SL Review 140805

Thursday 01st September 2005

Let's start the way we mean to go on


Our three Kent sides in the Southern League Division One East got off to positive, unbeaten starts on the opening day of the season yesterday, writes Stephen McCartney.

Chatham Town were the only Kent side not to win, as they were held to a goal-less draw by Corby Town, in front of a disappointing crowd of 140 at Maidstone Road.

Dartford, however, were 1-0 winners up at Arlesey Town and Sittingbourne beat Rothwell Town by the same score on home soil.

And what is most pleasing is that our Kent sides have, already improved from this time last year.

Okay, Chatham Town did win on the opening day of last season (winning 2-1 up at Barton Rovers before getting stuffed 6-1 in their first home game three days later by East Thurrock United.

The Darts' opened last season with a 3-0 defeat at Boreham Wood and although Sittingbourne drew their first game of the season, playing out a goal-less draw at Arlesey Town, it took them seven outings to win their first league match.

And in EXCLUSIVE interviews with today, we spoke to managers Steve Binks, Tony Burman and Steve Lovell with their thoughts on their opening day matches.

Please remember all three men weren't in charge of their respective clubs this time last season.

Chatham Town boss Steve Binks, however, felt his side should have beaten Corby Town, but admitted he was disappointed with their second half display.

"Delighted with the first half," he said.  "We were by far the better side in the first half, dominated possession, created three or four good chances, one or two we should have stuck away.

"Our keeper, Louis Green, didn't have a save to make.  I felt confident we could go onto win in the second half, but it was scrappy with not too many chances created by either side really.

"There were a lot of stoppages and we couldn't get into our rhythm like we did in the first half.

"It was a very hard pitch, which was not productive to our style of play and we lost our way a little bit in the second half."

Binks, however, was satisfied that his side managed to keep their first clean sheet of the campaign.

"We looked solid at the back and played some excellent football from the back in the first half," he said.

"The positive was a clean sheet, we are now off and running it could turn out to be a good point."

Binks is pleased of the development of his younger players within his squad, and added: "Bryon Walker came off the bench with 25 minutes to go and livened things up.

"He got behind their defenders a couple of times and was a threat.  

"As Bryon is new to this level I don't want to burn him out.  He's getting some good experience of this level and I think he's going to be a threat."

The 19-year-old, Chatham based player is a product of the club's reserve side and will be given his chance during the Medway's side's campaign.

Binks' takes his side to Barking & East Ham United on Tuesday, and admitted it will be a tough test for his side.

The Essex side won their opening day clash, winning 1-0 at new boys, Potters Bar Town yesterday.

"Barking is a tough game, they were one of the best footballing sides last season and they had a good 1-0 win at Potters Bar yesterday," he said.

"We should have a fully fit side to choose from."

Steve Best (wedding) and Andy Garrett (work) will be available for their trip to Mayesbrook Park, and Binks has high hopes for former Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge Angels midfielder, Garrett.

"He's been out with a broken leg for a season.  He's a very strong, fit player with a good engine and he can play anywhere across the back or midfield."

Binks admitted striker Brendan Cass "looked sharp" and midfielder Steve Searle "dominated and passed the ball round well" and Tom Binks, Andy and Dan Larkin and Matt Bourne "were really solid at the back."

"I think we're going to be a hard side to break down," said the manager. 

"There's a lot more to come from our side and a lot of positives to take from the game.

"A point against Barking will be a great point but we can do better in front of goal."

Dartford play Great Wakering Rovers at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday  night in confident mood, having came away from Arlesey Town with all three points, courtesy of talented young winger, Ryan Hayes' 51st minute winner.

Great Wakering, who escaped relegation on the last day of last season, by winning at Chatham Town, thus sending Erith & Belvedere down to the Kent League, also won yesterday, beating Berkhamsted Town 2-1 on home turf.

But Darts' boss Tony Burman was pleased his players listened to his instructions and picked up all three points on the road, and he'll be hoping for more of the same when his side play at Stonebridge Road.

"It was a difficult away game," he said.  "Unfortunately I didn't have too many reports on Arlesey but they aren't a bad side.

"I said previously before the game I would like something from the game and we got all three points."

There has been a lot of pre-season talk about former Slade Green winger Ryan Hayes, but Burman wants to wrap the talented teenager up in cotton wool.

"It was good that Ryan's got off the mark.  I say potentially Ryan is not a bad player.  He's done well for us in pre-season but he's got to learn to be consistent like a lot of other youngsters as well."

Looking ahead to Great Wakering's visit, Burman added: "They had a good result at home on Saturday.  I've had them watched and it's going to be a difficult game as they got a good result.

"But we've got to go out with the same attitude but we want to get three points at home," he insisted.

But having played on an excellent playing surface on Saturday, that is something they'll be able to do every time they play at Stonebridge Road.

"One thing the pitch was excellent for us to play football on.  I asked players to go out and play in a certain way and to be patient.

"The onus was on the home team to come at us.  I felt we should have had a penalty in the first half and probably gone 1-0 up in that half as well.

"I think we deserved to take the lead in the second half and Arlesey did put quite a bit of pressure onto us.

"I felt we created another excellent chance, which fell to Eddie McClements and if he had put that in, I think the game would have been finished."

Burman, however, is pleased his players have listened to him and have picked up good habits in pre-season, which they've taken into their Southern League campaign.

"Overall, I was pleased with the players' attitudes, they've listened to what I had to tell them.  When the game plan works it's good.

"Although we've had a good result and got three points, we will definitely improve on our performances.

"I want to make the players better as individuals and as a team and hopefully we can carry on the good work on Tuesday night."

Darren Penfold, Craig Dennis, Gary Carter, Dan Westerman and Brad Potter are still unavailable for their first home game of the season.

"We didn't come out with injuries but overall our squad has been depleted with several injuries and unavailability's," added Burman.

And he added: "I like to see all the Kent clubs in our division battle it out in the top half."

Mark Lovell definitely got a pat on the back, as the 22-year-old striker, is the son of Sittingbourne manager, Steve.

The former Gillingham striker has put a serious leg injury behind him, and helped the Brickies get off to a winning start, thanks to his 8th minute winner at home to Rothwell Town.

And his father, Steve, was pleased his side got off to winning ways, and praised his son for playing his part.

"Very pleased, I'm pleased with the result and I didn't think we played as well as we can do but at the end of the day we didn't conceed a goal and we could have won it by two or three," the Welshman said.

Speaking about his son, Lovell added: "He has been out since he left Gillingham as a pro two years ago.

"He got injured and has been out for two years with a bad injury but he's come back and worked hard to get his fitness back.

"Now he can push his career forward and get back to where he belongs.

"I think it's a bonus that he's got himself back fit and playing for us as he'll get goals and help us enormously in winning games this year."

Sittingbourne, however, travel to Ware, to tackle Enfield on Tuesday night and will be without Kieron Marsh (work commitments) and James Campbell.  Both players are expected to be back for Saturday's trip to Corby Town.

Looking ahead to Tuesday's trip, Lovell said: "We don't know what the league's all about yet.  We'll go there to improve on our performance as there's room for improvement and if we do we'll give most teams a run for their money.

"Yesterday the boys looked really fit and sharp.  I've got a good squad of 21-22 players to choose from.  We've got competition in all areas of the field and it's a squad thing and not a team thing.  Everyone will have a big say on what goes on this year.

"It's a positive start and we can build on it.  The boys will be going into the next game looking to win."