness and sharpness had clearly been worked on in pre-season.
"Our players have worked hard too and the fitness was very good.
"For us now we just need to work on a little sharpness over the next week or so and we will be ready for Tunbridge Wells."
The fixtures for the Kentish Observer League were released this morning, and Hythe open their campaign with a trip to Culverden Stadium on Saturday, 13th August.
Reflecting on the second half, Luchford said: "Paul (Fisk) made a few chances to have a look at one or two other players.
"As always this causes a little bit of uncertainty, but the work-rate was still clear to us and we could never fault them for that."
Tonbridge appeared to go to another level in the second half, with a few boys out to impress Dolby.
But it was Dolby himself who got the second after some good work by his striker to hold the ball up.
He came into the box unmarked to finish low into the bottom right corner.
Dolby hit the target again late on with a free kick, finding the top corner after some good work from the faultless Barnes.
"For us it was a good work out and we can now take some things back to the training pitch to work on," Luchford promised.
"With Chatham (at home) on Tuesday night it will give us another test and hopefully we will see signs that we have learnt from the Tonbridge game.
"The one thing Paul and I will be drilling into the players is having the belief in games.
"The belief that they are good players and if mistakes are made then we look to learn by them and not make the same one again.
"If the boys believe in themselves then we have got more than enough to work with.
"We are positive as usual and I'm sure the players will be back ready and up for it come Tuesday night."
Luchford praised the standard of their playing surface at Reachfields Stadium.
"On another plus side, the pitch looked tremendous," he said.
"After a bit of rain over the weekend it should be looking fantastic for our local derby against Folkestone Invicta on Saturday.
"This will be our biggest test for the friendlies, but I am sure we won't have to do much to get the players up for it, being that a lot of our players are Folkestone based.
"We look forward to welcoming Neil Cugley and his side down to the ground and hope that we can make sure they know that they have been in a game as well.
"Both managers are friends off the pitch as well and I'm sure neither party wants to be on the losing end.
"We are moving in the right direction and cannot wait for the season to start."
Hythe Town squad (vs Tonbridge):
Holdway, A Todd, Yorath, Hayes, Cox, Robertson, Blackman, Fisk, Walmsley, D Winfield, Jones, Brazier, Guiver, Widnall, D Porter, L Winfield.