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Faversham Town chairman Gary Smart on the lessons learnt from the 2023/24 season ahead of testimonial game at Salters Lane this weekend including Neil Cugley, Ray Turner, Matt Bourne and Matt Newman

Chairman Gary Smart thinks Faversham’s board learnt a lot during the 2023/24 season.

The ambitious Lilywhites were tipped by many to win the Southern Counties East Premier Division title.

Faversham Town chairman Gary Smart
Faversham Town chairman Gary Smart

But Town parted company with Sammy Moore in January with the club top - albeit those behind them had games in hand - before experienced former Ashford manager Tommy Warrilow came in and steered them to a second-placed finish.

That gave them home advantage in their play-off semi-final against Corinthian, only to lose on penalties after a 2-2 draw last month.

“We set our stall out to go straight back up,” said Smart, a former player who became chairman two years ago.

“We felt we had got the right team in early doors and it just didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to. That was very disappointing.

“There were good points of the season but, unfortunately, we came second and lost in the play-offs. The play-offs are brutal and, sometimes, they’re (decided on) a flip of a coin. But we learnt a lot.

Defender Jake McIntyre - has opted to leave Faversham and join rivals Whitstable this summer. Picture: Randolph File
Defender Jake McIntyre - has opted to leave Faversham and join rivals Whitstable this summer. Picture: Randolph File

“We’re a new board, I’m a new chairman, we’re learning as we go, and we feel we have got the right man in for next year.”

Smart suggested a run of poor form from mid-November until January proved costly in their promotion bid.

He said: “A lot of people have views, especially when you look on online portals, that Sammy was sacked when we were top of the league.

“We love Sammy, Sammy is a good guy, and we didn’t want to part company.

“When you look at the first 17 games that Sammy was in charge of, relating it to the last 17 games that Tommy had in the league, there’s only a four-point difference. Tommy had four points more than Sammy.

“It’s just that middle part of November until January where we sort of lost our way a little bit. We went from winning eight in a row to having eight games from mid-November until the last day of December where we had eight (league) games, got 10 points and were knocked out of the Kent Senior Trophy at home to Lordswood.

“If we had that momentum that we had at the start and the end, we would have definitely finished in the top two.

“With Tommy’s record from the last 17 games, if we had that throughout the season, we would have won on goal difference ahead of Deal.

“It was the middle part of the season that really defined our season.”

Faversham had also set their sights on FA Vase success but were kicked out of the competition in September after fielding ineligible loan player Jefferson Aibangbee.

“That’s the biggest regret from a club point of view last season,” Smart conceded. “We let the players down administratively.

“We were hoping for a good run last year and thought we had the team to go quite far in it.

“As a new board and a new chairman, we just got the rules a bit wrong and got excluded. That won’t happen again because we have made some internal changes.

“The Vase is a big competition that we’re looking to progress in this year and we will be going for the league.

“But the league is getting stronger. There’s a bit of a managerial merry-go-round going on and players in the leagues above coming down to SCEFL - I don’t know if we set that precedent last year!

“There seems to be movement already of players going to other clubs that were challengers last year and will be challenging again this year.

“We might have underestimated the league last year but we will be even stronger.”

Smart also spoke ahead of a testimonial match at Salters Lane on Sunday.

It will see a side led by ex-Town boss Ray Turner and defender Matt Bourne - the club’s record appearance-maker since Faversham reformed in 2005 - come up against legendary former Folkestone manager Neil Cugley. His side will be led by Faversham’s ex-Folkestone utility player Matt Newman.

Smart said: “There’s some real old favourites around the non-league game, coming together on hopefully a sunny Sunday afternoon. They’ll have some fun and meet some friends.

“It’s looking like the teams are very good. Newman’s team could still probably play in one of the leagues!

“Matt was at Folkestone for 10 years before he came to Faversham and I thought it was fitting the club did something for Matt Bourne, as well.

“He was here for 10 years, made 473 appearances and got 40-odd goals. He’s a legend.

“With the way he left the club under Sammy Moore, I thought we should do something for him this year.

“I believe he’s bringing his family down and there will be a lot of supporters there.”

Kick-off will be at 2pm. Entry costs £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and anyone under 16 can enter for free.

Faversham have also confirmed their pre-season fixtures.

They start at home to Sittingbourne for the Bob Amor Cup on July 6, visit Rochester three days later, welcome Sheppey on July 13, play Hastings at Salters Lane on Tuesday, July 16, and finish against tenants Faversham Strike Force on July 20.

Left-back Jake McIntyre has joined rivals Whitstable.

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