|Go Travel Kent League
|Stephen McCartney reports from Eden Park Avenue|
|Beckenham Town||3||Lewis Wood 6
Darren Hall 42
Paul Vines 80
|Whitstable Town||1||Steve Marshall 9|
Classy Becks aiming for top five
ONE of the best footballing sides in the Go Travel Kent League are aiming for a top five finish and with two young prolific strikers banging in the goals, they are more than capable of fulfilling their ambitions.
Beckenham Town may be seventh in the table, eleven points adrift of leaders Herne Bay, with only nine league games to play, but there has been a breath of fresh air at the Eden Park Avenue outfit this season.
In 2003 the club were awarded £100,000 by the Football Foundation for ground improvements. In the summer of 2004, however, a new pitch with improved drainage was laid along with hard standing all around. It was also decided to invest in perimeter fencing around the tiny ground to deter vandals.
And Beckenham's assistant manager Jason Taylor revealed: "I think there's rumours we are having a new stand built in the summer and the clubhouse coming down and a new one going up so thing's are pointing in the right direction."
On the pitch, two young strikers, who have and can still play at a higher level, are making sure Beckenham Town are firing on all cylinders.
Paul Vines, a former Cray Wanderers reserve, was given his chance by former Bromley manager Stuart McIntyre and was an asset to the Hayes Lane club, coming of the bench to score vital goals in the Ryman first division. But after being released by the Scot earlier in the season, he had a short spell in the Southern League with Erith & Belvedere and has gone on to score 12 goals in 13 games in the Kent League for Beckenham.
Lewis Wood, is another Cray Wanderers and Deres striker and has also been banging in the goals - 13 in 14 games. Both strikers were on the score-sheet as Beckenham secured a well deserved 3-1 victory over a disappointing Whitstable side.
Taylor added: "Whitstable are a very good side, we had to be at our very best today and I was ever so pleased with the boys.
"The two fellas up front, Charlie (Paul Vines) and Lewis (Wood) worked ever so hard.
"We brought Darren Hall into the midfield and he was fantastic - he had a great game.
"He has worked his socks off, got a goal - I am really pleased, it's a good win."
With a home Kent Senior Trophy semi-final date with local rivals VCD Athletic to look forward to on the 5th March for a place in the final against Thamesmead Town or Ramsgate, Taylor admitted winning some silverware and a top five finish will give the club the pulling power to attract more quality players to the club.
He said: "We want to finish as high up in the league as we possibly can.
"We are in the semi-finals of the Kent Senior Trophy and we want to finish in the top five and win that and then we want to build for next year.
"We've got a lot of good players here, we want to keep them and we want to attract some more - finishing in the top five and winning the Kent Senior Trophy will help that.
"Yes, we are going in the right direction."
Beckenham took the lead after only five minutes when Dean Forbes, a former professional with Northampton Town before spells in the non-league game with Tooting & Mitcham United - where he represented Guyana twice against Columbia and St Kitts - and Bromley, played a long ball out of defence to Darren Hall and he played in Wood who fired past former Dartford goalkeeper Jimmy Simpson.
Whitstable, however, quickly responded and were on level terms only four minutes later.
Beckenham goalkeeper Gavin Hopper came rushing out of his penalty box but striker Steve Marshall kept his composure, took the ball around him, and slotted into an empty net, despite the efforts of Forbes to slide the ball off the line on the near post.
Beckenham's slick football was a joy to watch. They play on one of the best playing surfaces in Kent and are up there with Erith Town, Dover Athletic, Tonbridge Angels and Welling United fighting for the honour of having the best pitch in the whole county.
After 18 minutes the home side should have taken a deserved lead. Vines' shot was drilled towards the far post, from inside the penalty box, and too be fair, it appeared the shot was going wide, but wing-back Nathan Paul, ghosted in at the far post and agonisingly blazed high over the bar from only two yards out.
Whitstable's skipper Marc Seager, however, was pulling the strings in the midfield for the visitors but he should have done better with a 24th minute free kick. Following a lengthy delay, his 28-yard free kick ballooned high over the four man wall and high over Hopper's crossbar.
Four minutes later another chance went begging for the home side - their football was a credit to the Kent League - and Paul delivered a cross from the right-flank for Wood. With his back to goal, the tiny striker had the confidence to try an overhead kick, which dropped narrowly over the crossbar.
Former Dartford striker Tommy Planck went close for Whitstable with a fierce shot which flew wide of the right post and at the other end Wood drove a shot from eight yards past Simpson's dive but past the near post.
It was now Whitstable's turn for slick passing in the middle of the park, which allowed Marcus Perona to play the ball forward for Aaron Knight but from sixteen yards he shot went wide.
Darren Hall marked his return into the side by scoring his fifth goal of the season as Beckenham took the lead with only three minutes before the interval.
Hall latched onto a long ball and from the edge of the penalty area, he stroked the ball, right-footed past Simpson to give the home side a deserved lead.
They did, however, have Hopper to thank for keeping their lead in tact when he blocked Perona's close range shot.
However, after watching an enjoyable first half, the second half didn't live up to the same standards.
Simpson was called into action after 62 minutes when he pushed Vines' shot around the post and the former Millwall and Welling United stopper then saw Nathan Paul nip in front of his marker at the near post, following Adam Heaslewood's corner, but the pint-sized talented wing-back headed over.
With their manager Matt Toms now off the bench, Whitstable twice went close in the space of three minutes when Knight, 25-yards out, shaped his body for a curler, but he didn't execute the shot, which went well wide of the far post.
Seager's free kick from 25-yards was comfortably saved by Hopper after Toms was pushed from behind by Forbes, 26, whose experience was vital in a three man defence alongside the impressive Martin West and Tony Sinclair.
Another chance went begging for Whitstable, when Knight's rasping shot flew straight into a well positioned Hopper's midrift but a goalkeeping clanger from Simpson gifted Beckenham their third, but deserved goal, with ten minutes left.
His clearance was charged down by Vines just outside the box and the youngster kept his composure, took the ball past the bemused goalkeeper and stroked the ball into the middle of an empty net.
Looking forward to Deal Town's visit to Eden Park Avenue next Saturday, Taylor added: "Deal are down the bottom but they've played less games than most teams.
"It will be another hard game fir us, we'll have to be at our best again.
"We've been good at home this year, so we'll be looking for three more points."
Meanwhile, Beckenham's trip to Greenwich Borough (Harrow Meadow, Eltham Green Road) has been put back 24-hours to Wednesday 9th February.
But it's their home game with Tunbridge Wells on Saturday 12th February, which will be a very good game to watch, with two very talented passing teams gracing a very special Eden Park Avenue pitch.
Beckenham Town: Gary Hopper, Nathan Paul, Asher Edwards (Paul Smith 90), Tony Sinclair, Martin West, Dean Forbes, Matthew Belton (Capt), Adam Heaslewood, Paul Vines, Lewis Wood (Daniel Beszant 90), Darren Hall (Sean Cooney 88), Subs: Grant Watts, John Paul Green (GK)
Whitstable Town: Jimmy Simpson, Ryan Davis (Martin Colling 82), Shane Davies, Rob Thomas, Andy Keir, Marc Seager (Capt), Aaron Knight, Marcus Perona, Tom Planck, Steve Marshall (Matt Toms 65), Scott Price (Darren Gowler 52). Sub: Gavin Wright
Referee: S Finnegan