Flying Phoenix are rightly being tipped as the title favourties, says Matt Longhurst

Friday 19th December 2014
ERITH & BELVEDERE manager Matt Longhurst says he is laying down the foundations for a sustainable period of success at the club.

The Deres remain at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League table despite having three players sent-off in a bad-tempered 3-0 home defeat to Beckenham Town last Saturday.

Fourth-placed Beckenham, who travel to third-placed Tunbridge Wells tomorrow, have unveiled the signings of midfielder Kieron Tarbie (AFC Wimbledon) and defender Justin Hemmings from their league rivals Croydon.

The Deres’ second league defeat of the season last weekend has ensured second-placed Phoenix Sports (unbeaten this season) have closed the gap to two points but Steve O’Boyle’s side have a couple of games in hand.

Erith & Belvedere travel to ninth-placed Lordswood – managed by Jason Lillis- and Longhurst expects a tough encounter tomorrow.

“We go to Lordswood, which is always a tough place to go,” he said.

“We went there earlier in the season and got a good win in the Cup.

“Jason has always assembled a good team with a great work ethic and some excellent youngsters in the team as well.

“We have re-grouped this week in training and changed one or two things tactically to give us some better variation in our play.

“We’ve had an excellent start to our first season at Erith & Belvedere and I’ve always said there will be bumps along the way, of which there have been, but the players have been fantastic and their togetherness is something that they can be proud off.”

Longhurst has unveiled a couple of new signings going into the festive period.

“We can finally get (defender) Steve Springett in the squad tomorrow after his move from Cray Wanderers, which will be a big plus.

“Also we should see a bit more of Harlan Basker, who has joined us on loan from Dover Athletic last week.

“With the games going to come thick and fast and with some injuries and suspensions to deal with, we feel it’s the right time to strengthen the squad in certain areas.”

Bill Parkinson, Ryan Johnson and Charlie Hearn were all sent off for Erith & Belvedere, while Jamie Marshall was sent-off for Jason Huntley’s side.

Erith & Belvedere are playing in a Christmas cracker away to Phoenix Sports on Saturday 27 December (3pm) when the top two sides clash in Kent’s biggest game of the day.

Phoenix Sports have confirmed that midfielder Russell Bedford will be serving a suspension for the top-of-the-table showdown at Mayplace Road East.

Longhurst said: “Over the Christmas period we don’t face many fixtures, just the two after Boxing Day against Phoenix and then a home tie against Canterbury so it’s not too bad for us, although we’d probably like to be playing a few more games.

“Phoenix will be a tough game. They are flying at the moment and are rightly being tipped as the title favourites having not lost yet.

“They have been building for three years and it shows. Hats off to their management team for the job they are doing.

“It will be a tough fixture but one we’re certainly looking forward to, without a doubt

“I would imagine it will be a decent crowd, on a good pitch.

“We then move on to the first of a few home games which will be welcome for the club.

“It’s been an excellent start to the season, better than any of us could have expected coming to a new club.

“We have brought in a Ryman under 18 side and have structured the youth section and under 21s ready for next year. 

“The whole process takes time but hopefully the foundation is being laid for sustainable success on and off the pitch over a period of time, which was the remit when we first came in.”

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Lordswood  v  Erith & Belvedere
Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 20th December 2014
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Martyn Grove, North Dane Way, Walderslade, Kent ME5 8YE