||NOT UP FOR ANY CUPS
| 05 Oct 07
ROLL on when we get back into League action. I don't know about you, but I just don't care about these cup competitions this season.
Sure, ahead of the Hythe Town FA Cup match last weekend, I was hopeful Hess and the boys might equal or even better last season's superb run to the fourth qualifying round.
But we didn't show up on the day - and we were left with the tinpot Westview Cup, FA Trophy and Kent Senior Cup. For me, all three of these tournaments are not worth the risk of picking up further injuries to jeopardise our push for promotion.
The FA Trophy brings back fond memories for me and, I'm sure, many other Dover fans. We came within a dodgy linesman's decision from reaching the final nearly a decade ago. I remember how many of us Whites supporters were in dreamland when Gerry Dobbs fired us into a 1-0 lead in the semi-final first leg at Cheltenham.
As we know the officials that day were hopeless and instead of returning to Crabble worthy winners from that game, we were forced to play catch-up in the second leg from 2-1 behind.
But much has changed now. We are no longer a Conference club and to reach that same stage again just isn't realistic. And, even if we did, the amount of matches we'd have to play to reach the last four is staggering.
For me, if you reach the FA Cup first round, you have effectively got your own cup final. A trip to Elland Road to take on Leeds or the City Ground to face former European Cup winners Nottingham Forest is the prize every non-league club is seeking. Or even the chance to be drawn at home against beatable opponents with the real possibility of getting to the third round - and, with it, a glamour tie against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or any other Premier League club.
Hess was spot on to rest the first team against Eastbourne Town, who apparently celebrated afterwards like they had won the World Cup Final. Good luck to them - and perhaps, realistically for Eastbourne Town, the Westview Cup, along with survival in Ryman One, are their priorities.
But it just goes to show how much of a scalp Dover Athletic is. Some Town fans clearly did not want the gloss taken off their win against our reserve team. They liken it to Coventry's win at Manchester United last week in the Carling Cup.
Potters Bar, of course, presents a chance for the boys to get back to winning ways. Victory will set us up nicely for a league double-header against Whyteleafe the following Saturday and Chatham two days later. Both those games will be earmarked as must-win matches - to give us a chance of setting the pace at the top of the division and putting pressure on Tooting, who look the strong favourites to be up there in May.
I am sure everyone is delighted that this season Dover are the underdogs for promotion. Most fans polls around the league circuit put Tooting above Dover in the race for the title. Hess will not see it that way - and fully expects his team to win the title. He believes that we have "more in our locker" than the rival clubs.
The real test comes now with the muddy pitches starting to appear with autumn soon turning into winter. We cannot afford to slip up in the same fashion as we have done during the two previous seasons during this time. Without doubt, our winter hibernation has cost us promotion both times.
And do we really want a long run in the FA Trophy? I'd much rather, for this season at least, to concentrate on the league.
With the likes of Alan Pouton and Craig Cloke to return from injury, the squad is only going to look a lot stronger come Christmas time.
We can do it this season - and 100 per cent focus on that has got to be the be-all and end-all.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or policies of Dover Athletic Football Club Ltd, its board or officials.
| Staff Profile
Has been a Whites fan since he was a kid and covered the club as a journalist when he was sports editor of the East Kent Mercury between 1996 and 1999
Justin now lives in Hove and works on the sportsdesks of The Sun and News of the World.
He also is a judge on the Kent Journalist of the Year panel. Brings you the news throughout the week and steers the website operation.