Managers have their eyes on the BIG PRIZE - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

Friday 07th April 2006

The decision made by the Kent County Football Association to play this season’s Kent Senior Trophy Final on Sunday will be rewarded with a crowd of at least 500 flocking towards Welling United’s Park View Road ground, writes Stephen McCartney.

VCD Athletic will be favourites as they haven’t lost a game since losing 1-0 at Cammell Laird in the fifth round of the FA Vase on 11th February, but Tunbridge Wells, playing in their first final for 14 years are desperate to end their 18-year drought without a trophy. 

Both sides though have needed to win penalty shoot out’s to reach Sunday’s showpiece, with Tunbridge Wells having the more rockier road to Welling. 

Starting off in the first round back in early October, under the caretaker management of Mike D’Arcy and Alan Burns, they needed penalties to knock out Slade Green at the Small Glen. 

The game finished 1-1 after extra time, but Wells came through in the end, winning 4-2 on penalties. 

Not so many as their record breaking FA Cup preliminary round epic against Littlehampton Town back in August. 

The tussle at Culverden Stadium ended 2-2 after 120 minutes of football.  The Sussex side were awarded two dubious penalties during normal time, one of which was converted.

FORTY penalties were needed to separate the two sides, with Tunbridge Wells winning 16-15 in a dramatic penalty shoot out to secure their place in the next round and a place in the record books too. 

But back to the Kent Senior Trophy, Wells knocked out local rivals Maidstone United in the second round, winning 3-1 at Culverden Stadium and then needed penalties again to knock out Erith Town in the quarter-finals at the Erith Sports Stadium. 

Tunbridge Wells won 4-1 on penalties, after the game finished 3-3 after extra time. 

Having lost 3-0 to Beckenham Town in the Kent League just fourteen days their semi-final clash at Eden Park Avenue, no one gave Wells a chance to progress,

But a late strike from Alan Rich sent the club through to the final against a VCD Athletic side that have defeated Hythe Town 5-1 back at Oakwood in front of a crowd of 168 in the second round, Deal Town (4-2 on penalties) after the game finished 2-2 after extra time, and they too won their semi-final by scoring the only goal of the game at Whitstable Town.

Martin Ford, VCD Athletic’s manager, meanwhile, will be looking to win this competition for the very first time and have to play another five league games before they meet Maidstone United in the Kent League Cup Final on 29th April at Folkestone Invicta’s Buzzlines Stadium at Cheriton Road.

”It’s just another game,” he said.  “They’ve had so many games and we were relieved to get through Tuesday unscathed and everyone is looking forward to the final now.”

A cup double?  “If we can win on Sunday they’re little less on us when we play the second final against Maidstone,” Ford replied.

“At the end of the day with the run we’ve had we are labelled as favourites.  It’s a one-off game, anything can happen on the day.  We are quietly confident and if we can play well, we’ll win.”

Ford has built a solid and experienced backbone to his side with David Hunt, Lee Coburn, Chris Whitehouse, Paul Foley and goalkeeping Grant Wallis conceding only 21 goals in their 25 league games – the best defensive record in the league.

And with the game being played at Welling, Ford feels fans will be supporting his side, although Tunbridge Wells are sending two coaches to Park View Road.

“We’re expecting a crowd in excess of 500 so 300 of those will be VCD fans,” he said.  “We’re looking forward to it, it’s a local game for us and we’ll be hoping to win the cup in front of our local fans.”

And with two-cup finals to look forward to and their return to Crayford next season, Ford admits “these are exciting times for the club.”

He added: “Since the Cammell Laird game we have just kicked on from there.  The lads have the belief that they can’t get beat.  Everyone at the whole club is looking forward to Sunday.”

VCD’s players are having a light training session for just an hour on Saturday but Martin Driscoll who picked up a groin injury at Cammell Laird won’t be rested until their final against the Stones.

Terry Murphy may make the substitutes bench, even though he is nursing a shoulder injury.  It’s a game no-body wants to miss.

But Ford can call upon many experienced players as they want to get rid of their bridesmaids tag.

“Our side this year is based more on experienced than youth,” said the long serving manager.

”At the back you’ve got players that are packed with experience.  It shows with our defensive record as we don’t let many goals in.

”In midfielder we’re creative and that causes a lot of damage to sides.  We’ve got a good balance in the side with plenty of experience on the bench as well.”

Ricky Bennett, a FA Vase winner with Deal Town in 2000, Mark Horan, whose played in the Southern League for Dartford, and Steve Hogg are players Ford can turn to if he needs to adopt “Plan B”.

“They’ve all been around and won trophies at this level – we’ve got a Plan B”, warned Ford.

”It’s a cup final so Tunbridge Wells will raise their game to play the favourites.  We just have to make sure we concentrate on the game and not the hype that surrounds it.

“The lads know they’ve got a battle on Sunday – the best side will win on the day.”

Since beating Beckenham Town in the semi-finals, Tunbridge Wells haven’t won a game in their last four outings, but manager Martin Farnie is confident his players can bring home their first piece of silverware for 18 years.

”The boys are looking forward to it,” he said.  “We’ve had a good training session on Wednesday night and got another one on Friday night and I think we’re going into it with a bit of confidence, despite our indifferent form over the past month or so.”

But having got past Slade Green and Erith Town on penalties and beating Maidstone United and Beckenham Town, does Farnie feel his club’s name is already written on the cup?

“Maybe it is,” he replied.  “The two penalty competitions, the first one was against Slade Green but I wasn’t involved with the club as Mike D’Arcy was in charge with Alan Burns.

“When we beat Erith Town we played really well and to be honest they were lucky to come away 3-3, even after extra time.

”But I never had any doubts that we weren’t going to win the game, even on penalties.

”I looked into their eyes before we took the penalties and I expected us to win.

“Yes, maybe it’s an omen because we’ve played really well against Maidstone and I thought we were by far the better side against Beckenham.

”If we get our tactics right on Sunday, we should come home with the trophy – hopefully!”

Farnie respects his opposite number especially what Ford has achieved against all the odds and playing away from their Oakwood home for most of their eight year stint in the Kent League.

”They’re in form and the last time they lost a game was in the Vase so their in-form and we’re out of form,” admitted Farnie.

“It heads up to a great cup tie because somewhere down the line we have to hit form,” he warned.

”Our players have to realise where they are and what they’re doing and stop them playing.  If they play and we play I think it will be a good game.”

Speaking about his opposite number, Farnie added: “I think he’s done a great job there.  I’ve got a lot of respect for him.

“It’s going to be tough.  They’re a big, tough, organised side but I think we should be going there with a bit of confidence.  I’ll settle for a 1-0 win though.

“Finals are always tough, scrappy affairs.  I’m just hoping Sunday both teams can relax and we can see a good game of football.

“I expect to see 5-600 people there and if we can put a show on for the crowd it will be a good game of football.

“If we can come home with the trophy it would be the icing on a quite successful first five months in charge for me.”

With the club announcing plans to develop the youth structure with a marriage with local youth side Foresters, Farnie wants gradual success at first team level.

He explained: “You look at Martin Ford’s record. They’ve been in the league ten years and I don’t think they’ve been out of the top six.  He’s been in and won finals.  That’s what we’ve got to be.”

Farnie, who will choose his 16 from a fully fit squad, added: “That’s why we’ve got to get some momentum.  People come down and play Tunbridge Wells and I think they feel we’re a bit of a rollover side and we’re a little bit like that.

”You never know from one week to the next what we’re going to be like.  One week we’re excellent, the next we’re not so good.

”We’ve got to get a consistent level of performance and that’s what we’re striving for and hopefully with the new youth structure we can get there and have a firm basis to work on.”

The former Tunbridge Wells player, whose played in two cup-final winning two,  hopes winning the Kent Senior Trophy on Sunday will enable him to strengthen his squad, especially up front as their top scorer, Dave Hassett has scored only 11 goals.

“I need some new players.  I think we need someone to score us more goals.  Our big problem all season has been scoring goals and the boys know that,” he said.

”Hopefully if we win the Kent Senior Trophy that will be a bit of a fillip to attract some players as they can see were moving in the right direction.

”If we can get some decent training facilities, get the pitch sorted, which I’ve been told is going to happen, and new changing rooms are on their way, all of a sudden I can say to players look what’s happening here.

”It may take two to three years but I don’t want people coming down here just for a pay-day.

”I want them to come down and work hard so we can achieve something.  If that means younger players, bringing the youth team in and struggling for two to three years so be it.

”I don’t have a problem playing the kids.  We’ve got two fifteen-year-old’s playing for the reserve side so I’ve got no problems in building a side for the future.”



Slade Green 1-1 Tunbridge Wells (aet,  Tunbridge Wells won 4-2 on penalties)


Tunbridge Wells 3-1 Maidstone United
VCD Athletic 5-1 Hythe Town


Deal Town 2-2 VCD Athletic (aet, VCD Athletic won 4-2 on penalties)
Erith Town 3-3 Tunbridge Wells (aet, Tunbridge Wells won 4-1 on penalties)


Beckenham Town 0-1 Tunbridge Wells
Whitstable Town 0-1 VCD Athletic


Tunbridge Wells
(Players still at the club)

11 Dave Hassett, 9 Joe Fuller, 5 Bradley Mortimer, 3 Aaron O’Leary, 2 Sam Phillips, 1 Sam D’Arcy, 1 Abdul El-Ferdi, 1 Adrian Hatcher, 1 Shane Hickmott, 1 Ben Hilden, 1 Danny Nicholls, 1 Alex Rich 

VCD Athletic

16 Lee Coburn, 11 Stuart Abbott, 10 Mark Greatorex, 7 Paul Foley, 6 Ashley Probets, 5 Mark Horan, 5 Danny Penny, 4 Ricky Bennett, 4 James Brown, 4 Kevin Winchcombe, 4 Martin Driscoll, 3 Alan Owen

* shall be attending tonight's training session at our home-town club at Culverden Stadium as the players aim to end the club's 18-year trophy drought.  We will aim to bring you these EXCLUSIVE interviews later tonight.

We shall, of course, bring you the match report and reaction after the game, with sporadic updates from Park View Road.


Tunbridge Wells v VCD Athletic
Kent Senior Trophy Final
Sunday 9th April 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Welling United FC, Park View Road, Welling