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Herne Bay manager Ben Smith hopes striker Aaron Millbank's dramatic winner against Chichester City can kick-start his career at Winch's Field

Boss Ben Smith hopes Aaron Millbank’s dramatic winner against Chichester which put Herne Bay back into the play-off places will help kick-start his career at the club.

The striker has struggled to find his best form since moving to Winch’s Field from Whitstable in September.

Herne Bay boss Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File
Herne Bay boss Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File

He has not started any of Bay’s last five matches and had only netted three times before making his mark last Saturday against Chichester.

Millbank came off the bench to score in stoppage time after Smith’s side had dominated, registering 13 efforts on target to Chichester’s three attempts on goal.

“I’m delighted for Aaron Millbank. I don’t care who scores, really, but he has had a hard time,” said Smith, whose side visit Sittingbourne on Friday (kick-off 1pm) before hosting Hythe on Easter Monday (kick-off 3pm) in Isthmian South East.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t always click but it’s not for a want of effort - and it doesn’t mean Aaron has become a bad player overnight.

“He’s found himself out of the side due to a slight change in system. It’s been harsh on Aaron.

Striker Aaron Millbank during his Whitstable days
Striker Aaron Millbank during his Whitstable days

“He could have gone before the end of the transfer window, without a doubt. But he has stuck by us.

“Just because it has not worked out so far doesn’t mean it won’t work out long-term. To be fair, he will say himself that he has not even looked like scoring recently.

“Hopefully that goal will kick him on. I still maintain we have a great striker in our ranks there to add to what we have got.

"People need moments and, hopefully, that’s a moment that gets him going.”

Bay’s boss wants his other fringe players to follow Millbank’s lead.

“There’s a few players that are not getting the game time they deserve,” said Smith. “It’s a difficult one because I know they are good enough to play.

Alex Flisher is closed down by Herne Bay's Bode Anidugbe during the 1-1 league draw between the sides. Picture: Ken Medwyn
Alex Flisher is closed down by Herne Bay's Bode Anidugbe during the 1-1 league draw between the sides. Picture: Ken Medwyn

“You only have to look at the likes of Dan Carrington and Bola Dawodu - they are better than being on the bench. Hopefully, they can follow Aaron’s lead.”

Millbank’s effort moved Bay into fifth in the table, with just three matches to go this season.

Looking ahead to their Easter double header, Smith added: “For Sittingbourne, it was a big loss for them at Burgess Hill (going down 4-1). I think that’s them mathematically not making the play-offs.

“Hythe had a fantastic (2-0) win at Whitehawk, I think that’s them safe now. But we have to make sure it’s apparent we are still playing for something this season, otherwise these games can have a bit of a pre-season friendly feel about them.

“As much as Sittingbourne are a good side, we have to make sure we do our job.

"I think Darren Blackburn and Ponty (his assistant Darren Pont) have done a heck of a job, turning them from relegation candidates to being up and around the play-offs.”

The club also announced plans for a new 3G pitch to be installed in time for next season last Wednesday.

But Smith stated: “That’s not for me to go into. All myself and the players have got to worry about is the games we have got to play.

“Lots of people at lots of clubs have put a lot of effort into this season after Covid and the Covid-hit season. We are within touching distance of everything we have worked for.

"Now, we have to try and take it.”

Bay visited Sittingbourne in the FA Trophy in October, winning 3-1, while they drew 1-1 in the league at Winch's Field in January.

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