Sunday 24th April 2005

Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk

Chatham's future looking rosy

CHATHAM Town's visit to Bedfordshire on Saturday resulted in their third win in a row after a closely fought encounter with Arlesey Town, writes Stephen McCartney.

With Andy Larkin unavailable, Matt Bourne, 18, returned to the starting line-up in central defence and this win puts the Medway side in a respectable tenth place in the Southern League Division One East table with one game left to play.

Chances were hard to come by in the first half, with both defences looking pretty solid.  

Arlesey's best opportunity, however, came in the 11th minute.  A long ball over the Chats defence was headed past goalkeeper Louis Green by Matt Batt, but his shot from a tight angle rolled just wide of the far post.

Chatham's closest attempt came on the half hour.  Tom Binks won possession with a solid tackle and released Steve Searle on the right.  The former Tonbridge Angels' midfielder crossed to Gillingham bound Frannie Collin, whose header landed on the roof of the Arlesey goal.

Chatham started the second half well and came close to breaking the deadlock after five minutes.  Hesitation in the Arlesey defence enabled Collin to outpace the defence on the left.  His low cross to Brendan Cass, another recent capture from Tonbridge, was laid back to Searle, but his shot was well saved.

At this stage Chatham were gaining the upper hand and starting to create more chances.  However, they had to wait until the 81st minute to score the only goal.

Arlesey goalkeeper Nick Bussey was dismissed for handling outside the area when he came out to stop Mark Brookes' run in on goal.

Having already used their three substitutes, defender Jason Thomas had to take on the keeper's duties.  From the resulting free kick he saved Danny Larkin's powerful drive, but Cass was on hand to knock in the rebound.

Arlesey nearly snatched a late equaliser when Ronnie Fortune's header was brilliantly saved by Green.

Chatham Town boss Steve Binks admitted he can see a much brighter future for the Maidstone Road outfit who are overshadowed by other clubs in the county including Margate, Dover Athletic and Tonbridge Angels - who have all been relegated this season.

"Another real solid, good all round team performance," he said.  "The defence were rock solid, with 18-year-old Matt Bourne man of the match.  Our midfield, Steve Searle in particular was very creative and some real good dogged box-to-box play from Israel Amadi and Mark Brookes.

"In central midfield Steve Searle and Steve Best ran the show.  The front two of Frannie Collin and Brendan Cass are a good partnership."

Binks, however, has given Erith & Belvedere boss Steve Robinson a boost ahead of the final day of the season next week.

The Deres travel to fifth placed Wivenhoe needing to equal or better Great Wakering Rovers' result at Chatham Town.

Robinson's men have a slender two point lead on Great Wakering, but Binks' insisted he will be going all out for victory to keep their Kent rivals in the division - and for his side to finish ninth or tenth in the table.

"We obviously like Erith & Belvedere to stay in the division," the Chatham manager said.  "It's another Kent derby depending on who else comes down into our league.

"Depending on how the league's are restructured there could be Dover and Tonbridge coming in and there could be seven or eight Kent derbies next season.

"It would be a good Kent (based) league next season with a Kent, Essex and Surrey combination.

"So we are looking to finish off with a fourth win on the trot and use it as a springboard for next season."

I am sure Robbo is pleased to have read that!

Chatham will be aiming for a ninth placed finish but will be relying on Waltham Forest to lose at Boreham Wood.  Forest thrashed Berkhamsted Town 10-1 yesterday and have a two point lead on the Medway side.

Binks added: "Erith is just up the road, a nice ground.  It will be nice to see many Kent sides in our division and hopefully they will move Dover and Tonbridge into our league."

Sadly for Chatham, they don't get the media attention they deserve and Binks admitted next season will be even better.

"I think the club has made really good, steady progress over the last ten years," he said.

"We've got promoted from the Kent League three years ago and established ourselves in the Southern League.

"If we can push on we will be looking to finish in the top six next season.  I think we have the ability and experience in the side to do it.

"Players like Mark Brookes, Matt Bourne and the youngsters coming through the reserves - the future is looking rosy.

"The side we are finishing with at the moment have only been together a dozen games.  If we can get everybody doing a good pre-season and start the new season on a strong note we should be able to push on from there."

Glen Billinesss is expected to be back for pre-season training after having knee surgery and Gary Tilley (broken leg) and Kevin Spriggs (broken ankle) are also on the sidelines ready to return once fully fit.

"They are three very strong and experienced players and they will be like signing three new players next season," added Binks.  "We've signed three experienced players in Searle, Cass and Andy Larkin - who are absolutely outstanding, different class."

Binks, however, revealed the club are expecting to lose 18-year-old Frannie Collin to local Championship side Gillingham, and although the teenage talent isn't on a contract, it is expected the Gills will send a strong side to Maidstone Road for a pre-season friendly.

Talking of friendlies, the Medway side are in discussions with Folkestone Invicta and Dover Athletic to play before the league season commences.

Binks added: "The club is making steady progress.  We can't afford to throw lots of money into the budget.  We don't have the crowd potential at the moment but if we keep making steady progress then hopefully people will start coming through the door.

"The club is very sound financially.  We are one of two or three Kent clubs on our way up - hopefully our achievement might start to receive some better media coverage."

Chatham Town v Great Wakering Rovers
Southern League Division One East
Saturday 30th April 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Maidstone Road, Chatham