Thursday 01st September 2005

Revamped cup format brings mixed emotions

Thursday 10th
November 2005
Kentish Observer League Cup
Group C
Stephen McCartney reports from 
Harrow Meadow
VCD Athletic 2 Paul Foley 59
Lee Coburn 69
Deal Town 1 John Utterson 90

The revamped Kentish Observer League Cup format brought mixed emotions as the competition played its second game at Harrow Meadow tonight, writes Stephen McCartney.

Deal Town - who embarked on their Group C campaign with a 3-1 defeat at Tunbridge Wells at the end of last month - suffered their second defeat and face a mountain to climb to finish in the top two in their last four games to qualify for the last eight.

The other three groups get their campaigns under way at the weekend, but tonight's managers gave their opinions on the new format.

With only 30 league games to the Kent League season, spoke to several managers at this level last season and all demanded more fixtures to fill in blank dates during the course of their season.

Tonight, Paul Foley's sixth goal of the season, rising unmarked to plant Ashley Probetts corner into the net gave VCD Athletic a deserved 59th minute lead.

And ten minutes later, Lee Coburn's 12th goal of the season, when his shot looped off a defender to find the top right hand corner, put them on the front foot.

But Deal's John Utterson's twelfth goal of the season, glancing home Danny Smith's injury time free kick made their long Thursday night jaunt from South-East London less painful.

VCD were deserved winners on the night to get their campaign in this competition off to a great start.

Earlier in the game, James Brown had a goal ruled out as he bundled over Deal goalkeeper Robert Lindlay and Coburn could have scored a hat-trick when, after 54 minutes he headed wide of the left post from close range and struck the crossbar from a cross-come-shot from the right hand side before scoring his side's second goal.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with after the game, Deal Town manager Derek Hares felt aggrieved that his side had to make the long journey to Eltham on a Thursday night.

"I wasn't happy to be honest," he admitted.  "I think we could have played it another night.

"I don't think playing this game 48 hours before another game (at home to Maidstone United in this competition on Saturday) was right but that's when they (VCD) wanted to play it and I've got no excuses."

Reflecting on the game, which, having left Deal at 5pm took them around two hours to arrive at Harrow Meadow, Hares added: "I didn't think we played well enough tonight and the best team won.

"Over the last few weeks we've played really well but I felt tonight we played the wrong (type of) game.

"VCD are a strong side, very good in the air and hit too many long balls.  I thought it was easy for them."

VCD Athletic's long-serving boss Martin Ford, however, feels his side will take this competition seriously.

"I think it will grow on us," he said.  "It depends on how seriously the lads want to take it.

"If we can win our early games I think we can look at the bigger picture after three or four games and decide what we want to do.

"We go to Tunbridge Wells on Saturday and I think if we can beat them it will put us in a strong position in the group.

"If we can beat them and Deal twice the games against Maidstone won't matter so much."

And if his side lose their third game in this competition to Maidstone on Saturday, Hares will still field strong sides to keep the group competitive.

"We need to win it now," he admitted.  "Maidstone are going to be strong favourites but I've seen enough of us and when we play well we will give anyone in this league a good game.

"I haven't really thought about losing (Saturday) if I'm honest," he confessed.  "To be fair to the other teams I'll probably put the strongest team out (if we can't qualify) because if you start putting your reserve side out it belittles the tournament and it's unfair to the other teams."

And Ford is expecting a tough game at Culverden Stadium, as Tunbridge Wells' recently appointed manager, Martin Farnie rebuilds the team.

"It will be a tough game with Martin Farnie in charge now," he said.  "He's got them well organised from the back to the front.

"They beat Deal 3-1, we're unlucky at Maidstone at the weekend by all accounts."

After missing tonight's game, Phil Turner and Steve Hogg will be available for selection.  And Ford added: "We've got a few fresh legs to come back in."

VCD Athletic:  Grant Wallis, Chris Whitehouse, David Hunt (Terry Murphy 80), Paul Foley (Capt), Martin Driscoll, Lee Coburn, Mark Horan (Stuart Abbott 77), James Brown, Mark Greatorex (Kevin Winchcombe 70), Danny Penny, Ashley Probetts.  Subs: Jodie Ricketts, Mo Miah

Deal Town: Robert Lindlay, Darren Waring, Josh Davidson, Louis Smith, Leon Ingram, Aaron Robinson, Jamie Marriott (Carl Whitehead 85), David Bathgate (Capt), Graham Taylor (Michael Lane 70), John Utterson, Danny Smith.  Sub: Wes Hammond

Attendance:  62
Referee: Mr P Knight
Assistants: Mr M Lehane & Mr M Cheesman