I read that we are favourites because of our league status but it's The FA Cup and I'm not buying into that - Deal Town are cup specialists, says Sittingbourne boss Darren Blackburn

Friday 11th September 2020

SITTINGBOURNE manager Darren Blackburn finally takes charge of his first game on Saturday having been appointed to the manager's job on 11 March, having been Chris Lynch’s assistant manager last season.

The Brickies’ make the trip to Deal Town tomorrow for a tough-looking FA Cup Preliminary Round tie for the Isthmian League South East Division side.

Derek Hares’ men thrashed Knaphill 4-0 in the Extra Preliminary Round on 1 September, but opened their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division campaign with a 2-0 home defeat to Beckenham Town, but they bounced back with a 2-0 win at K Sports on Monday night courtesy of Troy Howard’s free-kick and Billy Munday’s second-half header.

“The whole club is looking forward to getting back to competitive football against Deal on Saturday. It’s been a long time coming and everyone is excited about the FA Cup as you’d expect,” said Blackburn.

“Lockdown has provided many challenges for every club with regards to recruitment, sponsorship and maintenance or improvement of grounds to provide fans with a safe watching environment.

“We’ve been working exceptionally hard with a small group of people who have ensured we are in the best position we can be for the restart.

“Andrew Marjeram, our commercial director and our chairman Maurice Dunk along with the rest of our board and a few helpers, have worked so hard secure sponsorship deals and improve the ground which has enabled me to put together an experienced squad that we feel can be very competitive this season if we play to the standards I know they can.

“Recruitment has been extremely tough at times, we didn’t have the greatest of finishes to last season so our final league position didn’t give some players the confidence that we could compete this year.

“We’ve had to hold our nerve and be patient to fill some positions. Initially players were reluctant to commit early on and although we missed out on a couple of early targets, I’m extremely pleased with the lads we’ve done deals with and who now make up our squad, it’s really come together the last couple of weeks.

“I’ve had to be pretty relentless with phone calls and enquiries and the players themselves have been fantastic and helped with a few of our recruits, credit to them for that because it means they’re buying into what we want to do at Sittingbourne longer term and they’re helping me to convince players to join us on the journey.

“We have healthy sensible competition in every position and over the last couple of games we can see the lads starting to build relationships on the pitch, trust each other and we’ve played some good stuff, especially against a very tough Harlow Town team this week.

“I spoke to their manager before the game and he was saying how well they’d been playing and he’s a very experienced well-connected manager, so to play the way we did and come away with a 3-0 win last game of pre-season was excellent.

“I was so proud of all 20 players we used that evening it has set us up nicely for the weekend I hope. The hardest thing is who to leave out this weekend.”

Sittingbourne have signed attacking midfielder Andy Pugh, 36, (Havant & Waterlooville), former Tunbridge Wells captain Freeman Rogers; right-back Salvyn Kisitu (Haringey Borough) and attacker Vance Bola (Glebe) during the past week.

“In all my years I’ve never had an easy game against Deal and I don’t expect tomorrow to be any different,” added Blackburn, the former player and manager at Gillingham-based side Hollands & Blair.

I read that we will be favourites because of our league status but it’s The FA Cup and I’m not buying into that! Deal are cup specialists they’ve proved that year on year and we we’ll be showing the same respect Saturday as I would a team at the top of our league.

“They’re at home, they’ll have the majority of the support and their fans are used to seeing cup wins down there so the pressure is arguably on them.

“We’re taking a few fans down with us and they are fantastic, they’ll be loud and never stop supporting the team no matter how the games going, that’s one of the best things about this club.

“Derek Hares and Steve King have them well drilled and they always work hard for each other. I’m expecting a hard-fought game and I don’t expect either team to run away with it. We will fight from the first whistle to the last to ensure we do all we can to come away with a positive result.

“We hope for an enjoyable game of football and for everyone to stay safe, socially distance as much as possible and follow any guidelines for the match.”

Visit Sittingbourne’s website: www.kentmcl.co.uk

Deal Town  v  Sittingbourne
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 12 September 2020
Kick Off 3:00pm
at The Charles Sports Ground, St Leonards Road, Deal, Kent CT14 9AU