Kent clubs begin magical FA Cup journey - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

Thursday 17th August 2006
Danny Beszant looks forward to making his FA Cup debut on Saturday – but the midfielder wants to get his club out of the Kent League too, writes Stephen McCartney.


The 24-year-old Erith & Belvedere midfielder is joint top-goalscorer in the league following his set-piece brace in their 2-1 win at Beckenham Town last Saturday.

And he’s relishing their trip to Kent League rivals Herne Bay as the world’s greatest cup competition begins at the extra preliminary round stage on Saturday.

The talented midfielder was delighted with his contribution against his former club.

In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with, he said: “I am really pleased especially as it was my first proper game for Erith & Belvedere and especially pleasing that it’s against Beckenham as well.

“I wanted to show my former club that I’ve still got what I had when I was there.”

He was, however, disappointed that his recent trial at Welling United didn’t bring him a move into the Nationwide Conference South.

He said: “Disappointed because I felt I could make the grade there.  I played really well when I did play for them but obviously it didn’t come of anything.

“But I’m proud to be playing for Erith & Belvedere so that will do me.

“It’s a shop window so hopefully other teams can be looking if I do well then you never know what could happen.

“But I’m looking to get Erith & Belvedere out of the Kent League first and foremost and then if anything comes out for myself, great, but if it doesn’t I’m more than happy staying here.”

Austin Berkley, meanwhile, will be using his experience for the Winch’s Field clash, against a side that kicked off their campaign with a thrilling 3-2 win over newcomers Faversham Town on Tuesday night.

The 33-year-old has Football League experience under his belt, having played for Barnet and Shrewsbury Town, and impressed on the right side of midfield where he cut inside at every opportunity at Eden Park Avenue.

It was a foul on the long haired midfielder by Jason Rose that led to Beszant scoring from a right-footed free kick from 19-yards inside the first six minutes at Eden Park Avenue.

Beszant netted the winning goal with just four minutes remaining – direct from a corner – and Berkley
warned: “We always look dangerous from our set-pieces, corners and free kick’s.”

He admitted that his team-mates need to play for the entire 90 minutes after allowing Beckenham to get back into the game, despite dominating for long spells of the first half.

“I think they had a prerogative  to kick as many players as well,” he bemoaned.

“But I’m really pleased with three points.  The second half was a little disappointing in the way we played but saying that the three points was important.”

Having played at a higher level, Berkley admitted he’s happy playing Kent League football, where he can pass on his experience to the club’s young guns.

“There’s a lot of young players here with a few experienced players,” he said.  “We’re trying to pass on our experience to a lot of young players.”

Beszant revealed: “I’ve never played in the FA Cup to be fair.  When I was at Beckenham they were not allowed to so the glamour of the FA Cup, to say that I’ve played in it, would be really good.

“Hopefully we’ll go through the FA Cup and hopefully I can get another goal.”

Player boss Wayne Brown, meanwhile, has installed a winning mentality into his team as they bid for promotion into the Ryman League, having lost their Southern League status on the last day of the season in 2005.

“We’re looking at, not the top two, we’re looking to win the league,” Beszant insisted.  “Second is not good enough!  First is what we want so hopefully that’s what we’re going to get.

“I’d be working as hard as I can along with the other boys to win the league and get out of this division ASAP really.”

Player boss Brown is looking for revenge over Jason Lillis and his team.

He added: “I go into every game expecting to win.  They’re the only side to beat us since I’ve been in charge so we’ve got a little score to settle there but I think there honest to say that they got away with murder when they played us at our place.

“We’ll be looking to go there and put on a good performance, work on things that weren’t so good and progress into the next round of the FA Cup.”

The other all-Kent clash is at Reachfields Stadium between Hythe Town and Lordswood.

Both sides won their opening day league games with Hythe defeating Erith Town, courtesy of Roy Godden’s last minute goal, and Lordswood defeated stubborn Sporting Bengal thanks to a late brace from Lyndon Buckwell.

Lords boss Paul Piggott is, however, expecting a tough game against Hythe.

He said: “It’s always difficult going down to Hythe.  You always know what you’re going to get – a tough game.

“They’re probably thinking the same as us – disappointed to draw another Kent League side - but if we go out with the right attitude we’ll be aiming to get into the next round.”

Piggott calls upon experienced defender Andy Mills to coax through a couple of players that are making their debuts in the FA Cup.

Mills, who signed from Sevenoaks Town in the summer, has played at a higher level, including Tonbridge Angels, and will assist a couple of players that have joined from Kent County League sides.

Gary East (Bearsted) and Adam Ling (Borden Village) are looking forward to making their FA Cup debuts.

Piggott explained: “I’ve got three or four players in the squad this year who have never played in the FA Cup and all pre-season they’ve been talking about this competition.

“It means a lot to them to tell family and friends that they’ve played in the FA Cup.”

Although Mills didn’t start their opening day game, Piggott praised his attitude, adding: “The new players seemed to be here for years.  The spirit is great and Andy was behind the players just like he was playing.”

Fisk, however, has plenty of respect for their rivals, adding: “I think Lordswood had a good season last season, and there’s no reason why they’re aren’t going to have a good season this year.

“We’ve got plenty of respect for Lordswood but both teams will think they can win the game.

“But it’s not a game either of us wanted but we have to get on with it.”

Hythe are expected to welcome back former Dover Athletic player Dale Skelton and Ian Hayes, who both missed their win over the Dockers.

Town boss Marc Seager takes his side to Guildford City, expecting to win.

“It’s good for the finances for the club but we know a Kent League club will never win the FA Cup,” he said.

“We’ve had a good run a couple of years ago losing on penalties to Maidenhead United, but we lost at the first hurdle last year.

“But we should be looking to win but if we’re not professional enough, without a good frame of mind and we’re not at the races, we’ll get knocked out,” he warned.

“It’s about the mentality, get the winning run going to get through to the next round.”

Thamesmead Town manager Keith McMahon hopes his club’s recent FA Cup tradition will get see them through at Reading Town.

He said: “We’re not a big club with big support but it helps with the wage bill and is always good for team spirit.

“We are never going to win the FA Cup but if we play like we did on Saturday (beating Tunbridge Wells 2-0), I’m pretty confident (we can win at Reading Town).”

They can’t sing there’s only one D Smith at Deal Town – because there’s two of them!

Dan Smith scored the winning goal in their 2-1 opening day win at Slade Green.

Dan Smith, who is blonde, plays in the same team as dark haired, Danny.

Hares, however, hopes his side don’t get burnt at Ash United on Saturday.

Looking ahead to their FA Cup tie, he said: “Quite a tough game.  I hear they drew 1-1 against Chertsey Town on Saturday – a side transferred from the Ryman League.

“Ash finished quite high up in their league last year and I’m sure it will be a difficult game.”

But Hares doesn’t have any problems being away from home, adding: “It’s always nice if you can be at home but some of our best results have been away from home, so I’m not worried about that.”

Hares is without goalkeeper Rob Lindley for the first month of the season as he’s coaching in America, so he handed Gary Phipps, who’s joined from local football, his debut last Saturday.

Other new signings include centre half Ian Wallace, a school teacher whose moved to the local area having played local football in Chichester, west Sussex, and left-back Scott Thomas returns to the club having re-joined from Hythe Town.

“I think the first few weeks will be frustrating with so many players on holiday,” said Hares.

“But if we can get players back then I think we’ve got a stronger squad than last year.

“We’ve improved our positions for the last three years – we finished 8th last year.

“It’s been a slow progress but I think we’re heading in the right direction.

“I hope to finish in the top six this year but it won’t be easy with some very good sides in the league.

“Two years ago the club was down and out financially but a lot of work has been done but we’re looking to improve and build on it.”

Slade Green’s
player-coach Adam Heaslewood enjoyed a trip to full-time Nationwide Conference side Grays Athletic in the fourth qualifying round for Cray Wanderers last season.

And although the Green travel to Sporting Bengal in the extra preliminary round on Saturday, Heaslewood hopes to pass on that experience to his team.

But he wants to avoid slipping on a banana skin in east London.

He said: “Definite banana skin.  We will go into the game and prepare the players properly.  We do not know a lot about Sporting Bengal and possible players that they have added to their team.

“The FA Cup is not only good financially but also for team morale.  It can break up the season and take you to teams that you may only get to play once in your playing career.

“I remember the atmosphere around Cray Wanderers last year when we went to Grays Athletic.

“It was a good build up to the game and the performance, even though we lost, warranted a lot of plaudits.”

Elsewhere, Croydon, who lost 1-0 to Whitstable Town last week, welcome Sandhurst Town to Croydon Sports Arena, and Erith Town welcome Hailsham Town to the Erith Sports Stadium.

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