Cray Valley sack James Collins while Erith & Belvedere boss Luke Coleman expects a tough FA Cup test against them
ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Luke Coleman expects managerless Cray Valley to be their toughest test of the season on Sunday.
The Deres suffered a miserable season last time out finishing at the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.
But they have set the tone in a positive fashion so far this season, thrashing Wick 4-0 at Park View Road in The FA Cup Preliminary Round on 5 August before and thrashed a poor Gravesham Borough side 6-0, before beating Phoenix Sports Reserves 3-1 to sit in fourth-place in the First Division table at this early stage.
Cray Valley controversially sacked their manager James Collins today, despite having a 100% record this season.
The Millers are presently sitting in third-place in the Premier Division table with maximum points from their first two games and a 3-1 win at Abbey Rangers set up Sunday’s FA Cup clash at Park View Road.
Last season Collins guided the club to their highest ever league position of fourth and reached the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final where they lost 2-1 to Ashford United.
Cray Valley became the first club at their level to win the London Senior Cup after beating higher league club's Welling United, AFC Wimbledon, Dulwich Hamlet and Metropolitan Police to win the silverware.
“In regards to the game on Sunday, it is obviously an important game for both clubs,” said Coleman.
“I think it will be a tough game in which both club’s will be looking to get through.
“With the news that came out of Cray Valley today, I expect their players to be looking to make a mark.
“I have seen a lot of comments on the fact that James has left today but I guess nobody outside of the club and James knows the circumstances and therefore you never know how their side will react come Sunday.
“I would like to wish him all the best for the future and I am sure he will do well wherever he goes.
“From our perspective we can only focus on ourselves and I think it is important to try and continue the good progress made already.
“I expect Cray Valley to be our toughest test yet this season and we must be prepared.
“I think it is a great opportunity for us to cut our teeth against a side who are going to be in and around the top three in the League above.”
Reflecting on their win over Phoenix Sports Reserves, Coleman said: “I think we played extremely well in the second half. However, we were poor in the first and I doubt we will have the opportunity to recover if we start that slowly against Cray Valley.
“The boys know we must be ready from the off and I am optimistic we can get a positive result.”
Coleman has a special relationship with The FA Cup following his time at Folkestone Invicta.
“For me The FA Cup has always had a close affiliation as when Neil Cugley gave me an opportunity in the first team at Folkestone Invicta at 15, I scored two in the FA Cup and became the youngest to do so.
“It gave me a lot of exposure at the time and in saying this, myself and Darren (Anslow) have stated to the boys that these games don't come around that often and is a massive opportunity to take the club into a stage of the competition they have not been for some time.
“It is also an opportunity for the players to show that they can compete in the league above. I think whatever competition you are in, you want to do as well as you can and Sunday is no exception.”
Reflecting on their early league form, Coleman is pleased with the way things have started.
“On reflection, our start to the season has been positive but although it’s a cliche you are only ever as good as your last game. As a side we set mini targets and have tried to break the season down into stages. Certainly, we could not have really asked for a better start with three wins out of three but we need to build on this.
“As I have said to the boys despite winning our first three games it means very little if we lose our next three. Therefore, our aim for Sunday and beyond is keep doing as well as we can and see how we progress.”
Cray Valley, meanwhile, have put former Dartford defender Tommy Osborne (who guided the club’s reserve side to a league title last season) in temporary charge, starting with Sunday’s FA Cup tie.
A club statement said: “Due to irresolvable difficulties, Cray Valley (PM) FC have decided to part company with manager James Collins.
“In the short term reserve team manager Tommy Osborne will take charge of all first team affairs and will be in the dug-out for our FA Cup tie this coming Sunday away to Erith & Belvedere.
“In view of the need to act quickly and decisively, we have already formulated our own short list of prospective targets and hope to confirm a replacement management team within the next seven days.
“The club would like to thank James and for the superb contribution over the past two seasons and wish him every success for the future.”
Collins says he will issue a statement on Sunday.
Erith & Belvedere v Cray Valley (Paper Mills)
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Sunday 20th August 2017
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Park View Road, Welling, Kent DA16 1SY