Managers relish Kent League opening day

Wednesday 09th August 2006

Over one thousand football fans are expected to turn out in force to watch the opening day of the Kent Football League season on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

With Gravesend & Northfleet kicking off their Nationwide Conference campaign with a trip to Aldershot Town, and Welling United welcoming Weston-Super-Mare in the Nationwide Conference South at Park View Road, there are eight Kent League games taking place around the county.

Kent League clubs can take full advantage of fans of Ryman League clubs - who start their campaigns seven day later - who are bored of watching pre-season friendlies and desperate to watch competitive football instead.

The Kent League welcomes two new clubs; Faversham Town, who finished runners-up in the British Energy Kent County League last season, and Croydon, who played in the now defunct second division of the Ryman League.

Faversham Town welcome VCD Athletic to Salters Lane, before travelling to Winch’s Field on Tuesday night to meet Jason Lillis’ Herne Bay, who are without a game on Saturday.

Cordice told : "It is fantastic to be managing Faversham Town in the Kent League and we have two very big games first up with Herne Bay away coming just three days after VCD.

"But we have made some great signings this summer and we are very excited about our chances."

Cordice said he was looking forward to seeing the crowds flood back to Salters Lane to celebrate the club's return to the promised land of the Kent League.

He explained: "I'm thrilled for everyone at the football club that we are back at long last.

"The fans were absolutely incredible last season. To think we had almost 1,500 for the Sittingbourne game and then over 400 for both Norton and Lewisham at home.

"As I've said before, those sort of attendances would not have been out of place in the Ryman League.

"It'll be more of a level playing field now that we have moved up a grade but I am banking on the supporters flooding back to roar on the lads this season."

Cordice's No 2 Peter Holder was quick to reassure fans that Faversham Town had a new side that was more than capable of holding their own in the Kent League.

He said: "In many respects, we will be looked at as the fall guys this year. We are the only team coming up because Croydon have come sideways and because of that, some might think we are going to roll over.

"Well, I can tell you that we will compete and I can guarantee a good performance against VCD on Saturday."

Former England schoolboy international Steve Aslett heads the list of new arrivals at Salters Lane this summer.

Midfielder Aslett, 20, has already earned the nickname of Steve Casual from Bob Mason after impressing Faversham Town's chairman with his cool and calm approach on both match days and in training.

The tall playmaker from Herne Bay is good friends with fellow new boy Andy Martin, 22, who scored Faversham Town's first goal of pre-season in the 3-1 defeat to Lewisham Borough last week.

Faversham lad Richard Gamble is another new recruit who is expected to do well. The 22-year-old former Whitstable Town defender is relaunching his career after spending much of last season out injured.

Wes Hammond has also settled in well which is an encouraging sign because the much-travelled defender has already had a hatful of clubs at the tender age of just 21.

The central defender has had spells at Margate, Gravesend and Northfleet, Herne Bay and Deal Town and is back in football after a long-term hamstring problem.

Cordice is still looking for a star forward following the departure of the Cable brothers but could yet snap up Marcus Hodges and Graham Taylor who top his shopping list.

The prolific Hodges is away on honeymoon while Taylor is still weighing up his options but in the meantime Cordice has moved quickly to sign the exciting Wayne "Junior" Farrell.

The 18-year-old right winger with explosive pace arrived at Salters Lane this month with his elder brother Curtis and both players are desperate for a crack at first-team football.

More pace up front arrives in the shape of 21-year-old Dane Luchford who has signed after scoring AGAINST Town for Folkestone Invicta last month.

The list of summer recruits is completed by new player-coach Paul Copley.

The former Welling United defender, who won the Kent League title as a 17 year old with Greenwich Borough, made contact with the club after reading about the revival on their website.

Meanwhile, Faversham Town secretary Alan Trent has moved to head off possible criticism of increased admission prices, insisting: Don't blame us, our hands are tied.

It will cost adults £5.00 to watch the Lilywhites this season with concessions priced at £3.00 while the Under-16s remain free.

But Mr Trent revealed that the price hike was forced upon the club who must fall in line with Kent League rules.

He said: "While the club would like to keep the cost of admission as low as possible as way of saying thank you to our wonderful supporters, the minimum standard price of £5.00 is laid down by the Kent League.

"We have decided to continue the highly successful concession of allowing under 16s free admission, so it means a family of two adults and two children can enjoy local football for less than the cost of single admission at Gillingham.

"I think that represents tremendous value for money."

VCD Athletic manager Martin Ford has announced seven new signings in time for their opener against the Lilywhites.

Nick Munshall (Gillingham youth), Dean Burns (Thamesmead Town), Kevin Spriggs and Terry Ratchford (both Dartford), Danny Edwards (Sittingbourne), Gary Ward and Paul Smith (Whitstable Town) have signed.

Local rivals Slade Green will be the club’s first visitors to their Oakwood ground in Crayford on Thursday 7th September.

James Brown, meanwhile, is the only player to have left the club, joining Thamesmead Town.

Croydon, who play at the Croydon Sports Arena in South Norwood, travel to Whitstable Town to play their first ever Kent League game.

Trams manager Russell Harmsworth has revealed that he’s kept all of his players from last season and has also added a few more to his squad.

Mark Fawke, who can play at left-back or in midfield, and Andy Young, whose a tough tackling midfielder, have both joined from neighbours Chipstead.

Former Horsham striker Rhod Davies, who has been Merstham’s top goalscorer in the Combined Counties League for the past two seasons, will be looking to get amongst the goals, along with Lee Kirby who has re-joined the club having just returned from working abroad.

“He has a good goalscoring record at this level and Ryman League level,” Harmsworth told about Davies.

Centre half Ollie Young has also returned to the club and goalkeeper Stuart Robins has signed from Ryman League Division One South outfit Molesey.

Youngster Dan Bennett has signed from Ryman Premier League club Bromley, and ball playing midfielder Tim Murdoch, 21, a former Bromley player, has signed a new one-year deal at the club.

But the Trams have a couple of injury doubts for their trip to the Belmont, with Ollie Young (ankle) ad Ray Freeman (knee) expected to miss out.

Harmsworth added: “We played our last pre-season game last Saturday against Hellenic League side Wokingham and won 4-0 with a good display of quality football.”

Strikers Kirby, Sam Warner and Jody Yee all got on the score sheet, with Gambian international trialist Du Du making it four.

Whitstable Town manager Marc Seager is expecting his side to defeat Croydon and get their season off on the right track.

Former Sittingbourne goalkeeper Kevin Fewell has signed from Ryman Leaguers Chatham Town and midfielder Mickey Lane arrives from Kent League rivals Deal Town.

Seager has signed two players from local rivals Herne Bay, with winger Marlon Button and highly-rated striker Stuart King making the switch along the coast.

And defender Scott Price arrives from Faversham Town.

But Steve Marshall (holiday), Stuart Harrison (holiday) and Lee Jones (calf) miss the opening day of the season.

Seager told : “I’m really looking forward to the season, all the players have worked hard all summer and hopefully they will be rewarded for their efforts.”

It’s been all change at the Small Glen as new Slade Green managerial pair Danny Evans and Adam Heaslewood ring the changes ahead of their trip to Deal Town.

Defenders Mark Sabatino, Lee Barber and midfielder Tom Morgan remain at the club as the Green are expected to give debuts to thirteen players on the east Kent coast.

The goalkeepers position has been taken by Dean Mann, whose signed from Cray Wanderers.

Slade Green have plenty of experience through their squad. In defence they have signed John Myall (Hythe Town), Mark Dudley (Thamesmead Town), Paul Gross (Erith Town) and Andy Silk.

Silk has been the reserve team manager at Ryman League club Bromley for the past three seasons and has also played for the club as well as Leyton Pennant and Cray Wanderers.

Slade Green have signed midfielders Joe Hurlock (Dartford), Joe Diggings (Erith & Belvedere),  Jay Lee (Tilbury) and John Paul McKey.

Heaslewood, who joins from Cray Wanderers will be combining his role as player and coach this season.

Silk brings his former Bromley reserve striker Andrew Dalhouse to the club via Croydon, and the former Queen’s Park Rangers’ youngster is joined by Jason Clews (Thamesmead Town) and Adam Morish (Erith & Belvedere) as the club’s strikers.

But Scott Barnes, a summer signing from Cammell Laird, and Diggins are both ruled out for their league opener because of hamstring injuries.

“A lot of work has gone into the pre-season programme and now we are looking forward to starting the competitive games to see where we are at standard wise and where we need to improve,” Heaslewood told

But the former Cray Wanderers’ midfielder hopes his 13 debutants gel on Saturday to get the season off to a winning start.

“It’s almost a brand new team,” he said. “Only three remain from last season so I suppose it is a new start for the club with regards to playing staff.

“What I have been most impressed with is the application of the players and the togetherness that we have shown in pre-season games.

“It will take a while for the team to completely gel but we will keep plugging away, but the early signs are very good.”

Heaslewood, meanwhile, explained how they’ve attracted so many good players to the club.

He said: “Personal contacts from Danny, Andy Silk and myself mostly, but also some of the new players have brought friends down and then the usual trialists.

“We like to think that the players that have come down here have seen what we are trying to achieve and how we operate.

“The management team have a high level of competitiveness, but we also want the players to enjoy their football and look forward to the coming games and training.”

Not knowing too much about Deal Town, Heaslewood added: “We know that it is always going to be a tough game at Deal.

“It’s about how we prepare and how our players react, when there are so many making their debuts.

“Pre-season performances have been encouraging but this counts for nothing come the start of the season!”

Despite enduring a depressing season last time out, Sevenoaks Town are already showing signs of improvement.

The Greatness Park club finished rock bottom in the Kent League last season, scoring just 18 goals from their 30 league games, winning just three of them.

But Sevenoaks have already scored 11 times in their six pre-season friendlies and their only defeat was when they lost 2-1 at Canvey Island.

They go into the game with good morale in the camp, having defeated Dover Athletic’s second string by three goals to two in midweek.

Joint-manager Derek Moore, meanwhile, hopes his side can get the new season off to a good start, against Greenwich Borough at Greatness Park.

The club have been forced to increase their admission prices this season, with adults being charged £5, as per Kent League rules.

But fans that have watched their pre-season outings have been impressed and won’t mind paying the extra one pound.

“With our good form that’s come out of pre-season, certainly if we can perform equally as well as we did against Tilbury, Cray Wanderers and Canvey Island, we will certainly put a good show on and who knows,” Moore told

“It’s all about on the day really up to a point and also it’s the first game for Greenwich Borough, who have also strengthened their side.”

The only way is up for the west Kent club, and Moore explained their aims for the season, adding: “We’ll be satisfied this season, as part of our plans, to finish in a strong midtable position.”

“If we can build upon that, sobeit, but we’ll also like a run in the cups, which is good for morale and for the coffers as well.”

Lordswood manager Paul Piggott has even named the fifteen players that will start their Kent League campaign against Sporting Bengal United at North Dane Way.

He has signed three players during the close season, with defender Andy Mills coming in from Sevenoaks Town and two players have come from Kent County League sides.

Striker Gary East arrives from Bearsted and midfielder Adam Ling has signed from Borden Village.

But Piggott has lost striker Andy Doerr to Sittingbourne and Andy Forster is expected to be out injured for four weeks with a knee injury.

Neil Crust, meanwhile, returns to the squad after a long lay off with an ankle injury.

Piggott’s squad for the opening day is as follows:

Gavin Hopper, Lyndon Gusscott, Warren Phillips, Ashley Russell, Sean Hetterley, Dave Forster, Adam Ling, Lee Dengate, Steve Sharp, Gary East, Nick Smith, Neil Crust, Andy Mills, Ray Broad and Luke Paine.

It’s been very quiet at Beckenham Town during the summer with plenty of speculation about the Eden Park Avenue outfit.

But it doesn’t help when the club website closes down, which gives fans the perfect opportunity to start rumours.

But last Saturday they defeated Maidstone United by two goals to one to lift the Kent League Challenge Shield at Bourne Park.

The victorious side saw former Ashford Town goalkeeper Sean Glover replaced by Darren Ibrahim at half-time.

Ibrahim, a former Gillingham youngster, made just two appearances for Welling United last season as understudy to Jamie Turner.

Beckenham Town’s team that beat the Stones was: Sean Glover (Darren Ibrahim 45), Danny Wilson (Jack Barnes 59), Danny Harris (Jamie Turner 49), Jason Rose, Steve McKenzie, Billy Hughes, Ted Hart, Ashley Carew, Jones Awuah (Joe McDonald 24), Michael Smith (Nicky Curran 64), Tony Gallagher.

But fans are hyping up Saturday’s fixture against Erith & Belvedere at Eden Park Avenue, claiming both sides will be challenging for honours once more.

A spokesperson from the club told “Not a lot I can tell you about Becks as they’re still developments with players coming in.

“All I can give you is the team that played Maidstone. 

“Jones Awuah (former Gillingham and Bromley striker) will not play as he is injured.

“My observations are that this is an all-change for Town with no players from last season.

“The team has gelled quickly with some of the players being involved with Millwall and Gillingham youth.

“The side has a bit more steel than last year and will make an impact in the Kent League.”

The Kent League title went to Maidstone United last season, after the Stones defeated Sevenoaks Town 4-0 at Greatness Park, and Erith & Belvedere held Beckenham Town to a
1-1 draw at Park View Road on the last day of the season.

* Clubs are invited to send in their previews of their games and we’ll update this article as soon as we receive them. Please click on “Contact us”.

* Clubs at all levels can send in their match reports. We need them before 6pm on Sunday so we can include them in our new Saturday Headlines article.

Kent League Fixtures
Saturday 12th August 2006 (3pm)

Beckenham Town v Erith & Belvedere
At Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham

Deal Town v Slade Green
At Deal Electrical Stadium, Charles Sports Ground, St Leonards Road, Deal

Faversham Town v VCD Athletic
At Salters Lane, Faversham

Hythe Town v Erith Town
At Reachfields Stadium, Fort Road, Hythe

Lordswood v Sporting Bengal
At Lordswood Sports & Social Club, North Dane Way, Lordswood, Chatham

Sevenoaks Town v Greenwich Borough
At Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoks

Thamesmead Town v Tunbridge Wells
At Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ

Whitstable Town v Croydon
At The Belmont, Belmont Road, Whitstable

No game for Herne Bay

* Faversham Town quotes are courtesy of