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Herne Bay take on Hastings United in their Isthmian League season opener

Herne Bay should have nothing to fear when they kick off their season at title favourites Hastings United, says boss Ben Smith.

His team head to a side who have topped the Isthmian League South East table during the last two seasons before they were scrapped but has every confidence his own team can be in the mix this term.

Herne Bay manager Ben Smith says his side should be in the mix this season Picture: Chris Davey
Herne Bay manager Ben Smith says his side should be in the mix this season Picture: Chris Davey

He said: “I think a lot of teams will beat each other this season, I think it will be the closest from top to bottom as it has ever been. We can say they (Hastings) are the big spenders, this or that, that they are the biggest club, which they are, but there are a lot of other clubs trying to catch them and emulate that and we are one of them.

“When we are looking at favourites for the league, they have to be, because of what they have done but it doesn't work like that. Both games we have played them over the last two season we have been more than in the game, we just didn’t take our chances and they scored a late one in the last game where we were down to 10 men for a long time.

“We will take some confidence from the previous performances we have put in down there. What they have done in the past in terms of league standings means nothing, you get no points for that, we can expect a difficult game but we won’t go there and roll over, that is certainly not in our thought process.”

Leaving Bay this summer has been Tushaun-Tyreese Walters who has joined Maidstone United. Smith always expected him to move up the levels but he thought he could have gone even higher.

Smith said: “He was at the end of a contract. Covid hasn’t helped, he loved the club, being with us, but how many years can he keep giving when he does need to go back up the levels?

“He could have gone last year, but he gave us another year, he felt like he owed us as we picked him up at his lowest ebb. Maidstone are a massive club, but with his age and his background, his CV, I think he could have gone higher but then he has got a better chance of getting proper minutes at Maidstone.

“I won’t be surprised if he does well, he has all the ability in the world, it is up to him now to go and take that opportunity.

“It is hard, like letting your son leave for university, but it is the right thing.”

Bay will be compensated as the player was under the age of 24 and the two clubs have reached an agreement on an undisclosed fee.

Midfielder Anthony Edgar has also left as he wanted to be close to his east London home after setting up a new business. He will be playing for FC Romania this term. Fellow midfielder Bradley Stevenson has joined Welling United while goalkeeper George Kamurasi has departed.

Smith has replaced Kamurasi with former Arsenal and Wigan junior Jordan Perrin.

Former Folkestone, Tonbridge and Margate player Adem Ramadan brings in extra experience as does ex Cray Wanderers man Tom Phipp and left-back Jack Parter. Winger JJ Naiwo is back with the club after a season playing in Sweden.

As ever, there is emerging talent in the squad and there are high hopes for former Kent schoolboy forward Harry Lynch who has impressed in pre-season and earned a place in the squad. Smith says the new boy is Rooney-like in his approach.

Smith said: “He plays in the attacking third. He is a bit Rooney-like, he picks the ball up and drives at people, he is quite fearless which is good. He listens and learns and takes things on board. His ceiling is probably higher than we first thought.”

Smith’s side finished their warm-up games with a defeat to Aveley on Saturday, ending a pre-season that like many other clubs has been disrupted by Covid isolation, games off and player injuries. It could mean the season takes a while to settle.

“It is a step into the unknown,” said the Bay boss. “The form book is going out the window in these first four or five weeks and there could be some real shock results.

“We can moan about this and that but it is about getting our fans back in the ground, being able to prepare for a league game, no matter what in these first few games, we just have to be grateful we are able to do that again, this is our normal isn’t it?

“In our league, there is a bottleneck now, if you talk about who is going to be successful, you can talk about 10-12 teams, which is mad. We should be in store for an exciting season.”

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