Kent League Title Decider: STAND AND DELIVER (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS)
The biggest crowd of the Kentish Observer League season will descend on Bourne Park in Sittingbourne on Saturday, as the top two sides, with contrasting but affective styles of play, battle it out to see which one will go on and win the title, writes Stephen McCartney.
A crowd of 490 witnessed Maidstone United’s dramatic 3-2 victory at Eden Park Avenue at the beginning of December, and the Stones currently have the upper hand over their rivals Beckenham Town, who according to secretary Peter Palmer are keeping the game “low profile.”
The two sides clashed again in February, in the quarter-finals of the Kentish Observer League Cup, which the Stones won 4-3 after 120 minutes of football.
Maidstone have a three point advantage over Beckenham Town as we hit the business end of the season – but Beckenham have one game in hand, which happens to be another trip to Erith Town on Monday night – and a much better goal difference.
Palmer claimed his club were fined £830 “for being innocent” over their kit fiasco earlier in the season.
The club had to pay hosts Erith Town £580 for the hire of their pitch and £250 to the Kent League following their much publicised mistake.
But Palmer insists the club are doing everything they can to make sure Eden Park Avenue passes the April 1st deadline to meet Ryman League ground grading criteria.
“We’ve still got some work to do but we’re doing what we can,” he said. “We’re in the process of building a stand at the moment, which is our objective.
”We are looking at a proper 150-seater one, and we’re working our hardest to get it done.”
Palmer, meanwhile, has played down Saturday’s game being the “title-decider”, as his club have more tough encounters to come.
“We’ve got three really tough away games and two really tough away games against Herne Bay and Erith & Belvedere,” he said.
“So Saturday whatever the result, if we win it’s still not nowhere over. No game is easy - they all want to knock you off the top.”
If Beckenham collect all three points on Saturday, they can move three points clear of the Stones if they win at Erith Town on Monday night.
However, the Dockers pulled off a shock result – holding the Stones to a
1-1 draw last Saturday.
“Like I say, they got a good result against Maidstone last week,” Palmer warned.
Looking ahead to that game, the long-serving stalwart added: “We take each game as it comes. On paper we should win, we’ve got the firepower but after the Maidstone game there will be some tired legs and maybe some injuries.”
Gavin Rose, the club’s player-manager, whose in his first season at the helm, is playing down the “title-decider” aspect of Saturday’s game, although his side are on their travels in five of their last seven league games.
He said: “Obviously because the two teams have both been at the top all season it gives it a little bit of spice.
”As I’ve been saying for the past two or three months the previous games that we’ve slipped up in are just as important as the game coming Saturday. The reason I say that is they’re three points at stake each game.
Rose, speaking after tonight’s light training session, has only one injury doubt, with centre back Errison Ahwan turning an ankle during their 6-2 demolition of Sevenoaks Town in midweek.
”We’ve played Maidstone twice so the boys have a fair idea on how Maidstone approach the game,” said Rose.
”We don’t fear them, they’ve scored late on and in both games against them it could have gone either way.
”We’ve both slipped up in recent games, but it just shows any team in this league can upset anyone on their day.”
However, Rose will sit down with club officials next week to discuss future plans – especially if Eden Park Avenue doesn’t meet Ryman League ground grading deadlines.
“This week the club have been talking about the application to go up to the Ryman but it doesn’t look too successful at the moment,” he revealed.
And on his future, he added: “That’s something that we’re discussing with the club.
”The players and I are focused to win the league first and foremost. We can look at things about that in the future – we are focused on our job.”
If Beckenham and Maidstone were already involved in the Ryman League and mounting a promotion push you can guarantee a consistent fixture list.
The Stones play four of their six games at home – but Rose’s men play FIVE of their last seven games away.
Meanwhile, Maidstone United coach Alan Walker revealed Sam Tydeman and Leroy Huggins will be drafted into the squad for a game “that will be a fantastic advert for Kent League football.”
”I think it’s the game of the season as far as both clubs are concerned,” he told www.kentishfootball.co.uk tonight.
”The players know the importance of the task. It was in our hands up until Tuesday night to not to worry about Saturday’s result.
”But we’ve dropped points in our last two games, so it’s down to this game. Don’t get me wrong, there are still twists and turns and this game will give a strong indication on which side will claim the title.”
But the former Sittingbourne, Tonbridge Angels and Bromley manager hinted it won’t be the be all and end all for whoever loses this showdown.
“Like I said, because there’s still half a dozen games for both clubs there’s still possibly twists and turns.
”But we’ve got the easiest games but you never count your chickens before they hatch. I would say whoever wins it will be the favourites.”
Walker is, meanwhile, licking his lips with the prospect of a fantastic game of football and urges ALL Kent football fans – and lovers of the beautiful game – to descend on Sittingbourne in their droves.
“I will be totally honest with you, both games against Beckenham have been classics for the fans,” he said.
”Both teams are good, I admire the way Beckenham play football – but we can play as well.
”I believe we are a little bit stronger than them and it has the makings, for the crowd – a great game for the neutral.
”Everyone is looking at it as the title decider. You would have to accept whoever wins it will have a fair chance of being the champions.
”I am really looking forward to the game – I just hope the game is a great game for everybody.
”It’s a great advert for the Kent League that both games so far have produced fantastic games and I hope its going to be another fantastic game for the neutrals.
”Both teams have been a credit to the league this season, and whoever wins it will deserve it.”
Manager Lloyd Hume missed Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at VCD Athletic due to “work commitments” and not skiing as was suggested on Stones’ fans’ forum.
Speaking about striker Huggins, Walker told www.maidstoneunited.co.uk: “Having let Simon Austin go to Chatham Town, it was important that we secured some experienced cover up front, especially as the transfer deadline is just over a week away.
“Both Lloyd and myself knew Leroy from previous clubs, in fact we picked him up originally when he was at Crockenhill.”
Huggins, whose scored six goals for Tony Dolby’s side this season, has also played for a whole host of Kent clubs, including Fisher Athletic, Crawley Town, Gravesend & Northfleet, Erith & Belvedere, Bromley, Beckenham Town and Greenwich Borough.
Walker added: “He’s a very quick, direct striker who knows where the goal is.
“He’ll definitely be involved on Saturday. He will give us that little extra push as we head towards the end of the season.”
www.kentishfootball.co.uk are covering the game and shall bring you the report and reaction over the weekend, and we’ll also make our first visit of the season to the Erith Sports Stadium on Monday night for the Erith Town vs Beckenham Town match.
Which club will clinch the Kentish Observer League title – and with it possible promotion into the Ryman League?
Saturday 25 March 2006:
Maidstone United v Beckenham Town – at Bourne Park, SittingbourneMonday 27 March 2006:
Erith Town v Beckenham Town – at Erith Sports Stadium, Avenue Road, ErithSaturday 1 April 2006:
Greenwich Borough v Maidstone United – at Harrow Meadow, Eltham Green Road, Eltham
Herne Bay v Beckenham Town – at Winch’s Field, Stanley Gardens, Herne BaySaturday 8 April 2006:
Beckenham Town v Erith Town – at Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham
Maidstone United v Sporting Bengal - at Bourne Park, SittingbourneWednesday 12 April 2006:
Maidstone United v Deal Town – at Bourne Park, SittingbourneSaturday 15 April 2006:
Beckenham Town v Slade Green – at Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham
Monday 17 April 2006:
Hythe Town v Beckenham Town - at Reachfields Stadium, Fort Road, Hythe
VCD Athletic v Maidstone United – at Harrow Meadow, Eltham Green Road, ElthamSaturday 22 April 2006:
Erith & Belvedere v Beckenham Town – at Park View Road, Welling
Sevenoaks Town v Maidstone United - at Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks
GOOD LUCK TO BOTH CLUBS - LET'S HOPE THE GAME LIVES UP TO EXPECTATIONS!
YOU'VE GOT TO BE THERE!
Sittingbourne Football Club, Central Park Complex, Eurolink, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 3SB
Tel: 01795 435077
By Rail: 30 minute walk - Taxis 01795 437 000
Turn left out of the railway station into St Michael's Road. Pass the fire station on your left and turn left into Crown Quay Lane (at the first set of traffic lights). Go under the railway bridge and up to a roundabout where you turn right into Eurolink Way. Turn left at the end of this road into Castle Road. After half a mile, turn right into Dolphin Road, turn left into Church Road. Central Park is about half a mile own Church Road on the right hand side.
Sittingbourne FC (and Maidstone United) now play on the Lower Pitch and NOT in the main stadium. Go through the large gates and head to your left, you will see a sign pointing to "The Cabin", follow this passed the disused putting area down the slope and towards the ground.
By Car: Leave the M2 at junction 5, take the A249 towards Sittingbourne. Bear left at the first slip road and take the A2 towards Sittingbourne Town Centre. Follow the A2 into the one way system and follow directions to Canterbury (NOT the town centre) until you come to a roundabout (outside the station). Take the third exit, St Michael's Road, pass the fire station on your left and turn left into Crown Quay Lane (at the first set of traffic lights). Go under the railway bridge and up to a roundabout where you turn right into Eurolink Way. This road curves left at the end into Castle Road, continue along this road (DO NOT go up Dolphin Road) until you come to a small roundabout, take the second exit, Stadium Way, and at the end of this road turn right into Church Road and left into the football club car park through the large gates.
Sittingbourne FC (and Maidstone United) now play on the Lower Pitch and NOT in the main stadium. Go immediate left once through the gates. Once in the car park follow the Sittingbourne FC sign under the barrier and down either the slope to your left or right to the lower car park. You can also park in the car park up the slope if the lower one is full.
PLEASE DO NOT PARK BY ANY ENTRANCES as these may be needed for emergency vehicle access.
Oh yes, the game kick’s off at 3pm.
Maidstone United's highest Kent League home attendance is 434 - that will be smashed on Saturday.
About the inconsistent font used throughout this article.