Published: 06:00, 12 February 2020
Big battles lay ahead for Southern Counties East Premier Division title chasers Sheppey United.
They face two trips to Medway in the space of five days before their big date with league leaders Beckenham Town next Saturday at the Havill Stadium.
A trip to Lordswood this Saturday is followed by a visit to high-flying Hollands & Blair next Wednesday evening.
Looking ahead to those games, Ites boss Ernie Batten said: “We know it will be a real battle at Lordswood and then against Blair, on their pitch, which they are good on, that’s going to be a massive game for us.
“It’s a pitch you can hardly play any football on and if we can get six points out of these two it will be fantastic.
“It’s a couple of battles and it will test us. We are top heavy with footballers rather than scrappers and we’ll have to mix it up, which is an area we’ve improved on recently. Those games will test us.”
Sheppey will be without defender George Crimmen, who has developed a strong pairing in the central area alongside recent recruit Jamaal Hewitt-Mundle.
Work commitments mean he will miss the next three games.
“That’s a blow for us,” said Batten.
“What’s been pleasing is watching us defensively. We’ve kept four clean sheets in a row and finding that defensive strength has been like searching for the Holy Grail!
“It looks like we’re getting there and although we had to switch the right-back on Saturday, Connor Wilkins went in there and was outstanding.
“To keep a clean sheet against the second-highest scorers in the league shows how far we have come. We have been working really hard in that area.
“We will miss George, he has been a kingpin, but I am sure we will have someone who can come in and do well.”
Danny Rumbol is likely to fill the void.
Returning for the Ites on Saturday was Ian Batten, the midfielder making a late appearance off the bench – his first outing since September.
An Achilles injury had kept him out for several weeks and his return stalled following a dismissal in the reserves, meaning he had a long wait for three Surburban League games to be played.
Illness and work commitments delayed him further but he’s been working hard to get back involved.
“He sent me a picture of himself in the gym at 6.30am on Monday,” said the Ites boss. “It’s great to see him back involved. Hopefully he can get fit and be an asset for the run-in.”
Sheppey could have a new face in the squad this week. Former Folkestone and Whitstable winger Jordan Wright has been in training.
More by this authorLuke Cawdell