*BS*ANDY HESSENTHALER hopes to have the vast majority of his squad available on Saturday for the visit of Welling in the FA Cup third qualifying round.*BF*
August and September saw a succession of injuries to key players, meaning that Hessenthaler hasn’t been able to name a settled side at any point so far this term.
Even goalkeeper John Whitehouse suffered a blow last week, missing the Worcester game after his first appearance of the season against East Preston the week before.
Jake Leberl and Adam Birchall have been particularly unfortunate, consistently picking up knocks and set backs when returning from the treatment room. However, both are hoping to make Saturday’s squad after several games out.
Hessenthaler told kentishfootball.co.uk: “They have a chance, it depends on how they get through training. If they can come through that there’s a good chance of them being up for selection. We could have a decent sized squad to choose from for the weekend.”
One player not available for the gaffer is Andy Pugh. The Gillingham striker has spent nearly a month on loan with Dover, scoring in the league against Hampton & Richmond. He didn’t feature in the FA Cup tie against East Preston due to a paperwork delay and it has been decided he should return to Gillingham earlier than planned.
The boss explained: “He won’t play, we won’t make him cup-tied now it’s his last game. I’ve had a chat with the lad, there’s no reason for us to actually make him cup-tied for one game when we’re sending him back.
“He’s available for Gillingham, who have a lot of injuries, so I’ve had a chat with him and he understands that.”
Hess may face a selection headache despite the loss of Pugh, especially in midfield where he should have all his options available including new signing Craig Rocastle. The experienced midfielder was an unused substitute last Saturday at Worcester but will be eager to be given a chance to pit his wits against his old teammates.
Craig featured for Welling at the end of August in their 2-0 defeat at Perrys Crabble, a tight BlueSquare South derby that Welling could have won. He will hope to be on the winning side this time around.
Wings will not make life easy for his new team, however. With nothing to lose and a more settled side than when they last visited, Andy Ford’s men will be sure to pose a threat and try to frustrate the home side.
Having never passed the third qualifying round stage with Dover, Hessenthaler will hope his side can put last Saturday’s result behind them and build a run further into what he described on DAFCtv as “the best club cup competition in the world.”
Hess told kentishfootball.co.uk: “Everyone wants to play in it, be involved in it, for someone like Dover or Welling there’s a big carrot at the end of it.
“Financially it would be good to get through the next round and get a big draw coming down at Crabble as there’s a number of big teams in that round – Leeds, Southampton, Charlton, Norwich. It would be an interesting draw if we can actually get to that first round!”