Thursday 25th August 2005

Cumberbatch warns his players to avoid FA Cup upset


After losing their opening two Ryman League division one games of the season, Ashford Town can enjoy a welcomed break from league action when Kentish Observer League side Slade Green visit Homelands in the preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

Ashford have lost their opening league games by the same score (2-1) to Metropolitan Police and Whyteleafe.

But joint-manager John Cumberbatch - who has asked his fans to remain patient - hasn't played down a push for the play-offs.

In an interview with www.ashfordtownfc.co.uk the Orpington resident said: "At this present moment, I am confident we will finish in either a play-off position or only just missing out.

"If we do miss out, I expect it to be due to points dropped at this early stage.

"It is vital, therefore, that we get all parts of our game in order very quickly.

"I have to be realistic and say that this is impossible.  Despite spending extra sessions on a one-to-one basis with some players, what is needed is much more time with the squad working as a whole.

"Four full days a week for the next six weeks may do the trick - you will begin to see that I get very jealous and highly critical of those who are full-time in this profession."

The honest manager added: "I still maintain what I said previously that results may start badly but will improve considerably or we could start reasonably well but deteriorate soon after.

"I still feel confident that we will always play quite well and be fairly solid, but it is around the half-way mark and beyond that results will be positive.

"We are so far pleased with the way the team have performed, despite losing.

"We have been creating chances and the key will be whether we continue doing so and how quickly we can increase the rate of converting these and then maintaining it."

Looking forward to meeting Kent League outfit Slade Green, Cumberbatch warned his players not to take them likely.

"Although we have had only the two league games, this FA Cup match is a welcome break and allows us to switch attention to a very different type of competition," he said.

"We do have the danger that, despite what the players have been told, some of them may believe that we are playing inferior opposition.

"That is not the case and certainly in this competition it is not so.

"We have to realise Slade Green will fancy their chances against us.  Our own league position could not be worse. 

"I would like to have watched them play, but the opportunity never arose so we go into the tie blindly.  We will need to be at our best to give us any sort of chance."

Meanwhile, Slade Green Phil Miles has admitted his side will have to play extremely well to cause an upset.

Miles comments come after he and co-manager Terry Malin watched their opponents in action against Whyteleafe on Tuesday night.

"Although they lost 2-1, Ashford looked a very strong unit with a couple of very good players," he said.

Despite picking up just one point from their opening three games it is a little early to start hitting the panic button at The Small Glen just yet as both their defeats have come at the hands of this season's two Kent League favourites, Beckenham Town and Maidstone United.

Saturday's tie will see Green parade new goalkeeper Gary Arterton, a midweek signing from Whitstable Town in place of the unavailable Paul Vines.

Meanwhile, Malin and Miles expect to welcome back former Fisher Athletic and Chatham Town player Ryan Robinson who missed last week's 2-0 defeat at Maidstone United with an ulcer and Mark Sabatino who suffered a reoccurrence of his groin strain a fortnight ago against Greenwich Borough.

Which Kent side will go through?  Good luck to them both!

Ashford Town v Slade Green
FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 27th August 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Homelands, Ashford Road, Kingsnorth