Good afternoon and welcome to our first Bank Holiday fixture and first Kent derby of the season against Margate. I hope all their staff, players and fans have arrived safely after their short journey today.
We had some terrific local-derby battles last season, perhaps enjoying the first few of them more than the second, but it’s one of those fixtures that you always look forward to and want to be part of as a player, manager or supporter.
Writing these notes, we are in the middle of preparing for the Eastbourne game but with that out of the way on Saturday, it will have been all about the preparation for today’s visit of Margate. As I always warn against, as much as the derbies are occasions to be enjoyed, they are three points like any other game and that’s always the most important factor.
I’m sure today will be hot – both in terms of the temperature and the passion and action on the pitch; Bank Holiday games always are. I expect it will be a really good game against a Margate side with plenty of familiar faces, many of whom have been my teammates in the past, and there’s definite ability in our opponents’ squad today despite what is a less-than-satisfactory start to the season for them.
The Bank Holiday schedule leaves little time for recovery, with all teams in this league playing less than 48 hours after finishing their previous match. It means across the weekend, I’m going to need the whole squad and with any fitness issues or injury niggles that we might pick up, it’s unlikely the same 11 will start today as did on Saturday at Eastbourne. So I’ll be calling on all the players to produce the goods.
And speaking of the squad, we now have more or less everyone fit at last. Both Mark Phillips and Aaron McLean got through a whole week’s training, Stuart Lewis was a doubt for Saturday but should be OK for today, so everyone’s raring to go.
It’s been a sweltering week on the training ground but a good one where the boys have worked hard and we ended Thursday with a light session ahead of two games in quick succession this weekend.
After the last two home games, the home crowd deserves a performance; we owe it to you and we owe it to ourselves and the players are eager to get going again. Last Saturday was, of course, disappointing; I don’t expect to concede goals like their equaliser. It was Sunday League stuff, especially coming straight from the kick-off and our concentration levels have got to be better in that scenario.
The penalty misses, too, are frustrating but they happen and its part of football. Obviously we want to score those and obviously we can do without them being missed in successive games but there’s no issues with them, the boys concerned are excellent strikers of the ball and will show exactly that through the course of the season.
I honestly believe we’ll get stronger as this season progresses. We should have won both of our last two home games and with the squad now ticking over on the fitness front, I want to see us push on and finish out these games where we’ve been on top.
Your support, as ever, is a big part of that and for the 90 minutes the players are out there, your encouragement can have a major impact – even more so in the atmosphere of a local derby.