Isthmian League

Match Preview | Margate (A)

106 days on from that famous victory at The Enclosed Ground that lifted us back into the Isthmian Premier, Shaun Saunders’ new-look band of Hawks return to league action on the Kentish coastline.

A season to remember, it was Saunders’ first full one at the helm that also featured a spectacular underdog run in the Velocity Trophy.

But a rebuild in the summer has given us a different feel ahead of the fresh campaign, with Rob O’Toole, Nathan Cooper, Charlie Harris and Alfie Rogers just some of those departing The Enclosed Ground.

In the opposition camp, ‘The Gate’ won’t be looking back into the sun following a 17th placed finish last time out, though they finished a comfortable 11 points clear of the drop.

Manager Reece Prestedge, who took the hot seat after their Boxing Day defeat to Cray Wanderers, will be looking to build on last season’s points total with a similarly replenished side.

Team News

It’s been a fruitful summer window for Saunders who has added a number of established players to his ranks. Former Hastings United captain, Jack Dixon, will take the armband for the Hawks this campaign, and he was followed by clinical forward, Ben Pope, as well as versatile talent, Ryan Worrall, from the East Sussex club.

Vastly experienced goalkeeper Mitch Walker arrives and so too do centre-halves Joe Tennent and Connor Cody from Three Bridges and Chichester City respectively. The fledgling Dominic Johnson-Fisher, who has impressed in pre-season, joins from Steyning Town whilst the exciting addition of Charlie Walker bolsters the frontline. 

The Opposition

Things looked pretty bleak for Margate at Christmas time last year following the departure of Andy Drury. Without a win in nine matches that spanned three different months – including Whitehawk’s famous 4-3 victory at Hartsdown Park in January – it was testing times for Prestedge’s side who remained in a precarious position up until the final few weeks of the season.

But wins would arrive on sporadic occasions in what ultimately helped keep them away from danger, securing their spot in the Isthmian Premier for a seventh successive season.

And Prestedge will be pleased with his recruitment in the summer, most notably through the addition of former Concord Rangers and Hitchin Town forward, Steve Cawley, who recorded 20 goals in the National League South during the 2015/16 season.

One to Watch | Ben Greenhalgh: Finding the net on 17 occasions last season – two coming on that evening against the Hawks – it was a richly successful spell for the 31-year-old forward who is also Prestedge’s assistant. 

Noted for winning the football reality show, Football’s Next Star in 2010, it won him a sixth-month professional contract at Inter Milan where, despite not making a single appearance, he was presented with a Champions League Winners medal after his side’s 2-0 win over Bayern Munich!

Last Meeting

The clubs last met on a drenching evening in January at Hartsdown Park with a place in the Velocity Trophy semi-final up for grabs – the Hawks dramatically claiming a 4-3 victory at the death.

As the pendulum swung to-and-fro, it was the hosts who slipped into a 2-0 lead as the left-boot of Greenhalgh caused the visiting defence all kinds of issues. Nathan Cooper, Charlie Lambert and Luke Robinson struck for the Hawks to put us on top, before a late Harry Shooman own-goal levelled the scores.

With time ticking away, the Hawks broke at speed, allowing debutant Alfie Rogers to bear down on goal and pick his spot to perfection. It was a memorable night for Saunders and his side, who would eventually fall in the next round at Potters Bar Town.

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