FA Trophy First Qualifying Round previews

Friday 20th October 2006

It’s FA Trophy first qualifying round day tomorrow, although only Tonbridge Angels and Sittingbourne are on home soil, writes Stephen McCartney.

Tonbridge Angels embark on a very exciting seven days of cup football at the Betterview Longmead Stadium.

On Tuesday night their youth side can reach the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in two years if they knock out impressive Kentish rivals Gravesend & Northfleet.

Then next Saturday Nationwide Conference South outfit Newport County visit in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.

It’s been 15 years since the club have reached this stage and you will have to go back until 1972, when they lost 5-0 to Charlton Athletic at the old Angel ground, when they last reached the first round proper.

But player-boss Tony Dolby is keeping his players’ feet on the ground, as they prepare to play unbeaten Ryman League Division One North leaders Harlow Town in the Trophy.

“It’s a very important game tomorrow, prize money again and exposure,” Dolby said EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk  

“The further you go in this competition it’s really good exposure for the club. We will be going out to win - make no mistake.”

Dolby’s side trained last night and there is a scare for six-goal Welsh striker Andy Martin, who jarred his knee and is doubtful to face the Hawks tomorrow.

But Dolby is pleased that his players, who are currently second in the Ryman Premier League table, are taking one game at a time.

“We’ve had a training session last night and there was not much talk about the FA Cup,” revealed Dolby. “We’re professional with the way we think. We have to keep our feet on the ground and keep real.”

Unbeaten Harlow have won eight of their first nine league games this season, and anyone who are better than AFC Hornchurch, who impressed during their two FA Cup clashes with Welling United in the past week, will be no pushovers.

“Harlow have had a great start, got a fantastic record,” praised Dolby. But he warned: “They’re obviously going to be a tough side, strong and well organised and I’m sure they’ll come with no fear.”

Dolby, who is without the suspended Scott Kinch, is delighted that fellow midfielder Alex O’Brien has recovered from a bug, which needed a hospital visit, as he suffers with diabetes.

But one thing is for sure, Dolby wants his side to finish off the job tomorrow as he doesn’t want to travel to Essex for a replay on Wednesday night as they prepare for their FA Cup showdown against the South Wales club.

Sittingbourne manager Steve Lovell wants his side to emulate their performance at Metropolitan Police in midweek during their Trophy tie against Arlesey Town at Bourne Park.

Despite being held to an enthralling 3-3 draw, their third goal being a dramatic late leveller from goalkeeper Steve Williams, Lovell wants his side to impress in front of their own fans against their former Southern League rivals.

Reflecting on their draw at Imber Court, Lovell said EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk: “I’m expecting a performance same as the other night except for the defensive mistakes that we made.

“I thought we played the best football we played all year, created numerous chances and deserved to win the game not draw it.

“It’s the first time this year we’ve given bad defensive goals away so hopefully that won’t happen again for a few more games, but overall I’m very pleased with the general play.”

The Welshman admitted to not knowing too much about tomorrow’s opponents, but he does want his side to enjoy a good FA Trophy run.

“They played in the eastern last year and we’re quite a good footballing side,” Lovell recalled. “I don’t know what they are like this year but we will approach it the same as any other game.

“It’s important to keep the performances going so we’ll take tomorrow and if we go through to try to keep it going.

“The main thing is the performance of the team.”

Lee Browning (groin), James Campbell (calf), Tristan Knowles (knee) and Clint Gooding (serving the last of his three match suspension) are all ruled out but Lee Hockey is fit enough to play for the reserves.

Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley saw his side leapfrog over Staines Town into 14 th place in the Ryman Premier League table last Monday following their 1-0 win over Hendon at the Buzzlines Stadium.

Cugley takes his side to Staines’ Wheatsheaf Park tomorrow and hopes his side relish playing on a lush playing surface as they bid for a lengthy Trophy run.

“The one great thing is it’s a lovely pitch up there and the players are looking forward to it,” Cugley said EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

But Cugley will be without Ben Sly, who needed nine stitches below his knee, after the substitute lasted just seven minutes against Hendon as Invicta won their fourth successive league game.

Looking ahead to their trip to Staines, Cugley said: “We’ll work really hard and see what they’re all about. I won’t change anything I’ll do. We’ll put in a lot of hard work into it.

“We’re never going to win the competition but (we want to) stay in it and play one of the Conference sides like we have done in the past.”

Cugley admitted “hard work and a little bit of luck” have been instrumental in their change of fortunes.

“The lads have worked hard around the pitch and it’s come off” he said. “I think the return of form of Paul Jones has helped us as he’s playing well now.”

Due to financial constrains Cugley has been forced to release Lee Shearer and Matt Carruthers in recent weeks, but the club’s home grown talent are coming through.

Cugley, who has 13 paid players at his disposal, said: “Sixteen-year-old goalkeeper Luke Stonebridge and Sam Marsh, whose done well in the reserves, are there on merit to be fair and that’s why we have to have a strong youth and reserve base to succeed.

"Without that we’d have no chance whatsoever. You are looking for half of your squad being local really to succeed.”

Ramsgate boss Jim Ward watched Hendon lose their game at Folkestone Invicta to Adam Flanagan’s stunning 75th minute volley.

“I thought Hendon were a bit unlucky against Folkestone,” said Ward, whose side travel to north London tomorrow.

“I thought they were very good down the left flank. They were better than we played them a few weeks ago, when we beat them 4-2 in the league up at their place.”

But Ward wants the Thanet side to progress in the competition. “It’s a competition that if you get the right draws you can go a good distance,” he said.

“Our target in the FA Trophy is still be in it after Christmas, but it’s always been my aim to do things like that.

“Every cup and FA Trophy you want to see how far you can take yourselves.”

Ward is, however, at full-strength at Hendon tomorrow, and everyone wants to play.

“We’ll go with what we’ve got,” he said. “Nobody wants to be left out, we’re going very well so if it’s not broken don’t try to fix it.”

Ramsgate’s youth team, meanwhile, welcome league leaders Epsom & Ewell for a place in the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup at stake at Southwood Stadium next Wednesday night.

Ward, who will be watching the game, added: “It’s superb, a real test they’ve got. Epsom & Ewell are top of their division, our manager would have see them or spoken to people who have seen them.

“I will be there to see what we can do. There will be a good crowd there, like the last game.”

Maidstone United joint-managers Lloyd Hume and Alan Walker are facing their usual injury headaches as they prepare for their FA Trophy first qualifying round trip to Ryman Premier League side Chelmsford City tomorrow.

This time it's Jimmy Strouts who will be missing from the squad after tearing his hamstring on Wednesday night.

Commenting yet again on another injury setback to the squad, Walker told www.maidstoneunited.co.uk: "I really don't understand why we have suffered an increase in hamstring injuries this season," which has included Lynden Rowland, Sam Tydeman, Errison Ahwan and now Strouts.

He continued: "We haven't changed our training techniques and if anything we should be stronger with the lads now training twice a week.

“What is even more confusing is that it is affecting the fittest members of our squad. You'd expect those that aren't used to this level of training to maybe come down with an injury or two, but it's hitting those who are more than able to cope with the increased demands of Ryman League football.

“The best example is Errison Ahwan, he's a tremendous athlete yet gets hit by injury and the same for Jimmy Strouts, whose job demands a very high level of fitness as well."

Thankfully Stones are able to offset the loss of Strouts with the return of Nick Barnes to the squad after his 3-match ban. Joining him in the squad will be new signing Alex Tiesse.

Walker commented about the striker or right sided attacking midfielder: "I remember seeing Alex as a trainee at Millwall and he looked a great talent then but he failed to live up to expectations for one reason or another.

“Hopefully, with the correct guidance he will once again show what a talent he can be and be a valuable addition to the squad."

Walker is relishing their trip to Melbourne Park, which is arguably the Stones’ biggest competitive game since reforming.

He said: "Motivation for this game is not a problem as this is really our cup final. We come into the game having witnessed the unpredictable nature of football, having only got one point from a really good performance against Horsham, yet a below par performance saw us get all three points.

“I'll be looking for a repeat of the performances against Horsham and Bury (Town) and if we perform as we know we are capable of then I can see us getting the right result.

“But it all depends on how we start. If we start well, then the players will take heart from that, but a poor one could see us struggle.

“The aim though is obviously to give a good account of ourselves, but the main aim is to win and we remain confident that if we play well we can win."

One other piece of team news is that goalkeeper Mickel Czanner will not be available for Saturday due to work commitments.

The club have raised £400 for their ground fund in just one week.

Walker interview courtesy of www.maidstoneunited.co.uk 

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