Sunday 18th September 2005

We will climb the table, insists Cumberbatch


Ashford Town's joint-manager, John Cumberbatch insists his side can claw themselves off the foot of the Ryman League division one table, despite losing all of their first five league games of the season, writes Stephen McCartney.

His side stunned Tonbridge Angels yesterday when Steve Humphrey's 14th minute strike - against the run of play - gave the Nuts and Bolts the lead at the Betterview Longmead Stadium, but Ray Powell's goal a minute before the break restored parity.

But the Angels' went to the summit thanks to second half goals from Luke Piscina (63) and Warren Haughton nine minutes from time, but although his side are two points adrift of Burgess Hill Town, Cumberbatch remains upbeat.

"We do need to bring other people in," he admitted to www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

"It may be the case of bringing in players that may not be as talented as some of the youngsters we've got, but certainly we need two maybe three experienced players."

When asked if he feels his players can climb the table, Cumberbatch replied: "Yes they do, but then I feel we've got a problem because we've got youngsters.

"I think its something about the modern era.  When I used to play and you'll be in the changing room after a result like this you'll have a lot of people talking and you'd get feedback.

"However, these youngsters are just quiet and half the time you can't get feedback from them."

But Cumberbatch admits there aren't enough leaders on the pitch that demand consistent displays.

"Now I think they believe they're the right players to do it but then they're aren't enough of them in there that are leaders," he said.

"And consequently in the changing room, half the time you can't tell exactly what their moods are like, it's only when you talk to them individually on a one-to-one basis."

With crowds dwindling at the Homelands, Cumberbatch asks for the club's fans to be more supportive, both in numbers and vocally to assist in raising the team from its current predicament.

Their goal at Tonbridge yesterday was met by a stunned silence, as their loyal band of travelling fans appeared to be in shock as their side took the lead against the run of play - instead of raising the roof.

"The fans that are saying we're already down aren't in touch with reality," he blasted.

"I have written on our website and inside our programme and made it clear to people that however we start - even if we started with maximum points - that you cannot tell whether a teams down or what the situation is (before Christmas).

"If we had management or players who have got the mentality of some of those fans that are saying that - then we'll be down.

"But I've got too much experience in football and Tim (Thorogood) and I know what we're doing, we know what's going wrong, and it will slowly start to change."

Cumberbatch's coaching and man-management skills, along with Thorogood, turned around the club's dire situation last season, and despite losing 5-0 at Horsham on the final day of last season, the Homelands outfit maintained their Ryman League status - but only just, as they scraped to safety having gained one more point than relegated Dorking.

"When I came here last season we were 13 points adrift of the team above us to avoid relegation, and that was a big ask and we managed to do it," he recalled.

Their only win of this season was their FA Cup preliminary round success against Kentish Observer League side Slade Green, and having been knocked out by Windsor & Eton in the next round, Ashford host Walton Casuals at Homelands next Saturday, but before they do, Kingstonian are the visitors on Tuesday night.

"I don't know a lot about Kingstonian but what I do know about them is they are going to play a similar game to Tonbridge Angels.  They'll be hitting long balls to their forwards quite early," predicts Cumberbatch.

"I think they've got a couple of experienced strikers up there, so they'll be looking to hit balls up to them and for them to hold it up.

"Again, with the Kingstonian game, if I felt we had the right players and we had people like our captain Marc Cumberbatch and Eddie Achoko available, I could give you a much better answer (on how we'll do).

"But I think it's going to be a case of the players that are here getting their heads down and see if we can get a point."

Cumberbatch asks for the club's fans to remain upbeat - like him - during these testing times.

"It's very difficult for the supporters because when your sides losing its just as nerve racking for them as it is for us.

"But I think there's a good chance we could get some kind of result, but again, if we don't it's not the end of the world as it's very early in the football season.

"It's really after Christmas when they should start worrying and panicking and if we're still there I will be singing a different tune."

Ashford Town v Kingstonian
Ryman League Division One
Tuesday 20th September 2005
Kick Off 7:45pm
at The Homelands, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth