Friday, September 30, 2011

FA Cup Fever - Oxhey Jets Preview

Oxhey Jets v Hendon
Saturday 1st October 2011
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
The Boundary Stadium

I’m not going to do it. However much you might want me to, I’m simply not going to. There will be no punnery on the name of our opponents tomorrow in this post today. Now we’ve laid the ground rules, it’s time to look ahead to tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Oxhey Jets of the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division.

I’ll lay my cards on the table right now and admit that what I know about our opponents can be written on the back of a postage stamp. Luckily, I have really small handwriting, so here goes.

Oxhey Jets were formed as recently as 1972 and will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year. They began life in local Watford leagues before joining the Herts County Senior League Division 1 in 1981 from which they gained promotion into the Premier Division in 1984 and 1989. Between 2001 and 2004 the club won the Premier Division 3 seasons out of 4, and were accepted in 2004 into Division 1 of the Spartan South Midlands League. A year and a championship later they were promoted into the Premier Division and entered the FA Cup for the first time.

This season’s run to the 2nd Qualifying round has matched their previous best in the competition, when they met AFC Wimbledon 5 years ago at The Boundary Stadium – the same season they got through to the 3rd round of the FA Vase. Currently managed by Benny Higham, who made 755 appearances for the club, the side have enjoyed a decent start to the season and are currently unbeaten in their last eight matches, including a 3-3 draw in midweek against Hillingdon Borough. Last weekend saw them progress in the FA Vase with a late 3-2 win over AFC Dunstable thanks to a goal by Gavin Hart, formerly of Northwood amongst others. Another name that will be familiar to Hendon fans will be that of Lewis Putnam, who was with us for a month or so towards the end of last season. Both are likely to start tomorrow.

To get to this stage, Jets have conceded just one goal and accounted for Wodson Park, Great Wakering Rovers and Hertford Town. The win over Great Wakering was particularly impressive having taken their higher level opponents to a replay and then beating them at The Boundary Stadium. As against AFC Hayes, the Greens face not so much a banana skin tomorrow on the Herts / Middx border, as a huge pile of discarded Monkey food waste. So long as Hendon are as professional as they were in the first half against AFC Hayes then they should progress with some degree of comfort, but that is by no means a given. Oxhey Jets in the past have beaten sides like St. Albans City circa 2009 3-0, so they are by no means a side to be underestimated.

Certainly midweek will have given Gary Mac a few selection dilemmas, notably in goal and up front. Berkley Laurencin has nothing nothing to warrant being dropped and was unfortunate to have been involved in the car accident prior to Monday that meant he was unable to play. That said, Sean Thomas was faultless and kept a clean sheet. What do you do, keep the man in possession, or bring the previous impressive number 1 back in? It’s a good headache to have and far preferable to the one Gary had in the second half of last season. The other beneficiary of the accident on Monday was Elliott Charles who led the lean superbly in Greg Ngoyi’s temporary absence. Although early days, he looks to be the physical target man type of centre forward we haven’t had at the club probably since Rob Haworth – but with added goal threat. There might the temptation to go with 2 up front, which then begs the question, which midfielder do you leave out? I suppose that’s why I’m not a manager. I mean apart from not having the coaching badges and requisite experience, I really don’t have the balls to start dropping players when they don’t deserve it. Macca, over to you.

Fortunately, Jets will be no stranger to the Greens’ coaching team as goalkeeping coach Paul Faulkner’s brother Mark is on a coach at Oxhey, so you can expect some friendly banter flying between the two benches tomorrow afternoon. I’m looking forward to it. A new ground, new opposition, FA Cup, potential upset and blazing hot sunshine on the menu. It ought to be a cracker.

Others in Cup Action

There are a number of other Ryman Premier sides in cup action tomorrow including bottom of the table Leatherhead who take a break from their struggles in the league to travel up to Bedfordshire where they take on Biggleswade Town and ex Hendon man Harry Hunt. Fellow strugglers Concord Rangers travel to deepest Norfolk to take on Wroxham, Horsham go to Burnham, and Aveley travel to Wembley’s conquerors Hanworth Villa. All four clubs, who are currently in the bottom four of the division will be looking to progress against lower level opponents.

East Thurrock, currently sat just outside the relegation zone host St. Albans City who are likely to have Brian Haule in their squad, Harrow Borough have a tough trip to Dartford and Carshalton a similarly tough trip to Kent to take on Dover Athletic, now managed by Nicky Forster after the midweek departure of Martin Hayes, a fortnight after scoring for Lingfield against Horsham in the previous round.

Margate host fellow Kentish side Thamesmead Town at Hartsdown Park, hoping to turn their home form around, Bury Town travel to Redbridge, Canvey Island host Bishop’s Stortford and Billericay go to Chipstead. The last two Ryman Prem sides in action are Cray, who host Erith Town on Sunday, and Lowestoft Town who host Hemel Hempstead Town, who lost their boss and ex Hendon coach Colin Payne in the week.

League Fixtures

All of which means that just two scheduled league fixtures will go ahead. AFC Hornchurch host Wingate & Finchley, and Lewes will be looking to maintain their 100% home record against Wealdstone. The two Middlesex sides will be looking to bounce back after disappointing midweek reverses, the Stones obviously against Hendon and Wingate who were hammered 4-1 by Billericay Town and have now lost four of their last five games in all competitions. Hornchurch are unbeaten in their last five league matches, winning four of them and it’s hard to bet against them continuing this run. Lewes meanwhile lost disappointingly in midweek at resurgent Kingstonian but are a mean bunch at The Dripping Pan, and will provide Wealdstone with a very stern test. I suspect their physical strength will prove too much for the Stones, and fully expect them to get themselves back on track. Both games to finish 2-0 home wins. Which obviously means they won’t.

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