Sunday 01st January 2006

Neil makes Angels debut in Rams showdown

Dean Neil is expected to make his Tonbridge Angels' debut in tomorrow's big Kent derby at Ramsgate tomorrow - but the club are sweating on the relevant paperwork to come through on the morning of the game, writes Stephen McCartney.

With Jerome John (shoulder) at least two weeks away from returning to fitness, and understudy Mikhail Czanner unavailable, Angels' player-manager Tony Dolby has swooped for the East Thurrock United goalkeeper.

Born in September 1978, the goalkeeper made 12 appearances for Ryman Premier League side Redbridge earlier in the season, before switching to East Thurrock United - the club that ended Tonbridge's FA Trophy progress last month.

Neil joined Redbridge from their Nationwide Conference neighbours, Dagenham & Redbridge and has also played for Charlton Athletic and Harlow Town and according to the Redbridge FC website is a bricklayer.

Dolby, whose picked up the manager of the month award for the Ryman League first division, after winning five consecutive league games and are just four points adrift of leaders Horsham - with three games in hand - also praised his defenders for collecting the Safe Hands award.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk, Dolby said: "We worked hard on defence and obviously our goalkeeper (Jerome John) is injured and Mikhail (Czanner) has come in and done very well.

"We've worked hard and it's a testament on how hard we have worked."

Speaking about his new addition, Dolby revealed: "I have signed a goalkeeper but I've got to wait confirmation in the morning to make sure the forms have been released but it shouldn't be a problem.

"He's a very stocky, solid goalkeeper," added Dolby.  "He's come recommended from a friend of ours at East Thurrock United.

"We hope to have him in place tomorrow.  He's signed for us, it's just a matter to have the forms completed."

Second placed Tonbridge are just three points clear of fourth placed Ramsgate, and Dolby is looking to complete the double over the Thanet side.

Striker Leroy Huggins (hamstring), whose doubtful for tomorrow, opened the scoring after just 14 seconds in their 2-1 win at Longmead Stadium at the end of August.

So what is Dolby expecting at Southwood Stadium tomorrow? "Pretty much as they brought down to our place," he replied.

"They're very direct, got a lot of big lads in their side and by all accounts their pitch isn't great.  There won't be a great deal of football played by them.

"I haven't seen the pitch, we'll turn up tomorrow and adapt to whatever needs to be adapted to."

Dolby, whose been working under a new chairman this season, is "thrilled" with their progress so far this term.

"We are thrilled, not sitting on top to be shot but in second place, but we are hitting form," he said.

"Five wins on a trot now.  We are going into this game on the back of a good run."

And what can 2006 bring the club? "We want to get promoted out of this league and test ourselves at a higher level," replied Dolby.

"There's still a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season.

"It will be nice to get three points to get some breathing space between us and Ramsgate."

Ramsgate, however, have enjoyed the past year and have excelled in the Ryman League following their promotion from the Kent League.

Starting the year with a 7-1 victory over Lordswood at Southwood Stadium in the quarter-finals of the Kent Senior Trophy, they ended 2005 with a 1-1 draw at Dover Athletic in front of 1,735 - the highest in Ryman League Division One this season.

In between they've been promoted from the Kent League, winning the double, secured the Challenge Shield, reached the first round proper of the FA Cup and took AFC Wimbledon to two games in the FA Trophy, and are on course of reaching the play-off's - at least.

Reflecting on their draw at Crabble, manager Jim Ward said: "I was very pleased with the boys.  I had five players missing and none of the lads that came in let themselves or the club down.

"We certainly had more of the chances and should have won the game, although Dover had more of the ball."

Ramsgate were without goalkeeper Danny Twyman, Steffan Ball, Dean Hill, Ben Laslett and Warren Schulz was on the bench.

Understudy goalkeeper Jurgen Wild received praise from the Scot, who added: "He's actually played in all the big games and didn't let himself down - he's done very well."

It's been seven days since their appearance at Dover and the bad weather in Kent has prevented the Rams from training - but that's not a problem for their manager.

He said: "The plan was to train once.  I'm a great believer of resting players.  The night we trained was a bit of a farce, because the pitch was covered in snow last Thursday night, so we couldn't do anything.

"I'm a great believer of resting players.  Players look after themselves now especially in this day and age and a lot of the lads go down the gym."

Ward was pleased his opposite number received the manager of the month award - but he'll gladly accept that accolade at the end of the season.

"Tonbridge are a good club," he said.  "I'm pleased for Tony as he's a good manager.  I am waiting to get manager of the month for March and April - that will do me!"

Ward, however, will be hoping the manager of the month "curse" strikes Dolby, like it did when the Angels ended Tooting & Mitcham United's impressive nine (competitive) game winning streak, after Richard Caddett won the award at the beginning of December.

"We done quite well at their place and were unlucky not to come away with something," Ward, who today returned from a five-day break in Barcelona, recalled.

"At the moment they're brushing everyone aside as the form team but we're not bad either - they will know that coming to us."

Ramsgate are putting plans in place to make sure they can gain promotion into the Ryman Premier League, joining Kent sides Bromley, Folkestone Invicta and Margate.

"The chairman has promised me if we get promotion again he'll make sure the ground will be up to the standard required."

Ward will wait until the last minute before naming his side but strikers Shaun Welford (Newcastle) and Steffan Ball (Taunton) are available after holiday's in the UK.

Ramsgate v Tonbridge Angels
Ryman League Division One
Monday 2nd January 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Southwood Stadium, Prices Avenue, Ramsgate