Whitehawk (away), Vanarama National League South
Monday 31st August, KO 3.00
 
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 - MANAGER'S COLUMN -

Previous columns can be found under the match report of the game to which they refer, while video interviews can be found here 

I said after the game against Maidstone that we weren't disappointed with the performance but were disappointed that we hadn't got ourselves one or two goals in front, and after the first half an hour again at Havant I was starting to think 'here we go again', because we'd dominated the game and although we hadn't had any clear cut chances there were a couple of great saves and one or two scrambles and we were starting to think the worst, but then we scored a stunning goal. It's worked on the training ground, Dan Spence put in a great delivery and Dan Fitchett scored what I thought was a deserved goal because he worked really hard. 

At the start of the second half you wondered if it would be a repeat of last season, because Havant came out and were the better team, so we needed the second goal, but once we got it we became more settled and went back to what we'd been doing well, so apart from that first part of the second half we were comfortable with our set up and what we did. We showed a lot of respect to Havant – we man-marked Stock, we man-marked Donnelly and we man-marked Clifton, and that gave us a great base in the game as if you stop those three playing then you've got a chance, and credit to the lads for the amount of work they put in. 

We set up as a diamond in midfield partly out of respect for Havant, but also we felt that we were a bit lopsided with Glen out on the left. We've tried it, it hasn't really worked and we haven't scored the goals against Welling, Bromley or Maidstone so it was time to make what wasn't really a big change, but it gave us some great movement. Spillane coming back was huge for us, and you can look at the team and say from one to eleven all had good games. There weren't many above a six or seven on Saturday, but tonight I thought we were all eights and nines. 

The two disappointments were to lose Craig McAllister and Simon Downer. Craig got a knock off the keeper and has jarred the same ankle as was giving him a problem earlier in the summer, and Simon's opened his knee up and that could be a week or two. We asked Jamie Collins before the game whether he could go on the bench for us and he said he could, which was a real surprise because although I said he might be fit in the interview on Saturday it was mainly to make Havant think he might be starting, so for him to be able to come on and do the job when Simon went off was a boost. We kept on at him the whole time 'are you really fit?' and the answer came back yes every time, and then he came on and scored. Otherwise we were looking round a bit as to what we'd do – we'd probably have pushed Shaun Cooper back but that would have meant us losing Craig Dundas from the role he was playing in. Ross Stearn had a bit of a dead leg as well but came on for the last twenty minutes, and it's credit to him and Jamie, and the spirit in the squad, that they both wanted to get on the pitch. 

The work rate and work ethic was terrific, and I'm massively pleased for the supporters who made the trip. There must have been nearly 100 there, and it always amazes me the numbers that come and support us away from home, and it's lovely to give them something to go home with and I hope they're proud of the team tonight. 

We were given a tough start with Maidstone, who have come up as Ryman champions with all the momentum that brings, and then to come to Havant, who most people would put in the top two in their predictions, and now we've got a difficult game at Dartford, who while they've been relegated to this level they were always a good South Division side before they were promoted. They're coming off a decent win against Eastbourne, so we've got to keep the intensity going and, although I hate to say this after just two games, we need a bit of luck with injuries and having lost Amankwaah, Downer and McAllister that's not the case at the minute. 

This was the first time we'd played on grass for a month, and it was a great surface tonight, but it will probably only stay like this until October or November. I think we'll have a good surface at Dartford as well, but the beauty of our surface will come in the autumn and beyond when other pitches are cutting up and games are being called off. You may not see the beauty of it at the moment, but you'll definitely notice the benefit come later in the season.

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