Sunday 01st January 2006

Cugley and Wakeling expect "tough" Kent derby

Kent rivals Folkestone Invicta and Bromley are both in the same boat - they run on very small first team squads, writes Stephen McCartney.

Having done a head count on both Ryman Premier League club's, there are barely enough players to fill each match-day 16-man squad.

Injuries have curtailed Bromley's play-off hopes, and are now sitting in fourteenth place in the table, having not won in six league outings, but the need for Folkestone Invicta to collect all three points tomorrow is vital, as they're fourth from bottom.

Invicta manager Neil Cugley, has, this week, added two more players to his small squad, signing Stuart Playford, 34, a former Eastbourne Borough and Hastings United full-back, and young striker, Chris Wright, from arch-rivals Dover Athletic.

Bromley, on the other hand, with a squad of seventeen, have released Adrian Stone and John-Paul Collier, who have both been welcomed back by Ryman League Division One strugglers Ashford Town.

The last time both these sides met was in the sunshine at Hayes Lane at the end of August.  James Dryden's (now at Dover Athletic) clinical finishing gave Invicta a 3-0 lead but goals from Fraser Logan (now at Tonbridge Angels), Nic McDonnell (now with 16 goals this season) and a dramatic late leveller from Mark Willy shared the spoils.

"It will be a tough game, like all games in this league," Cugley said in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

And his Bromley counterpart George Wakeling echoed these views, adding: "I think it's going to be a very hard game.  I've got a lot of respect for Folkestone as they battle whenever they play.

"They took a 3-0 lead at our place but we are going to go there and try to get the points."

Cugley, however, admitted he wasn't sure whether his full-back Paul Lamb was re-joining his home town club Margate.

"Margate are speaking to him this week but he's definitely playing against Bromley," he revealed.

When asked if Lamb will remain an Invicta player for the remainder of the season, Cugley replied: "I don't really know.  He lives in Margate and financially they may offer him more money than we can - we have to wait and see."

Cugley did admit it was important to add to his stretched squad, to add competition for places.

"We were running on 12 paid players so you can't continue that way and they'll bring competition to the team," he said.  

"It does make yourself laugh when other teams have a squad of eighteen and we've been playing with 12-13.

"Hopefully this will make us stronger, and playing on a heavy pitch, as we'll be tomorrow, it's nice to have a bigger squad as you can change things around in the last twenty minutes."

Cugley, however, is looking forward to next Saturday's visit of AFC Wimbledon to Cheriton Road.  He added: "Hopefully, we'll get towards a thousand people there.  Financially we've had a good year at the club and this can help."

Invicta's trip to Chester City in the first round proper of the FA Cup in November was Cugley's highlight of the past year, whilst Wakeling's best bits was their FA Cup win at Mangotsfield United (a third qualifying round replay), where he got his "biggest kick" and "winning promotion" after beating Horsham in last season's play-off final.

"It was tremendous for a club of our size," Cugley said.  "We did ourselves proud on the day, which was nice.

"Obviously I've said this before, I like this league and we want to do well and its important to push the club on now."

Folkestone go into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw at local rivals Margate on Boxing Day, but Wakeling admits Worthing robbed his side a point, stealing a late winner the following day.

Speaking about the 2-1 defeat, he said: "I think we won the game but didn't get the points.  They stole the victory but that's what happens in this game.  That's why we're all in it - it's so unpredictable."

Wakeling takes his side to Chelmsford City next Saturday - the second match played at their new Melbourne Park stadium.

Billericay Town will be the first visitors to the Clarets new home tomorrow, and Wakeling is relishing their game at the 3,000 capacity ground.

"That will be great - terrific," said Wakeling.  "They are all hard games.  It's good that its like it because you can pick up the paper on a Sunday and don't be surprised when teams like Fisher lose games."

Wakeling revealed why he released striker Stone, who scored only four career goals in 29 games (in two spells) for the Hayes Lane club.  But he hasn't ruled out a return for the former Carshalton Athletic striker.

"I couldn't give John-Paul Collier an opportunity to express himself," said Wakeling.  "We've got a budget at the club and the finances were stretching that.

"Adrian (Stone) has gone to Ashford to get a few games under his belt and we'll reassess the situation at a later date.

"I've been quite pleased with our forward play and when we swing Wade Falana on he does a good job for us.

"At this moment in time Adrian wasn't getting his fair share so he's gone to Ashford to get a few games under his belt."

Wakeling will "review at a later date," Mark Tompkins' situation at Ryman League Division One side Banstead Athletic, but budget restrains are preventing Wakeling to sign more players and has to release players before he can bring in new faces.

"I think providing we can get everybody fit we are capable of beating a lot of sides in this division," he insisted.

"We need a fit squad, we haven't got a lot of depth, picking up injuries does a lot of damage to us.

"We've got a budget to work with, one we are happy with.  But the injury situation has hurt us a little bit but at the end of the day we just plug away.

"If somebody comes available to improve the side we will be interested to look at it."

Invicta are at full-strength, but Bromley are without influential midfielder Sam Wood (thigh) and Allan McLeod (shoulder).

Folkestone Invicta v Bromley
Ryman Premier League
Monday 2nd January 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Buzzlines Stadium, Cheriton Road, Folkestone