Thursday 20th January 2005

The Kent Website
Supporting Kentish Football

Managers compliment each other ahead of top-six tussle

THE Go Travel Kent League is finally taking shape with four of the five clubs that applied for promotion sitting pretty in the top six, writes Stephen McCartney.

Whitstable Town and VCD Athletic haven't submitted the paperwork to the Football Association but leaders Herne Bay, Ramsgate, Maidstone United and Tunbridge Wells are the teams that have made their intensions known both on and off the field.

Thamesmead Town, however, were the first club to go public with their application - but with games in hand - they are more than capable of making a burst up the table, just like Maidstone United.

The pick of Saturday's games is at Winch's Field where leaders Herne Bay - with a two point lead over local rivals Whitstable Town entertain ambitious Tunbridge Wells, who are in sixth place but nine points behind.

The Culverden Stadium outfit have come on leap and bounds this season under Kevin Metcalf - a former Tenterden Town manager - and the coaching pair of former Ashford Town coach Martin Telford and cockney Dave Rice.

The trio have used their contacts to bring in players from a higher level to the club on a shoe-string budget and finally other clubs in the county are taking notice that Tunbridge Wells are serious about securing promotion.

With speedy plans to get their Culverden Stadium home up to scratch to stage Ryman League football next season, Metcalf is aware what is needed to elevate the club up one level.

"I am under no pressure as I think we are in a nice position, going in 6th place only a few points behind," he said.

Metcalf is anticipating a good game between two very good sides.

"It's a six-pointer." he said.  "We are going for the championship - all the teams relaise you have to win the league to win promotion.

"I am really looking forward to the game.  We've watched Herne Bay a couple of times and like us, they get the ball down and play football.

"I think there will be good support and it will be a good game and a credit to the Kent League."

Metcalf, however, admitted he is aware of the threat 13-goal Bay striker Danny Kedwell can cause his team, but acknowledged his coaching staff do their homework on each side they play.

"I think Martin Telford is possibly the best coach I've ever worked with.

"His enthusiasm for the game is second to none.

"The same with Dave Rice.  He lives and breathes football and he's out watching games three or four times a week.

"As far as I'm concerned Tunbridge Wells have probably got the best management team."

But have they got the best players?

You notice many former Ashford Town players in their side and striker Dave Hassett is no exception.

The ginger haired striker made the switch from Southern Leaguers Sittingbourne - a move that upset the Brickies - but securing his services was a big coup for the ambitious Wells.

"It was a big coup and I know Sittingbourne weren't very happy to lose him," added Metcalf.

"I am very happy with him, he's a young lad, he works hard in training and again, he's another asset to the club."

After losing to Maidstone United 2-1 at Culverden before Christmas - the start of the Stones climb up the table - Wells beat Hythe Town (2-1) before winning a 5-4 "crowd pleaser" thriller against in-form Slade Green last weekend.

Metcalf praised their visitors - who had won their last three games going into the game - and added: "A crowd pleaser but not good for the management.

"A nine-goal thriller and all credit to Slade Green - they gave us a game."

And looking at the Kent League table, Metcalf added: "All the big-guns are now in their rightful positions and we are in amongst them.

"I think at the start of the season if you said we were going to be sixth coming out of Christmas with a few points behind the likes of Herne Bay, Maidstone and Whitstable, you would be happy!

"Any of the top five are capable of winning this league - so are we.

"I am happy with our squad now and the coaching staff and in applying for promotion the club are showing us they want to go forward too."

Herne Bay manager Jason Lillis is anticipating another good test for the league leaders.

The 35-year-old added: "Every game is going to be a tight game.

"Tunbridge Wells are a good side, no taking it away from them.

"They have drawn a lot of games but if they won them, then they would be where we are .

"We are giving them the utmost respect.  I've had them watched - that's the matter of respect I've given them.

"So yes, it should be an entertaining game, with the way they play and we play."

Lillis, however, has looked at the fixture list in the next couple of weeks with some games that could affect the title race.

Ramsgate entertain Sevenoaks Town on Saturday before travelling to North Dane Way to play Martin Ford's VCD Athletic next Tuesday before Jim Ward's side travels to his former club, Maidstone United on the 29th.

"It's an interesting couple of weeks coming up - we've just have to try and get the points on the table," the former Gillingham player said.

Lillis announced the club won tonight's appeal against Steven Lloyd's 35-day ban thanks to the help of Sevenoaks Town striker Andy Constable.

Lillis revealed Constable wrote a letter to Lloyd stating the Herne Bay player did nothing wrong when charged with "alleged violent conduct" against Constable - who is serving his ban.

Lillis added: "Andy Constable was a proper gentleman about the incident and as a club we thank him."

The Herne Bay boss admitted he is under no pressure to secure promotion in his first season at the helm at Winch's Field.

He said: "I've not been under pressure from day one.  I told the club what my intensions were - and if I can improve them from the season previously that would be a bonus.

"We are doing that at the moment.  The club has put no pressure on me and I haven't put any pressure on anyone.  It's going quite nicely."

Lillis added: "It's too early to talk about promotion anyway.  It's hard to say how well we will do in a higher league - I would cross that bridge when I get to it."

Herne Bay v Tunbridge Wells
Go Travel Kent League Premier Division
Saturday 22nd January 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Winch's Field, Stanley Gardens, Herne Bay

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