We start as underdogs against a strong Beckenham side, says Fleet Leisure boss Lee Richmond

Friday 28th February 2014
FLEET LEISURE manager Lee Richmond says he is delighted to still be involved in three cup competitions at this late stage of the season.

The Strood based club welcome Southern Counties East Football League side Beckenham Town tomorrow with a place in the Kent Senior Trophy Final Sponsored by Spire Alexendra Hospital at stake.

The club were playing Haart of Kent County League Premier Division football last season and were promoted to the Kent Invicta League thanks to their groundshare at Rochester United.

Tomorrow’s game against Jason Huntley’s side will be the biggest game in the club’s history as they bid to reach the final at the first attempt.

Richmond has guided the club to ninth-place in their inaugural Kent Invicta League campaign with seven wins and a draw in their fourteen league games.

Beckenham Town arrive at Rede Court Road sitting in eleventh-place in the league above, with six wins and three draws from their eighteen games.

There will be a pitch inspection at 09:30 in the morning to see if the game goes ahead and if it does Richmond wants to spring a massive cup upset.

“If it’s on, we are looking forward to playing a semi-final in a big competition,” said Richmond.

“Our first year in the Invicta League has been very enjoyable. We set out with the mind set of finding our feet and not getting embarrassed so we are delighted to still be in three cups.

“Tomorrow we start as underdogs against a strong Beckenham side from the league above but as we have done all season we will try out best, try to play football and see if luck is on our side.

“The lads have been superb this year and have bought into everything we have asked them to do.

“We still have nineteen games left but we can’t moan as we have enjoyed the cup runs so let’s hope it’s a great game.

In the other semi-final, Hollands & Blair entertain Ashford United at Star Meadow.

The Gillingham-based club are sitting proudly at the top of the Kent Invicta League table with fifteen wins and two defeats from their seventeen games.

Paul Piggott’s side are four points clear of Lydd Town, who will play their game in hand at Kent Football United tomorrow.

Hollands & Blair lifted the Kent Senior Trophy for the first time only two years’ ago when two goals from Nick Smith produced a shock 2-1 win over Kent League side Sevenoaks Town at Welling United’s Park View Road ground.

“Saturday’s game is one any player or manager will want to be involved in and one no-one ever wants to lose a semi-final,” said Piggott.

Hollands & Blair finished above Paul Chambers’ Ashford United last season but the Homelands outfit sealed promotion along with champions Phoenix Sports because Blair’s ground on Darland Avenue doesn’t have floodlights or the criteria to stage higher-league football.

“Ashford are going great guns at the moment and have taken the league by storm and Paul (Chambers) is doing a good job in the three years they’ve been back on their feet as a club,” said Piggott.

“I think it shows how strong the top half of our league is when Ashford and Phoenix are doing so well after promotion last season.”

Ashford United have made a trio of signings from Ryman League Division One South side Hythe Town, with Dave Cook, Pat Kingwell and Ronnie Dolan joining the club.

Piggott added: “And now they’ve made some solid signings in the last couple of weeks from club’s higher up the ladder so they are flexing their muscles, which will make Saturday’s game very tough for us.

“But we’ve got a fit squad to choose from and players are hitting fitness and form at the business end of the season.

“Wednesday night’s training was a pleasure to watch because I could see they are buzzing at the moment and are raring to go again and show what we have to offer in a big game against big opposition.”

Ashford United are sitting one point clear at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League, with only one defeat and fourteen wins from their fifteen league outings.

Ashford United lead the table with 42 points from 15 games, followed by Tunbridge Wells (41 from 19) and Whyteleafe (40 from 15).

But the title race is now between Ashford United and Whyteleafe after Tunbridge Wells slipped up at Fisher last Monday, being held to a 2-2 draw, despite The Fish playing right-back Aaron Seales in goal for 57 minutes of the game after goalkeeper Billy Hensman was forced off through a shoulder injury.

Ashford United assistant manager John Ovard expects a tough game against Blair tomorrow.

“It’s another big test for our players as it’s another big game and that’s pretty much going to be the case for us every week now,” said Ovard.

“To be honest Hollands & Blair should be a Kent League club but for one reason or another they’re not but we expect a very tough game against a well organised team that are doing well in the Kent Invicta League.

“We’ll go there confident with a good squad of players and we are looking forward to it.

“We didn’t play too well last week in the quarter-final but ground out the result and sometimes you need those types of performances to get through when your normal, passing, entertaining game is a bit off.

“The club, supporters and the players deserve a cup final but we’ll certainly have to earn that day out and have to work very, very hard to get it.”

There will be a 10:00 pitch inspection at Star Meadow tomorrow to see if the game will go ahead.

The final will be held on Sunday, 13 April, at a venue to be confirmed by The Kent Football Association.
Visit Fleet Leisure’s website:  www.clubwebsite.co.uk/fleetleisurefc/19159/Home

Visit Beckenham Town’s website: www.beckenhamtownfc.co.uk

Visit Hollands & Blair’s website:  www.hollandsandblair.co.uk

Visit Ashford United’s website:  www.ashfordunitedfc.com

Fleet Leisure  v  Beckenham Town
Kent Senior Trophy Sponsored by Spire Alexandra Hospital Semi-Final
Saturday 1st March 2014
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Rede Court Road, Strood, Kent ME2 3TU

Hollands & Blair  v  Ashford United
Kent Senior Trophy Sponsored by Spire Alexandra Hospital Semi-Final
Saturday 1st March 2014
Kick Off 2:00pm
At Star Meadow Sports Ground, Darland Avenue, Gillingham, Kent ME7 3AN

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