*BS*FA Cup magic and Dover’s travelling contingent will descend on Burgess Hill tomorrow (Saturday) for manager Andy Hessenthaler’s second taste of the early rounds of the famous competition.*BF*
Hessenthaler’s first bite at the cherry away to Sussex County league side Redhill (which is actually situated in Surrey) two weeks ago was a relatively pain-free exercise, though one of the White Army support may disagree!
It was a fairly gentle introduction into the competition, which allowed Matt Bourne to ease back into the first team and Matt Carruthers a chance to impress his new boss with the winning goal.
This weekend’s opposition will undoubtedly give Whites’ goalkeeper Dean Ruddy more to think about, especially if former Hillians striker Steve Harper returns to the club in time for the game. The Argus, a Sussex newspaper, has claimed today that the prolific front-man has signed from Tonbridge Angels.
Harper was the subject of a four-figure transfer fee from Thurrock in 2005, when in his first spell at Burgess Hill. He was noticed when scoring 34 goals for the Hillians in one season.
However, the signing may not help Burgess Hill’s cause too greatly as it appears their current problems lie in defence. 11 goals scored in five league games this season is a decent return for the ninth-placed side but nine have been shipped at the other end, which is the highest conceded by any team in the top 14.*Lpic1*
Athletic’s strikers will therefore be hoping to record a similar scoreline to the club’s last visit to Leylands Park back in April, when Jimmy Dryden and Tommy Tyne scored two apiece in a convincing 4-1 win.
Missing for Dover this weekend will of course be the sidelined Craig Cloke and Alan Pouton, though Cloke could be back in action very soon if given the all clear by doctors this week following a kidney problem picked up at Whitstable last month.
The only other certain absentee will be new signing Lee Browning, whose free transfer from Sittingbourne will not go through for a few more days. He is cup-tied as well so will not feature in any other FA Cup matches this season, whether Whites progress or not.
Browning would appear to be another exciting signing for Athletic, who now boast an impressive forward line of six players competing for three or four places in attack. Last Saturday’s double-goalscorer Mark Lovell will have been relieved to hit the net against Dulwich after a few missed chances in previous games. It can’t be long, surely, before the excellent attacking play results in a windfall of goals.
One player who will be available on Saturday is Liam Quinn, following his seven day ban from KCFA for a reserve misdemeanour last season. It will be a difficult decision for the manager to make between Quinn and Craig Wilkins for who partners Matt Bourne in central defence.
Another dilemma for Hessenthaler may be whether or not to keep himself in the line-up or instead field two out-and-out wingers, as was the case at Redhill when Carruthers and Frannie Collin caused many problems out wide for Tommy Sampson’s team.
The amount of experience and quality in midfield, despite the absence of Pouton, is testament to the squad’s strength in depth and even injuries to several key players has not affected the team’s entertaining brand of passing football.
It is truly a pleasure to watch such a fluid and skilful side in action each week. If the defence and midfield can get a run of games together, and the team learn to hit the target with a bit more frequency then we’re going to be a hard to stop.