Hollands & Blair boss Scott Porter was grateful to progress in the Kent Senior Trophy on Saturday after losing some key men prior to the weekend.
Star striker Dean Grant has departed for Southern Counties East rivals Lydd while coach Darren Anslow has left to take over at Beckenham, taking Sam Clarke-Keen with him as his assistant.
The Blair manager was quick to snare Lydd’s available front-man Richard Atkins and the new signing scored in the 3-3 draw against K Sports before netting from the spot as Porter’s men won the shoot-out.
“It was pleasing to get through after a difficult week,” Porter admitted. “It’s cup football, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t quick and it was one of those games where the week’s events set the tone on it. We’re in the next round, which is the main thing.”
Grant scored nine goals in 15 games for Blair and will be a big miss but Porter accepted that the player just couldn’t turn down the offer.
“I understand it and at the end of the day you have to take the money in football while you can,” Porter said.
“I will never stand in the way. Sometimes people rely on their football money, it was one he couldn’t refuse and fair play to him, he has earned it at this stage of his career. There is a lot of money in this league and it’s showed that.
“He is good lad, he will get goals for them - he got goals for us - but it was difficult to keep hold of him. Every other week we’ve had someone come in with a seven-day approach but he stayed loyal for as long as he could until an offer turned up that he couldn’t refuse and I get that.”
Atkins moves in the opposite direction after a year with the Lydders. His most prolific spell came for Beckenham between 2017-19 where he scored more than 50 goals.
Porter said: “Richard Atkins is someone I have tried to get at every club I’ve been with and I went in for him straight away. I previously tried to get him at Hythe, Whitstable and Blair when I first got there.
“He’s come back from injury and he did well last weekend. He is a target man, my sort of player, and he will do well for us.”
Porter was also hoping to hold talks with a potential new coach this week to work alongside himself, Shaun Welford and assistant boss Mark Lane.
He said: “Three big parts of our set-up have gone, especially the two from the backroom who have been with me for a long time. It’s a new venture for them and I would never stand in their way.
“Darren has always wanted to be a manager, it’s local to him and we wish them all the best.”
Blair recently welcomed full-back Finlay Whitton to the squad on loan from Herne Bay and he’s settled in well.
Porter said: “He’s very energetic, loves a tackle and is full of energy. He has done well.”
Despite last week’s turmoil, Blair came through against Sports after the Second Round match went to sudden-death penalties in the shoot-out.
“It was a free hit for them and a banana skin for us,” said Porter. “They gave it a go, we were 1-0 up, 2-1 and 3-2 and every time they pegged us back, they never gave up.”
Atkins got Blair’s opener and the game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. Matt Bourne and Marlon Peter-Brown scored in extra-time but K Sports took it to penalties, where goalkeeper Dan Ellis starred.
K Sports were leading the shoot-out 3-2 after four each. Ellis then scored a crucial penalty for Blair to level before denying the visitors the win as he returned to goal and made a save.
Peter-Brown’s effort hit the bar and then struck the K Sports keeper on the head before going in for a 4-3 Blair lead in sudden-death. Ellis then saved again to send them through.
“When you have Dan Ellis in goal for a penalty shoot-out, you have a chance of winning it,” said Porter. “He’s been massive for us on penalties”
Blair host Snodland in the Premier Division this Saturday, followed by the visit of Lydd and their former striker on Tuesday night (December 5).