At this level every FA Cup game has to be played like the final for us, says Hollands & Blair boss Darren Blackburn
HOLLANDS & BLAIR manager Darren Blackburn says his side have made a promising start to the new season.
The Gillingham-based outfit are sitting in 12th place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table after their opening two games of the season.
The Blair began with a 1-0 home opening day win over newly-promoted Fisher, before they went down to a 2-1 defeat at Deal Town in midweek.
“We’ve made a promising start to the season and I’m very pleased with the team and the way the players are gelling together in the dressing room,” said Blackburn.
“The lads that styed during a very difficult summer have been fantastic and helped welcome our new signings to the club and have made them feel welcome.
“I really appreciate both their faith in me and their commitment to the club.
“The new signings have settled in well and have had a real positive impact on the team both on and off-the-field and we haven’t actually managed a full training session together yet.
“It’s the early stages of a rebuilding process and we’ve put down some solid foundations to build on during the rest of this season and beyond.
“We got off to a great start against Fisher taking three valuable points in a hard-fought contest and again it gives us an early platform to build on and an early injection of confidence.
“Tuesday’s away trip to Deal, as I predicted, was another tough affair.
“We were missing six players who would’ve competed for starting places had they been available but that’s the problem with midweek long distance away games at this early stage of the season. It’s a tough ask with players having to juggle work and playing.
“We lost influential centre-back Charlie Plummer early on to another shoulder injury, that’s three in three games now, which I can only put down to very bad luck and perhaps hard pitches with the lack of rain.
“He now joins Austin Edwards and Jack Simon on the injury list.
“Having said that, the four lads I called up from the reserves did a great job and I couldn’t have been prouder of any player. All 14 put in a real shift against a very good Deal side and we were unlucky not to steal a point.
“I’m disappointed with both the goals we conceded. Both started with two fairly long balls that we could’ve dealt with better but credit to the Deal players, they finished them clinically.
“Our equaliser was a phenomenal strike from full-back Ed Morant and I haven’t witnessed many volley’s hit that well with such great technique and power. It’s a shame because that goal on it’s own was probably worthy of a point at least in any game.
“Unfortunately, 16-year-old Harrison Pont was dismissed for a straight red after making a youthful and inexperienced challenge but he’s been great for me both in the reserves and the first team. He’s a talented young man and I’m sure he’ll learn from the experience.
“Sadly, my remaining 10 players just failed to hold on for what would’ve been a great point and although I’m gutted for them, again there were more positives than negatives to take form the game.
“I’d like to extend my condolences to Deal and the family of their support who we showed respect to with a minutes applause before the game and wish them well for the season and look forward to locking horns again in October.”
Blackburn takes his side into Sussex tomorrow to play Loxwood in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.
The winner will scoop £2,250 in prize money from The Football Association, will the losers will bank £750.
Loxwood have lost their two league games so that form will make Blair favourites to progress into the Preliminary Round in a couple of weeks time.
“Looking ahead to this weekend and The FA Cup, it’s an exciting weekend despite the second long journey in a week,” said Blackburn.
“At this level every FA Cup game has to be played like the final for us. The players are looking forward to it and I don’t think they’ll take much motivating for this one.
“It’s not just about a place in the next round, for club’s like ours the financial reward is huge as well.
“We welcome back a few of those players who were missing on Tuesday night, which is great and we’re looking forward to the occasion and hope to represent the SCEFL Premier well and get a positive result.”
Visit Hollands & Blair’s website: www.hollandsandblair.co.uk
Loxwood v Hollands & Blair
The Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Saturday 11 August 2018
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Recreation Ground, Plaistow Road, Loxwood, West Sussex RH14 OSX