It’s going to be difficult but we’ll go down there with confidence. We’ve won every game we’ve played this season, touch wood and hopefully we’ll get through on the night, says Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten

Tuesday 22nd September 2020

SHEPPEY UNITED manager Ernie Batten says he faces issues getting his squad down to Steyning Town for tonight’s FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie.

Sheppey United made it six wins out of six at the start of the 2020-21 campaign after beating Croydon 2-1 at Foxbury Avenue in Chislehurst on Sunday.

The Ites will play Molesey in the Second Qualifying Round of The FA Vase after goals from strikers Junior Aikhionbare and his replacement Warren Mfula in the second half sealed the win.

Croydon pulled a goal back through powerfully-built striker Andy Somo with a couple of minutes to go and Sheppey keeper Tommy Taylor pulled off a brilliant save to prevent right-back Johnny Akoto taking the game to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

Batten and his men travel down to West Sussex to play fifteenth-placed Southern Combination League Premier Division side Steyning Town in The FA Cup.

Clubs have complained that they are forced to travel to midweek away games in The FA Cup this season as half of the six qualifying rounds are being played in midweek due to the delayed start.

Faced with a 144-mile round trip tonight, Batten said: “It’s very difficult for us. We said to the lads ‘can you get off work a little bit earlier, can you make sure you ger there?’

“We had Deal last Tuesday and that was very difficult.  We had lads turning up at 25-past-seven and half-past-seven, straight into their kit, straight into the kick-off but I’m afraid it’s all part and parcel of semi-pro football.  You have to work around your job somehow and get yourselves down there.

“The chairman went down there on Saturday and he said he had a hell of a journey down the A23. It took him four hours to get home!

“It’s going to be difficult but we’ll go down there with confidence. We’ve won every game we’ve played this season, touch wood and hopefully we’ll get through on the night.”

Batten, who made four changes to his starting line-up against Southern Counties East Football League First Division side Croydon, including keeper Taylor, has complained about having to play four games in eight days.

“I’m expecting a tough game, they’re going to be physical. I think they play on a 3G pitch down there as do K Sports, who we play next Monday,” said Batten.

“I think the 3G suits us because we can pass the ball and if we can get our wide players in good areas we can do damage to both teams.

Sheppey United were one of the promotion challengers last season and will be up there with the quality that they have on the pitch this term.

Batten’s men have scored 11 goals and conceded four in three league games and he wants his side to tighten up at the back.

He said: “It’s all going well.  I believe that we’re conceding goals and teams who wins leagues and silverware are generally the teams that concede the least amount of goals, although we’re capable of scoring goals we need to get some clean sheets on the board and we haven’t done that this season.”

Batten recited a quote he heard from Dartford manager Ernie Morgan back in the day.

“I think we’ve got a great chance, you need a bit of luck.  A great manager in non-league football once said ‘better be a lucky manager than a good one!’

“I always think there’s something in that.  If we can keep away from injuries and suspensions, I believe that if we can play to our ability in the big games, I think we’ve got a very, very good chance.”

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Steyning Town  v  Sheppey United
The Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Tuesday 22 September 2020
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Birchwood Ground, Shooting Field, Steyning, West Sussex BN44 3RX