Darts given permission to talk to Stones defender - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

Sunday 24th September 2006

Maidstone United have granted permission for local rivals Dartford to speak to defender Lew Watts after Monday night’s Ryman League Division One South showdown between the two club’s, writes Stephen McCartney.

If the former Welling United central defender decides to move then it will be his third club this season, having started the campaign at Tonbridge Angels.

His experience, however, helped the Angels secure promotion out of this division last season, as Tony Dolby’s men defeated Dover Athletic in a thrilling five-goal play-off final in front of 1,853 fans in May.

And Blackheath based midfielder Anthony Hogg, 27, who netted Dover’s second goal late in that game, has been snapped up by Darts boss Tony Burman over the weekend following his release from Crabble.

“Anthony was released by Dover and we made contact and he came training with us yesterday, and after a chat he’s decided to sign for us and help strengthen our squad,” Burman explained EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk on the eve of the showdown at Thurrock’s Ship Lane.

Burman promised fans that he would strengthen his squad after losing 3-2 at Dulwich Hamlet last Tuesday.

But the former Tonbridge and Folkestone Invicta midfielder is expected to start the game against the Stones on the substitutes bench.

“He’s been out since pre-season with a broken toe and he’s not exactly match fit now but he will be in the squad tomorrow night - possibly on the bench,” revealed Burman.

“Anthony has played in the Conference, he’s got the experience that I’m starting to look for.”

Both camps, however, are playing down the history between both clubs as they lock horns for the first time at first team level since October 1991.

On that occasion the Stones won a Kent Senior Cup tie 2-1 at Watling Street.

“With the history of the two clubs and what’s gone on in the past it’s a credit to both sets of supporters - and board of directors - keeping those two clubs going,” said Burman.

“It’s strange for the players but what’s happened all those years ago they were six or seven years of age, but it’s strange that it’s a local derby being played in Essex.”

This fixture should have been played on Saturday (23 September) and the first ever game at Dartford’s stunning £6.5m Princes Park Stadium, but delays have put back the opening date to 11 November - against Horsham YMCA.

But Burman feels playing the game at Ship Lane in Thurrock on a Monday night will affect crowd figures.

It would, however, be fantastic if all fans can battle their way through rush-hour traffic to get through the tunnel and attract a crowd of over 1,000 for the game.

Both sides, however, have the incentive to win the derby on Monday night, as whoever wins could climb up to third place in the table.

Burman added: “There’s obviously a lot of teams losing and some teams wining at this stage so the league is sorting itself out.

“It would be nice to win as we’ve lost a couple of games. It’s a big game for both teams.

Stones’ joint-manager Lloyd Hume is also playing down the history between the two clubs and wants his players to concentrate on the job in hand.

“I think it’s a big game because of the history that’s gone on between the two clubs but if I’m honest it’s a game between two clubs with expectations to do well,” he said.

“We need to treat it as another game and we’re looking to get three points.”

With Watts out suspended, Hume admitted he will be playing a “makeshift back four” against the Darts, but fans haven’t seen the best of Ray Powell yet.

The former Fisher Athletic and Tonbridge Angels’ star, who can play at right-back or striker is expected to be leading the line against the Darts.

“Ray Powell’s back from suspension, which is a big plus for us,” said Hume. “He’s only had one game, he’s played out of position. We will see the best of him playing centre forward.”

Hume and Alan Walker are making plans to find a replacement for Watts, if he decides to join his home-town club.

“We will be gutted to lose him, he’s a Dartford lad but if we can’t keep hold of him he will go with our best wishes,” said Hume.

“We are talking to people already just in case but we’re hoping to keep him.”

Hume added: “We’re no where near to playing our best football - our best is yet to come, which hopefully will be tomorrow night.”

Meanwhile, Dartford defender Anthony Henry (back) is expected to be drafted into the squad after missing their second defeat of the season at Champion Hill last Tuesday but defender John Farley (ankle) is still another couple of weeks away.

Watts, meanwhile, will be able to ponder his future during the game as he is suspended.

Meanwhile, Tonbridge Angels can return to the top of the Ryman Premier League table - for 24 hours at least - if they win at big-spending Chelmsford City on Monday night.

With Margate being held to a goal-less draw by AFC Wimbledon at Hartsdown Park on Saturday, the Angels leapfrogged over the Thanet side into third place as John Main’s ninth goal of the season was enough to beat Harrow Borough.

Tonbridge were, however, reduced to ten-men as home grown striker Luke Piscina was sent off.

But skipper Steve Aris, told the Kent and Sussex Courier, that he is relishing their trip to Essex against much-fancied Chelmsford.

He said: “It’s an interesting phase of the season as we start to mix it with the big boys.

“They’ve spent a lot of money and spent it on the wrong people. It’s a good test of how far we’ve come and hopefully we’ll rise to the challenge.

“They’ll have good players but we want to prove we are a good team and we can do well too.”

Chelmsford, meanwhile, defeated Ramsgate 4-0 on Saturday, and Rams’ boss Jim Ward, who takes his side to Hendon on Monday night, warns the Angels’ that they must take any chances that come their way.

He said: “Well, you know, it was a strange old game. We gifted them a goal in the first five minutes - a mix-up between my goalkeeper and Ollie Schulz, and the guy nipped in and tucked it away.

“Second goal was a heavy deflection again off Ollie, which flew into the corner.

“In between that Dean Hill had a good chance and (Shaun) Welford was denied by their goalkeeper on a one-on-one.

“Besides that there was nothing between the two sides, but we bossed the game during the last fifteen minutes of the first half, and the first 20 minutes of the second half.

“But Stuart Vahid came on and got himself sent off. We think it was a tackle but we’re waiting on the referee’s report to see what it was for.

“It was a poor challenge but we’re waiting for the report to see if we can appeal or not.

“Stuart got sent off, they scored two late goals - that completely flattered them.”

Ward, however, gave Angels’ manager Tony Dolby some advise on the eve of Monday’s games.

He said: “It’s a league that if you don’t take your chances, the other team will. We won our last four games, Chelmsford is a very difficult place to go and get a good result. They are littered with Conference and Football League players.”

Ward, however, revealed he has four players that are “walking wounded” for their trip to Claremont Road.

“I know a little bit about Hendon,” he said. “We’ll go there tomorrow night and give it a go. They are fighting for their lives already and are desperate for three points.

Shaun Welford (twisted knee), Will Graham (hamstring), Dean Hill (knee) and Liam Morris (groin) are causing concern.

Then on Tuesday night Folkestone Invicta travel to East Thurrock United and Margate welcome Bromley to Hartsdown Park.

Invicta, who are under-performing, climbed off the foot of the Ryman Premier League table yesterday following their 2-0 win over Slough Town at Stag Meadow.

Dartford v Maidstone United
Ryman League Division One South
Monday 25th September 2006
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Thurrock FC, The Thurrock Hotel, Ship Lane, Grays, Essex RM19 1YN