Having lifted the Kent Senior Trophy last season (pictured), the “Ites” of Sheppey United travel to Stonebridge Road for the first time since 1988 hopeful that they can progress in the county’s premier cup competition at the expense of manager Ernie Batten’s old club.
After gaining a reputation as a prolific striker at Hastings United and Chelmsford City in the early Eighties, Batten had a spell at the Fleet from 1985 to 1986 and has since coached at Ashford before taking the Sheppey manager’s job. He has been involved with the island club for many years, however, and after stepping down from a co-chairman’s role to take up the manager’s hotseat, Batten has secured promotion from the Kent Invicta League to the Southern Counties East Football League to add to the club’s Kent Senior Trophy silverware.
Sitting proudly in second place at their new level, Sheppey have their eyes on the Ryman League further down the line. Having come back from being mothballed in the early part of this century and survived name changes to both AFC Sheppey and Sheppey & Sheerness United, under the guidance of Batten and chairman Matthew Smith, the “Ites” boast upgraded facilities at their Holm Park home and growing crowds.
Certainly a number of those are set to travel to north Kent tonight to renew hostilities with the Fleet, almost 30 years after we were in the Southern League together – though our shared history goes right back to 1890 when Sheppey was formed in the same year as Northfleet United and became the early Fleet’s most regular opponents before the Second World War.
Batten aside, there aren’t too many familiar faces in the Sheppey squad. The manager’s son Ian captains the side while striker Remell Davis has played for Sittingbourne, Histon and Lowestoft Town. There is also Aaron Williams who (we’ve assumed but haven’t confirmation!) is the same player who with brother Adam came through Fleet’s youth ranks during Liam Daish’s reign.
For the home side, Daryl McMahon is expected to select a fairly mixed bag with most first-teamers rested ahead of the trip to Weston-super-Mare on Saturday. McMahon himself and coach Stacy Long are likely to be named on the teamsheet while the likes of Bradley Bubb, Reiss Greenidge, John Paul Kissock, Jonathan Miles and Charlie Sheringham could be supplemented by Billy Holmes, Charlie Tagg, Ollie Boulding, Karn Miller-Neave and a selection of first-year academy players, though with one eye on Thursday’s FA Youth Cup tie at Lordswood, even academy players are in short supply this week.
Admission is just £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and £1 for children. Kick-off is 7.45pm.