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Margate boss Mark Stimson questions their festive Isthmian Premier schedule – with Gate without a game on Saturday before busy period of three matches inside six days

Boss Mark Stimson has questioned Margate’s festive schedule.

Isthmian Premier strugglers Gate are without a competitive clash this Saturday but then have three matches inside a week, starting with a 1pm Boxing Day game at Cray Wanderers.

New Margate manager Mark Stimson, left, with one of their weekend scorers, Tyrone Sterling. Picture: Oakley Photosport
New Margate manager Mark Stimson, left, with one of their weekend scorers, Tyrone Sterling. Picture: Oakley Photosport

Stimson said: “I’m not quite sure why we’re not playing on Saturday. Then, players can spend more time with their families [over Christmas].

“But you have to go along with the rules and, hopefully, we can get more points.”

The division’s only weekend encounter sees Hornchurch - Stimson’s former club - host Canvey Island.

Stimson would be interested to know who within the Isthmian League decided the festive calendar and why managers aren’t asked for their thoughts on such matters.

He added: “It’s absolutely crazy.

Archie Johnson – pulled out in the warm-up ahead of Gate’s 2-2 home draw against Kingstonian. Picture: Randolph File
Archie Johnson – pulled out in the warm-up ahead of Gate’s 2-2 home draw against Kingstonian. Picture: Randolph File

“Whoever decided that, I would like to know who they are. I would also like to know why managers aren’t asked.

“Hornchurch are playing Canvey Island on Saturday now. That helps get more spectators, as well.

“It’s tradition to play on Boxing Day, isn’t it? Sometimes, in life, common sense isn’t used enough.

“If you want to have another game (as well as playing on Saturday), then that can be Boxing Day.

“But, for me, 3pm on a Saturday is football.”

A late goal denied Margate a first win under Stimson at home to fellow strugglers Kingstonian last weekend - although they did earn their first point since the 55-year-old took the helm at Hartsdown Park with a 2-2 draw thanks to second-half strikes by Tyrone Sterling and Steve Cawley.

“The first half was quite cagey,” Stimson reflected. “We hit the woodwork and had one cleared off the line but we cleared one off the line, as well. Unfortunately, minutes into the second half, we fell behind.

“But credit to the players. They replied really well.

“We got back into the game through another great delivery from Ben (Greenhalgh) and it was headed in by Tyrone. Then, we got a penalty.

“You think ‘We might get the win’ but - again - we have conceded from a great strike. Going into the lead so late on and only drawing is frustrating.

“But it’s a point and something to build on.”

Grenada international defender Sterling, 36, got Gate level - with the hosts having been forced to change things around in the warm-up.

Stimson said: “Tyrone has played football to a good level and he’s a good lad.

“He was going to play as a centre-back but, unfortunately, Archie [Johnson] got injured in the warm-up.

“So, we had to make a late change and Tyrone went in at left-back. He used all his experience and got the goal, as well.”

Hitman Cawley then calmly converted from the spot to give Gate the lead in the 80th minute - only for Kingstonian midfielder Emmanuel Adebiyi to hammer home a late leveller.

On 13-goal Cawley, Stimson noted: “For where we are in the league, they’re very good numbers.

“It was a penalty he scored on Saturday - but you still need to put it away.”

Like Margate, their Boxing Day hosts, Cray Wanderers, are just above the relegation zone in 18th.

Stimson is surprised with the issues Neil Smith’s side have faced this season after beating them in last campaign’s Play-off Semi-Final while he was still with Hornchurch.

He said: “I’m very surprised with where they are. I thought they would have been contending after where they were last season. I thought they would be in and around the top three. Why aren’t they? I’m not sure.

“But it’s football. We just need to put in the same effort.

“If we continue to do that and create chances, hopefully we can come away from there with a positive result.”

Just three days after that, Gate will hit the road again when they take on Cheshunt.

He said: “It’s a really tricky period with work and family commitments. It’s a tough period for us.

“We have Cray on Boxing Day and then Cheshunt, who were playing in National League South this time last year, and then Folkestone on New Year’s Day.

“That’s three games in a week and, on Saturday, we only had four substitutes.”

Stimson is still yet to bolster his new squad - not for the want of trying, though.

“We’ve been trying,” admitted the manager, who praised club secretary Alan Anstice. “My phone was really busy last week.

“Obviously, you have to put in seven-dayers for players. Clubs don’t want their players to go, which is totally understandable.

“We’re in for some substitutes who are getting on a lot.

“Sometimes, it’s more difficult than people think. On Sunday, I spoke to a couple of lads.

“We don’t have the biggest of squads so we need a couple in.”

Archie Johnson is due to have a knee injury assessed while fellow defender Harrison Hatfull, who has agreed to join divisional rivals Dulwich, also was forced off against Kingstonian with a knee injury.

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