Burgess Hill Town ready for biggest game in club’s history

Burgess Hill Mayor Anne Jones with Burgess Hill Town FC's Chairman Kevin Newell at GR team sports wear with the Burgess Hill kit. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141021-114052001
Burgess Hill Mayor Anne Jones with Burgess Hill Town FC's Chairman Kevin Newell at GR team sports wear with the Burgess Hill kit. Pic Steve Robards SUS-141021-114052001

Burgess Hill travel to play Dartford this Saturday in the FA Cup to play the biggest game in their history in confident form.

Manager Ian Chapman presided over a 1-0 victory over Ryman North side Aveley in last weekend’s FA Trophy Preliminary Round.

Staggeringly this is their 15th successive win which is a part of a proud unbeaten run 21 games so far this season - 15 in the league and six in cup games.

Hillians are currently nine points clear at the top of the Ryman League South have already beaten Sutton United 3-1 to get to this stage which was against opposition from two divisions above them in the Conference South.

This time they have an even bigger gap to bridge in standards as Dartford play three divisions above them in the Conference Premier in which they lie fourth from bottom.

Chapman, who is in his third season at the club said: “It’s the biggest game I’ve played since I’ve been here. We have a chance to reach the First Round proper.

“I know it’s going to be a difficult game. They are three levels higher and are fancied massively to win. However we have beaten Sutton who were two leagues above us and we are confident we can give them a game.

“We got our noses in front in Sutton, then had to ride the storm before going on to see it through.

“Against Dartford we’ll be in good shape and will try to start properly and on the front foot. We’ll try to play good football against them. But at some stage we may have to park the bus and get everyone behind the ball and be hard to break down.”

They postponed their midweek game away to Chipstead scheduled for Tuesday night until December 9 to help them prepare for the big game on Saturday.

Chapman said: “We don’t want to pick up any injuries ahead of our biggest ever game. We aim to enjoy ourselves on Saturday and will try to win too!”

Midfielder Graham Martin will miss the game as he is away but otherwise Chapman expects to be able to pick from a full squad.

Chapman puts the success this season down to gradual improvement over the last three seasons.

He said: “When I came here we had just finished second to bottom and it was all about survival. In my first season we finished eighth and then last year we were sixth which is our highest ever finish in the league.

“Our youth team players have come through - we have three in the side (centre half Will Miles, striker Dann Perry who scored 50 goals in the Ryman Youth League and winger Lee Harding plus striker/winger Greg Luer. They are all on contracts and a few clubs have been watching them.

“We’ve got a good youth set-up run by (ex-Brighton, Crawley and Eastbourne player) Paul Armstrong and Ian South. Head of football Paul Dollner (ex-Whitehawk) oversees all our teams below the first team and he was a big signing for us. He’s an absolutely fantastic coach.”

Chapman also praised his assistant manager Stuart Tuck (Ex-Brighton and Eastbourne), goalkeeping coach and general manager John Rattle and under-21 manager Neil Wheeler.

He also reckoned a few quality signings each year rather than wholesale changes have been good for progress. This season goalkeeper Josh James came in from Ringmer and has conceded only 15 league goals, centre half Andy Pearson was recruited from Lewes and Rob O’Toole joined from East Preston and has so far scored 13 goals.

Chapman said: “The signings we’ve made we are very pleased with. We’ve tried to attract a bit more quality and we didn’t want to make five or six just for the sake of it.

“Our aim is to win promotion in the league and I’d love to get to the play-offs.

“We want to get a win at Dartford but what is important is how we react to our first defeat - we are not going to win the FA Cup!

“Playing in the FA Cup is great financially and good for the fans as well who have been watching all the games home and away and of course all the officials and volunteers.

“Everything we earn from the FA Cup goes back into the club so we can pay our bills - we don’t have sugar daddy and this all helps massively.”