Tuesday 21st December 2004

The Kent Website
Supporting Kentish Football

Injury crisis cripples Sevenoaks

A CRIPPLING injury crisis is giving Sevenoaks Town manager John James a major headache at the moment and the Christmas break has come at the right time for the Greatness Park club, writes Stephen McCartney.

Sevenoaks have failed to win at home in ten of their 14 games played so far this season and have dropped to sixth from bottom in the Go Travel Kent League premier division table.

James, however, has warned if he can't field his strongest side every week, they will drop further down towards the foot of the table.

Thamesmead Town became another side to come away from Greatness Park with three points in the bag, with a 4-1 win over the injury ravaged home side.

With Dave Forster and Ollie Young both suspended and Stuart Clarke out due to work commitments, the others are filling up the treatment room.

Sim Johnson (hernia), Ricky Underdown ('flu), Lee Aldridge (shoulder), Richard Bryce (knee), Ricky Simmonds (knee) and Darren Skys (ankle) meant James was forced to contact Gravesend & Northfleet boss Andy Ford and field two of their PASE players against the Mead.

Seventeen-year-old defenders Steve Simpson and Sam Groombridge - the latter has already played for Sevenoaks this season - both filled in the gaps, with Groombridge coming off the bench in the 4-1 defeat.

Gravesend & Northfleet use Sevenoaks' pitch every other Thursday to practice their set pieces for their Nationwide Conference matches.  Former Sevenoaks manager Barry Wickenden is the 'Fleet's commercial manager and Town's club manager Graham Logsdon knows Ford well  so there is a link between the two Kent clubs.

James said: "Gravesend use our pitch every other Thursday for dead ball situations, and we've used Sam Groombridge once before but they are only PASE scheme lads.

"I didn't want to disrupt our reserves badly.  They've reached the Sevenoaks Charity Cup and any more that play first team football, we won't be able to field a side in the semi-final."

James, however, admitted he wasn't pleased with their home form.  "We are really struggling at home - our major problem is our squad injury crisis - we are down to the bare bones at the moment but we are looking at more players to come in."

Former Dartford defender Barry Gibson is doing well for his new club and striker Phil Cramp is progressing after his car accident.

"We just need to get a few players back," James admitted.

Sevenoaks are training tonight (Tuesday) for the last time before the break and return for a friendly on Tuesday 4th January.  Their opponents, from Sussex or Surrey, will be from the same level, but an announcement will be made when details have been confirmed.

The Sevenoaks boss revealed his plans for the remainder of the season.

"We got 27 points last year, the break will do us good, we will re-group, if we finish with over 30, it's an improvement on last year."

With the league so close from top to bottom, James wishes some teams would put a run together and run away with the title.

"I wish the top four sides would just hammer everybody and get a bit of stability in the league.

"It's very hard to get a good run together when you don't know the consistency levels of these teams.

"I can't work it out!  We've beaten Maidstone and VCD and gone onto lose to Erith Town, Thamesmead Town and Sporting Bengal.

"I think there is so much money going around and all clubs are picking up a few good five or six players.

"Plus, without the top four winning all the time, usually after Christmas most teams are blooding youngsters for next year, but ten teams probably still think they can win it still."

James, however, played down his side's chances of clinching the Kent League crown.

"We've only been in it for two years," he said.

"It will be a nightmare for us, because the club is just not geared up for that circumstance.

"We've found it very difficult to handle approaches for our players, which unsettles them."

Goalkeeper Darren Smart and striker Andy Constable  - both on contract - have been constantly  approached by other Kent League clubs.

James - his first season as first team manager - admitted he is finding the going tough, especially with the injury crisis crippling the club.

"Time commitment is a lot,  it really takes a strain.

"We're doing allright - sometimes people in the club got used to winning everything in the county and in the reserves but by going up a division it's makes us dig deep at times."

Who will win the Kent League?
"I still think VCD Athletic and Ramsgate will be there or there abouts, through their experienced managers," James predicted.

Deal Town, who knocked Sevenoaks out of the FA Vase in the second qualifying round in September in the club's first ever tie, visit Greatness Park on Tuesday 11th January 2005 (kick off 7:30pm).

James added: "I feel if we have a strong enough squad we can compete against them."

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