Sunday 24th April 2005

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

Deres are in the driving seat

ERITH & Belvedere's 3-1 win over Aveley at Park View Road on Saturday wasn't enough to secure their Southern League status as relegation rivals Great Wakering Rovers beat Harlow Town by the same score, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Deres, however, with a two point lead on the Essex side, go into their final game of the season next Saturday hoping Kent rivals Chatham Town can do them a favour.

Erith & Belvedere travel to fifth placed Wivenhoe Town - themselves already qualified for the play-off's -  needing to equal or better Great Wakering Rovers' result at Chatham Town.

But today Chatham Town boss Steve Binks revealed he is going all out for victory to try to finish the season with four wins on the trot and hopefully in ninth place in the table.

"We obviously like Erith & Belvedere to stay in the division," said the Chatham Town manager.  "We are looking to finish off with a fourth win on the trot and use it as a springboard for next season."

Most teams at this stage of the season - who have nothing to play for - tend to field weakened sides but this will be music to Deres' boss Steve Robinson's ears.

"I always thought it was going to be tight towards the end of the season and that's the way it's worked out," Robinson said after their 3-1 win over Aveley.

"Going into the last game against Wivenhoe, our away form has been good of late.  When our backs are against it we do tend to grind results out and I hope next week won't be different.

"We've got our noses in front, with two points, at the end of the day, I still consider ourselves in the driving seat."

The Deres must avoid defeat at Wivenhoe Town - who drew 2-2 at Barton Rovers on Saturday - or copy Great Wakering's result.

Robinson reflected on the 15 games he has been in charge of, after being promoted from assistant to manager when Barry Lakin left the club to assist Brian Statham at Ryman Premier League side Heybridge Swifts in January.

"The 15 games that I've been in charge have been very similar to the previous games as well," said the former Dartford defender.  "It's been a little bit of a roller coaster.  Our form has been inconsistent to say the least, putting in some superb performances away from home, and here to be fair, but our home form hasn't been the best.  We know that and we'll be building on that for next year.

"This is my first (managerial) job and of course you learn things in terms of decision making, changing players etc."

Prolific reserve team striker Peter Afolayan became the 61st player used in the Deres first team squad this season, but Robinson insists the club won't be using so many next term.

"I'd like to have a settled squad," he admits.  "I've brought in some local players following Barry Lakin's departure.  The wage bill has been cut considerably since Barry went to a very respectable level and the players I've brought in have been of good quality and haven't let us down.

"I mentioned local players because I will be looking for local players if I am around next season.  Who knows what next season will bring?

"I know we've used quite a lot of players.  At the end of the day it's been a roller coaster of a ride to get there, so yes, of course I'd like a settled squad but certainly in hindsight next season I won't be using so many."

Robinson, who told his players to enjoy themselves before they took to the field before their impressive performance against Aveley, believes the same attitude will maintain their Southern League status at Wivenhoe Town.

"It will be a pressure game.  What I said to them today was to go out and enjoy it.  We are all here to enjoy our football and yes, okay, our expenses are covered but we are all here to enjoy it.  I just wanted them to go out and enjoy their football but to compete and show the will to win, which they did.

"Our away form and when our backs are against it we've pulled out some really good results and I expect next week to be very tight and who knows what sort of side Wivenhoe will put out.  At the end of the day it's all about us and the performance we put in but most of all I am delighted with today's performance."

Robinson reminded Chatham boss Steve Binks the importance for the Medway side to secure a win on the final day of the season.

"I know Binksey and I would hope they would want a Kent local derby again next season and do us a favour in that respect."

* Southern League rivals Erith & Belvedere and Dartford are doing their bit to raise money for Paul Sykes' family on the eve of the Kent Senior Cup Final.  A Veterans benefit match takes place at Park View Road on Sunday 1st May (3pm).  All proceeds from the game will go into the fund for Sykes' family.  Admission prices are £3 (adults) and £1 (concessions).

A crowd of over 2,500 is expected at the Westbourne Stadium, Cheriton Road, Folkestone for the Kent Senior Cup Final on Monday 2nd May (3pm) between Dover Athletic and Margate, where all proceeds will also go to the Sykes' family.

The bottom six of the Southern League Division One East table with only one game left to play

Pos Team PLD W D L F A PTS
17 Aveley 41 12 9 20 57 68 45
18 Berkhamsted Town 41 15 7 19 64 97 45**
19 Sittingbourne 41 10 12 19 52 67 42
20 Erith & Belvedere 41 11 7 23 56 90 37*
21 Great Wakering Rovers 41 8 11 22 44 78 35
22 Tilbury 41 6 9 26 39 105 27

*   Erith & Belvedere deducted 3 points fielding an ineligible player
** Berkhamsted Town deducted 7 points fielding an ineligible player

Wivenhoe Town v Erith & Belvedere
Southern League Division One East
Saturday 30th April 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Broad Lane, Elmstead Road, Wivenhoe