Cups keep our season alive,
admits Slade Green's Miles
|The joint-manager of Kentish Observer
League side Slade Green knows the importance of doing well in all cup
competitions to keep their season alive, writes Stephen McCartney.
Phil Miles saw his side progress into the first round proper of the FA Vase on Saturday with a 2-1 home win over Sussex County League outfit East Preston.
And league rivals Tunbridge Wells are the visitors to The Small Glen on Tuesday night in the first round of the Kent Senior Trophy.
Their is a big incentive for both clubs - as a home tie against well supported rivals, Maidstone United awaits the winners in the second round.
Former Erith Town striker Glenn McTaggart picked himself up off the floor, shrugged off his yellow card and nipped in behind the East Preston defence to score the winner three minutes from time to send the North Kent club into the first round of the FA Vase.
The game started at a canter but both teams early possession was unable to provide any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.
However, the rear guard of Scott Lewis, Lee Morgan and Mark Penny were instrumental in sniffing out East Preston's attacks.
Slade Green's first opportunity fell on 13 minutes when Tony Weir's cross into the box was snatched from the outstretched foot of McTaggart at the far post.
East Preston's Hall and McCarthy were quick to close down a lot of Green's forward play, and Chris Hazel was lucky on 15 minutes when his attempted clearance ricocheted off Mick Bradley, which sailed agonisingly, for the home side, over the bar.
Two more glorious opportunities fell to Green, when on 18 minutes some good link up play between Browning, McTaggart and Shaun Malyon led to former Cray Wanderers midfielder Robert Browning hitting a tame shot at goal, which was easily collected by Darren Prior.
Then two minutes later Morgan's clearance found Weir whose lovely weighted pass set up Browning, but his shot flashed across the face of goal.
East Preston battled hard but were unable to produce the opportunities that Green had failed to put away.
Although, they did have a chance on the half hour. Matt Axell spread the ball out wide to Chris Yelling, whose cross into the box caught Green's defence flat footed and Josh Biggs was unlucky not to direct his header on target.
But in the second half, East Preston enjoyed a lot of early possession as they came at Green time and time again.
The pressure finally paid off and on 53 minutes Ryan Dick gave the visitors the lead.
Green's defence backed off as East Preston surged forward and Dick found himself in space, and with only Arterton to beat, kept a cool head to slot past the advancing goalkeeper.
Green were temporarily shaken but straight from the restart they attacked and won a corner.
Browning's delivery was only half cleared by the visiting defence. McTaggart latched onto the loose ball, struck it at goal from 18 yards, Prior could only parry it and Weir was on hand to score his second goal of the season.
Opportunities fell to both sides, Bradley's 30-yard effort sailed comfortably over the bar and then Arterton had to pull off a good save at the feet of Ryan Dick as East Preston went in search of a second goal.
Alan Hanlon's rash challenge on 77 minutes earned him a yellow card and Biggs' 25-yard free kick flashed wide of Arterton's near post.
Slade Green, however, inflicted the killer blow to East Preston's afternoon, when on 87 minutes, Bradley under pressure from the opposition's midfield flicked a lovely ball over their defence.
McTaggart took his goal tally to three in four games as he stole in behind them and connected with Bradley's perfect pass to score past Prior via the crossbar.
The Kent side did come in for a scare inside injury time when Arterton dropped the slippery ball on the goal line but was quickest to react and smothered the ball at the feet of the incoming striker.
Reflecting on the game, Slade Green boss Phil Miles was pleased to be in the hat for Monday's first round proper draw.
In an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk
he said: "I felt we played quite well in patches. East Preston played some nice football but to be fair they didn't case us any problems.
"It took us a while to get going, we played a 4-4-2 formation but ended up changing our system to a 3-5-2 formation to match them.
"I felt we then took control of the game when we changed the system after they scored.
"They took the lead and we just felt the players weren't getting to grips so we made it easier for them."
The Small Glen club have pocketed £600 following their efforts on Saturday, but Miles will be aiming to knock Tunbridge Wells out of the Kent Senior Trophy on Tuesday night.
"It keeps our season alive as we are not going to win the league to be honest but it keeps it (our season) interesting.
"In the FA Vase it's good to play against different sides and test your ability against them."
Looking ahead to their clash against rivals Tunbridge Wells, Miles added: "I would think it will be a tight contest as we had tight games against them last year.
"Hopefully we can get our mind and attitude's right - there's a plum draw for the winner, against Maidstone which is always nice, a big gate, and a game against a good side."
Miles, however, is upset that the Kent League Cup has been split into four groups of four - and harms his side's chances of progressing.
They have been placed in Group D, with favourites Beckenham Town and Thamesmead Town - and Sevenoaks Town.
"The League Cup doesn't help the sides like us," admitted Miles. "Although it gives us more fixtures it doesn't help us progressing as we have Beckenham and Thamesmead in our group and they will be in the top three (in the league) this year.
"Last year you could have a good draw but this season it favours the so called better sides."
Sadly, the Kent League is split into two - the sides with finances competing for honours in the top half and the clubs without fighting amongst themselves.
"You set your sights on the sides you think you are capable of beating and these are the teams you need to finish above."
With six points collected from their first seven league games, Slade Green are sitting in eleventh place, but Miles admits they could have been higher if they weren't held to a 2-2 draw at home to Sporting Bengal recently.
"I think if we turned the two draws against Sporting Bengal and Greenwich Borough (a 1-1 draw at home on the opening day of the season) into victories as we should have done, it would have been quite a successful start to the season baring in mind our atrocious form in pre-season," he said.
"We've played Thamesmead, Maidstone, Whitstable - all sides that will be there or there abouts at the end of the season."
Miles admitted he was "disappointed" to lose defenders Paul Goss and Aaron Heyretting in the past week.
"We've had a couple of people leave the club, both returning to Thamesmead," he revealed.
"I am disappointed to see them go as both came to us in pre-season and not supposedly enjoying their football not getting their chances at other clubs but decided to return so that's up to them.
"At the end of the day we don't hold a gun to anybody's head."
But the capture of former Erith & Belvedere coaches, Wayne Baldacchino and Ray Bagnell - as reserve team coaches - is a positive step for The Small Glen outfit.
Miles explained: "With them at the helm they've brought players into the club making it stronger, which will have an affect on the first team.
"First impressions are they're superb, very professional and they've already brought a lot to the club in the two and a half weeks they've been with us.
"Hopefully we've given them a good firm footing to start with and they have good track records."
These new reserve team players will be given an opportunity to progress into first team football.
Miles added: "That's the general aim. We don't want anybody in the football club that doesn't believe they cannot be a first team player.
"We can't offer money to players but we rely on local youngsters and fringe players from other clubs to make their reputation and move on like Ryan Hayes and Dave Martin."
The two 20-year-old's are tearing apart defences in the Southern League, playing for neighbours Dartford.
"It's frustrating because we want to keep the players but we don't stand in anybody's way if they want to move on," said Miles.
"We don't shut any doors but they are more than welcome back. Dartford are a good club, Tony Burman and Paul Sawyer will teach them all they know as they have a wealth of experience."
Slade Green's winning team against East Preston:
Arterton, Lewis (Little), Sabatino, Morgan, Penny, Hanlon, Malyon,
Bradley, McTaggart, Weir, Browning.