Ryman League opening day preview

Thursday 17th August 2006

Ramsgate boss Jim Ward will wait until the last minute to decide which goalkeeper will play in their opening Ryman Premier League game on Saturday, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Scot has signed former Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Chris May this week and the 20-year-old is vying for the jersey with Jurgen Wild for the clash against Heybridge Swifts.

But Danny Twyman, whose under contract, wants to move from the Thanet club.

The Essex side come to Southwood Stadium having finished as runners-up last season, missing out on promotion into the Nationwide Conference South, having lost their play-off showdown against Hampton & Richmond Borough.

But Ward is targeting eight points from their opening four games.

After playing Brian Statham’s side, Ward takes his side to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night, before playing Kentish rivals Bromley and Tonbridge Angels.

In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with www.kentishfootball.co.uk this afternoon, Ward said: “Straight into the frying pan. Saturday and Tuesday we couldn’t have a stiffer test.

“We’ve got Heybridge Swifts and then we go to Wimbledon on Tuesday and then we play Bromley and Tonbridge all in the space of nine days.

“We’ll know more about ourselves on bank holiday evening.

Ward, meanwhile, is happy that he’s got two goalkeepers to chose from once again.

“I needed another goalkeeper as we lost Danny Twyman,” he said. “Danny’s still on contract at Ramsgate, he hasn’t gone anywhere but he’s decided he wants to leave.

“Jurgen knows we need another goalkeeper with two fighting for the jersey - it’s a close call.”

The Rams lost just four Kent League games when they went on to win the title in 2004-05 and last season lost just two more as they clinched the Ryman League Division one title.

“I don’t say this lightly, nobody frightens us,” said Ward. “The guys have been set a target of eight points from (the first) four games.

“This is the same we done last season and we’re just really looking forward to it. It’s all about winning football matches.

“We ain’t done bad the last few years. You can count on one hand the amount of games we’ve lost each season.”

Ward and his management team have, as always, done their homework on their opposition, and admitted he’s impressed with their Essex visitors.

“We’ve had them watched and they’re a very good footballing side,” he said.

And Ward calls upon local fans to flock through the turnstiles at Southwood Stadium to cheer on the back-to-back champions.

“What will really bring it home for the people of Ramsgate is when they’re having a cup of tea at five o’clock on a Saturday evening and the scores come up on television.

“We have come up and are in an elevated position in a higher league and it’s a higher profile for the club.

“I’d like to see the people of Ramsgate supporting us. The chairman dug deeper in his pocket again and paid for new floodlights, which will be ready for the Billericay game, so it will be great if we can get 400-500. Whether we can, we’ll wait and see.”

Stuart Vahid (concussion) and Simon Pettit (pulled groin) are doubtful for the opening day game, but Ward admits everyone is raring to go.

“It won’t be for the want of trying,” he said. “Me, Danny (Ward) and Mark (Harrop) have got the lads as ready as we can.

“It’s alright saying you look forward and enjoy yourself in this league but the only way you enjoy yourself is by winning games, so that’s what the aim will be.

“The aim is the same as last year,” he said. “People laughed last year when we said we put bonuses in to be top six at Christmas and at the end of the season, and double bonuses if we got promoted.

“People laughed but we left all those big clubs in division one - Dover, Tooting & Mitcham, Kingstonian, Leatherhead and much bigger clubs than Ramsgate Football Club - but the task ahead doesn’t frighten us!”

Phil Miles takes charge of his first league game as Chatham Town manager on Saturday when Croydon Athletic visit Maidstone Road.

Miles, who replaces Steve Binks at the helm, is looking forward to his first game in charge, stepping up from his assistant manager’s role.

He hands debuts to three new signings against the Surrey Rams, with highly-rated goalkeeper John Whitehouse (signed from Kent League side Tunbridge Wells), centre-half Rob Goodger (correct spelling, whose signed from Herne Bay) and star striker Ian Pulman (Ramsgate), hoping to make an instant impression to the Maidstone Road faithful.

And Miles calls upon the Medway faithful to flock through the turnstiles to watch their first ever game in the Ryman League - with 300 fans expected.

“Obviously we’re going to get big gates when the local derbies come, but it would be nice to attract a few more local fans,” he said in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

Miles, who revealed his club are in the bottom six in the budget league table, spelled out his aims for the new campaign.

“I’ll be happy with anywhere in midtable,” he said. “But we’ll be trying to push on and finish as high as we can.”

But Miles pins his hopes on the club’s young guns, adding: “I’m looking for young Rob Denness to improve from last year. He was superb last year and we’re looking for him to cement his place in the first team.

“Young Ross Finn has played extremely well during the pre-season.”

Whitehouse, 29, and Pulman, 23, are players Miles is looking at to coax the young guns at the club.

“John is a very good goalkeeper and I’m looking for him to bring us stability at the back,” Miles said.

“I spoke to Ian early on in the pre-season ad he told me he was training with two other clubs (Eastbourne Borough and Ramsgate).

“I spoke to him about the club, their ambitions, the good set up here.

“We’ve got a lot of youngsters and inexperience in the side and I’m looking for Ian to bring more experience to the side.

“He’s only 23, but he’s got experience, even though at an early age. I explained it will be good for him to bring along the youngsters.

“He came training two or three times, played a couple of games and I was impressed. We had a chat and luckily for us he was happy to sign.”

But despite having a low budget, Miles insists his team will compete with the big-boys.

“I think we’re in the bottom six budget wise,” he revealed. “But it’s not all about budgets because if you get the players playing in the correct way, in their correct positions, and you get a good team spirit, for me on any day, budgets just go out of the window.

“Although the budget at Chatham is not fantastic there won’t be no excuses.

“I still feel we’ve got a strong enough squad to compete every Saturday - and Tuesday night - against so-called top teams with bigger budgets.

“I’m quite happy and confident in the squad that we can hold their own.”

Tonbridge Angels’ player-manager Tony Dolby hands four players their debuts on their Ryman Premier League return.

Goalkeeper Aaron Kerr and defender Scott Gooding (both signed from Gravesend & Northfleet), midfielder Robert Kember (Crawley Town) and striker Andy Martin (Croydon Athletic) are in their 16-man squad for their trip to Hendon.

But Scott Kinch, whose joined from Tooting & Mitcham United, having impressed for the Terrors against the Angels in division one last season, and Wade Falana are both suspended.

Wing-back Drew Watkins is expected to play some part despite struggling with an injury.

Tonbridge Angels’ official website www.tonbridgeangels.co.uk wi
ll be providing a LIVE SERVICE from Claremont Road.

Ashford Town fans hope for a better campaign this season, which kick’s off at Kingstonian, before welcoming Cray Wanderers to the Homelands next Tuesday.

The Homelands club have finished third from bottom in the last two season’s in division one, but joint-managers Tim Thorogood and John Cumberbatch have bolstered their squad during the close season.

Goalkeeper Simon Overland, 20, whose on a season long loan from Nationwide Conference club Dagenham & Redbridge, has fought off competition from Dave Wietecha to secure the number one jersey.

Wietecha has signed for Kent League neighbours Hythe Town.

Graham Porter, 31, makes a welcome return to the Homelands, and brings with him a wealth of experience to the heart of the defence.

He first put on an Ashford shirt in August 1997 and went on to make 72 appearances and score five goals before departing to Margate, and went on to play for Gravesend & Northfleet.

Midfielder Anthony Allman, 25, opted for a move to Ashford despite interest from Ryman Premier League side Tonbridge Angels.

Allman has a wealth of experience having played for Charlton Athletic, Colchester United, Woking, Bishop’s Stortford, St Albans City and Margate.

A talented right-sided former England Schools International, he returned to the England set up during the Futsal Tournament against Poland at Docklands last summer and was included in the FA squad to face Lithuania at Kaunas in November 2005.

And Simon Glover, 24, needs no introduction to Ashford Town fans as he joins the club for his third spell.

He first joined the club in January 2000 when Tony Reynolds became manager and again at the end of the 2003-04 season, making 14 and 13 appearances respectively.

Glover moved to Folkestone Invicta scoring 16 goals in 54 starts before joining Heybridge Swifts in October 2005. He’s also played for Welling United and Dover Athletic.

Midfielder, Shakir Agada, 23, signed for the club having impressed during pre-season, and has Southern League experience with Cheshunt.

Forward, George Fenwick, 23, is a tall imposing centre forward and has played for Dover Athletic and Bromley without making their first teams. However, he served his apprenticeship by way of a Scholarship in America.

Steven Wade, 22, is another player whose played for Dover and Bromley and Ashford have high-hopes for 16-year-old midfielder Joe Hitchings.

Hitchings joined their youth set up in March 2006 from local rivals Folkestone Invicta, playing a few games for Ashford’s reserves at the end of last season.

Expectations have gone through the roof at Dartford this season.

The club, along with Chatham Town and Sittingbourne, have switched from the Southern League and hopes are high.

The Darts were due to move into their impressive stadium at Princes Park on 23rd September against arch-rivals Maidstone United.

But manager Tony Burman and his side are frustrated as delays have caused the opening of the 4,100 all-covered stadium to be put back.

Club officials and Dartford Borough Council are keeping tight lipped about the first game to be played back at the stadium.

“The delay of Princes Park is a big disappointment to me and the players as we seem to be so near but so far from our home coming,” Burman told www.dartfordfootballclub.co.uk

“Lets hope that the council and the contractors can sort things out as soon as possible, which can only be of benefit to all concerned.

“I have been asked through the summer what am I expecting to happen this season as the expectation around the club is so high.

“What I hope is that we improve on last season. That means finishing higher in the league than the seventh place we did last year, going further in cup competitions than last year and improving players as individuals and as a team.

“But a major concern is to try and control the expectation of everybody concerned with Dartford Football Club.

“We are going to have a long and hard season ahead with many ups and downs but lets hope the ups outweigh the downs and we get home to Princes Park as soon as possible, where we can really get this show on the road and put the club back on the footballing map.”

They start their campaign with a trip to Burgess Hill Town on Saturday before welcoming Molesey on Monday night. All games before their return home will be played at Thurrock Football Club, Ship Lane, Purfleet.

Burman has revealed to www.kentishfootball.co.uk on the eve of the game that Anthony Henry (groin), Brendon Cass (ankle) and summer signing from Tonbridge Angels, striker Jay May (groin) are all fit.

The trio sat out last Saturday's friendly defeat at Folkestone Invicta, where Paul Lamb's late goal condemned the Darts to their only pre-season defeat.

Sittingbourne are expecting brighter times at Bourne Park this season, as they get their campaign underway against new boys Godalming Town.

Two new floodlight towers are now up and working meaning that the lights at Bourne Park are now well up to standard.

The club would like to thank a number of people who helped out, working sometimes up to midnight in order to meet the Ryman League deadline for the work to be completed.

Manager Steve Lovell has made two further new signings to follow those of Dan Bonneywell (local football in Chatham) and Andy Doerr (Lordswood).

Sabeur Trabelsi, who played for Tunisia against Argentina in the 2004 Olympics, has now signed as has Kam Singh.

Both are likely to feature in the squad against Godalming and Lovell also has at least one other well known player in his sights.

Expected to return on Saturday is goalkeeper Steve Williams, whilst Jon Neal has recovered from tonsillitis.

Kent League double winners Maidstone United travel to Hastings United banking on a good start to their Ryman League Division One South campaign.

Earlier in the week the Stones unveiled a sponsorship deal with Brightlite Windows and released good news about their new stadium at James Whatman Way in the county town.

Derek Nicholson from Prime Group, the project management company for the new stadium, says the development is on course for next season.

Speaking at the sponsor launch on Tuesday, Mr Nicholson said that work was progressing behind the scenes and that they were on schedule to deliver the project for the 2007/2008 season.

He also announced that a water main, which prevented building work on the riverside of the ground, is being moved.

This will allow the club to build terracing on that side of the pitch and save the money too, as it would not be necessary to build the type of stand planned for the opposite side of the stadium.

And joint-boss Alan Walker admitted their opening game on the east Sussex coast is “very tough.”

He told www.maidstoneunited.co.uk:  “ They are a very well established non-league side who have suffered recently thanks to celebrity managers and lottery winners.

“But they are over that boom and bust period and have a very good pedigree both at this level and above.

“Like ourselves they also benefit from a passionate support base but we know that our fans will be there in their hundreds to cheer us on too.

“We know their strengths and weaknesses but I prefer to dwell on the strength and ability of our squad.

“As for the coming season, Lloyd (Hume) and I expect to finish in the top half but I have to say I would be unhappy not to be in at least the play-offs.

“Obviously we are at the mercy of injuries, but if our key personnel remain fit we should fear no-one.

“In the past I think we suffered from clubs seeing the Maidstone game as their cup final, and it doesn’t help morale when playing on poor quality pitches.

“But this season we are on a level playing field, the setup is far more professional and the majority of our players have played at this level or above and know what to expect.

“Finally, I was at the launch of the new sponsorship deal with Britelite Windows and this should give the club a platform on which to build.

“It’s good to see a company coming back to support the club who were also involved with Maidstone back in the glory years of the 80’s and it shows that this club is going in the right direction.

“It also helps Lloyd and myself bring in players who see we are a club that’s going forward and with the progress on the ground as well it’s all good news off the pitch and we hope to emulate that on the pitch too.” 

After playing ten pre-season games, Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley cannot wait for their Ryman Premier League opener against Harrow Borough at the Buzzlines Stadium.

He told www.folkestoneinvicta.co.uk  : “Everybody wants a competitive game now! After going through all of the training and the friendly games, the players are really looking forward to the start of the season.”

The Seasiders will be looking to get their season off to a bright start as after playing host to Harrow Borough, they begin a tough sequence of away matches, the first being a trip to Essex to face Bllericay Town next Tuesday.

“For me and the players it’s always nice to get that first win,” said Cugley. “If you can get an early win it seems to settle you down, otherwise you go into the next game possibly feeling a bit edgy.

“The lads are very determined though and they want to get off to a good start. The weather we have had down here recently has softened the pitch up and that’s one thing players like is a softer playing surface as no one likes hard, bumpy pitches. So come Saturday the pitch will be in good nick, we will have the new kit on and it will be off we go!

“As with all home games it’s important to try and win them and this is a League in which you want to be doing that in. After that it’s a question of picking up as many points as you can away. But we need to be doing well at home to ensure we survive and push up the League, which I believe we are certainly capable of doing”.

Cray Wanderers welcome Ryman League Division One South newcomers Horsham YMCA to Hayes Lane and striker Jamie Wood is hoping to score the goals that will get Ian Jenkins’ side all three points.

The Wands have strengthened their squad by adding defenders Mark Willy and Colin Luckett from landlords Bromley and Al-James Hannigan arrives from Enfield.

Former Herne Bay defender Shaun Bremner, who had a pre-season trial at Nationwide Conference South club Welling United, joins his brother Leigh at the club.

Striker Lewis Wood, who is Jamie’s younger brother, joins from Kent League side Thamesmead Town.

In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with www.kentishfootball.co.uk on the eve of the match, Jamie Wood revealed everyone is looking forward to the big kick-off.

“Morale is really good, everyone is buzzing and we are really confident going into tomorrow’s game,” said the 28-year-old.

Wood, meanwhile, has issued a rallying cry to local fans to watch the Wands this season.

He said: “With the price rise of Premiership and Championship teams in South London, Cray Wanderers offer great value for money with entertaining football thrown in.”

Reflecting on last season, the Blackfen based striker, added: “We started off last season flying but got a few injuries and faded out.

“We also let in too many goals,” he admitted.  “I think we let in the fourth most, which is far too many for a side that wanted to get promoted.”

Wood admitted he doesn’t know too much about tomorrow’s opponents, adding: “The only think I know is that Tommy Sampson is their coach, so they won’t be no pushovers!”

With a trip to Ashford Town following next Tuesday, Wood added: “Like all games we play we will be expecting three points.  Ashford have made some good signings and will be much stronger than they were last season."

Elsewhere, Margate get their Ryman Premier League campaign underway with a trip to Worthing, before East Thurrock United visit Hartsdown Park next Tuesday.

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