Ashford make triple loan swoop - EXCLUSIVE INTERIVEW

Monday 16th October 2006

Ashford Town will hand three loan signings their debuts when they play Maidstone United at Bourne Park on Wednesday night, writes Stephen McCartney.

Drew Watkins and Adam O’Neill have arrived from Tonbridge Angels, whilst PASE teenage striker Luke Coleman arrives from Gravesend & Northfleet.

The trio were introduced to their new team-mates during Saturday’s training session, and joint-manager John Cumberbatch wants them to make an instant impact as they try to end their five match run without a win.

Striker O’Neill progressed through the youth ranks at Tonbridge, making his first team debut against Tooting & Mitcham United in October 2005.

Adam O'Neill (above) joins Drew Watkins (below) on loan to Ashford Town from Tonbridge Angels to regain fitness and to help with the Nuts & Bolts fortunes.  Both will make their debuts at Maidstone United on Wednesday night.
Photographs courtesy of

But his first team appearances have been limited this season, starting three games, due to the form of leading scorer Jon Main and Welshman Andy Martin.

Attacking wing-back Watkins made his mark with Cray Wanderers, where he won the Kent League double in 2002-03) and helping the Hayes Lane outfit to win the Kent League Cup at Cheriton Road, which prompted a move to Folkestone Invicta before returning to play for Ian Jenkins’ side.

He then moved to Tonbridge in March 2006, helping Tony Dolby’s side to promotion back into the Ryman Premier League at the first attempt, and it’s that winning mentality that Cumberbatch wants to instil into his side.

But Cumberbatch said EXCLUSIVELY to this morning, that he needs to work out which position suits Watkins.

He said: “He’s a difficult one because we have to decide where we are going to play him.

“The club he’s come from has a winning habit, he’s used to winning matches. He’s very tenacious and seems to have a good technique, so I think he’s going to bring a

combination of things we’ve already got at the club, but he’s used to winning games.”

Cumberbatch was impressed with O’Neill during their training session at the weekend.

“Adam seems to have a lot of pace and seems determined to make a good impression,” said Cumberbatch.

“Both seem keen to play for the side and do very well. After having spent half an hour they both blended in very well with their new team-mates.”

Cumberbatch explained why Tim Thorogood brought the pair to the club.

“From their point of view it gives them both an opportunity to play more matches, to get themselves to match fitness instead of time spent on the sidelines.

“But also I know the Tonbridge management have got respect for us as a side, and going into a side, with a little bit of improvement, can do well.”

Looking ahead to their trip to Maidstone United, against a side that have not won in the Ryman League since beating Metropolitan Police 1-0 on the 9 September, Cumberbatch feels his side can beat their Kentish rivals.

“We expect our players to be able to put in a performance,” he said. “We can look at it and say the new signings have made a difference and have added quality that we know is already there but hasn’t shone through with results.

“We know their manager Alan Walker quite well, and he will have them well organised.

“They’ve had a mixed season but have been up amongst the contenders for the play-off places so it won’t be an easy game.”

But Cumberbatch, whose side haven’t won since beating Bromley 2-0 in the Westview Cup on 12 September, demands that his side find their form that saw them win three games before that cup win.

“They really have to start playing with more confidence,” he said. “There’s no doubt the quality is there but we need to play with more confidence.

“We give the ball away too easily when there’s no pressure on and for a side that really wants to play football on the ground we won’t get anywhere if we give the ball away cheaply.

“We also lack mental strength, it’s the clear thing all the players will agree, as a squad we switch off at vital times and make mistakes when they shouldn’t be made.”

Cumberbatch, meanwhile, is putting pressure on former Folkestone Invicta striker Coleman to take the chances that his side creates, as goals have dried up of late.

“Despite the fact that our strikers haven’t played too badly we just need people to have a direct mind for goalscoring and nothing else,” he said.

“He’s pleased to be here because being in the Gravesend squad he wants to be playing and feels he can score goals for us.

“On his showing at training, again, I’d like to think that’s the case.”

Whether the trio stay at the Homelands is a matter for Tony Dolby (Tonbridge manager) and Gravesend & Northfleet boss Liam Daish to decide.

But Cumberbatch explained the situation, adding: “Depending on how it pans out if they make the impact they hope they will we will always be looking to sign them on.

“But obviously their existing managers may not be too willing to let them go. We are looking for permanent players.”

Meanwhile, Tonbridge Angels have confirmed that they have signed former Northern Ireland under 21 international Ryan Maxwell from Welsh Premier League side Lanelli AFC.

The 23-year-old midfielder, who made his Tonbridge debut in their 3-1 defeat to Dartford in the Westview Cup recently, appeared for Llanelli in their two UEFA Cup games with Gelfe earlier in the season.

And the much-travelled midfielder has played for Reading, Crystal Palace, Hamilton, Raith Rovers, Margate and Bishop’s Stortford before moving to the Welsh Premier League outfit during the close season.

Maidstone United v Ashford Town
Ryman League Division One South
Wednesday 18th October 2006
Kick Off 7:45pm
At Sittingbourne FC, Bourne Park, Central Park Complex, Eurolink, Church Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 3SB.