DERES' TOP 100 GAMES - No 96

Posted by Mickey Cooper on 11 April 2019

Gravesend & Northfleet    2          Stadhart pen 58, Evans 69

Erith & Belvedere               3          Neufville 31, Adams 80, Gowler 90

Kent Senior Cup 2nd round, 28 January 2003

 

Continuing the series counting down the 100 most memorable games in our history.  Today, a notable away victory against Conference opposition.

 

2002-03 wasn’t a vintage season for us in the Dr Martens (Southern) League Eastern Division, but it was notable for a number of reasons,  It was the season in which Darren Adams hit 25 goals to go with his 28 the previous season; the Vercesi brothers from Cornwall occupied three of the top five places in the appearance lists; and Deres midfielder Scott Bennetts featured in a gossip piece in the Sunday People being linked romantically with Cheryl Tweedy of Girls Aloud!  (He did move in different circles to most of us, but this seems to have been a case of swapping phone numbers in a McDonalds and not much more…)

 

We were in the lower half of the table when we travelled to Stonebridge Road for this Kent Senior Cup tie.  The Fleet had won the Isthmian League title the previous season and were now in the Conference.  They may have been fielding a number of reserves but they were still a force to be reckoned with.  Gary Hitchcock of the Kentish Times saw it this way:

 

CUP WIN PROVIDES RELIEF

 

Erith defender Darren Gowler returned to former club Gravesend and Northfleet top inflict their first defeat in the Kent Senior Cup in five seasons on Tuesday night.

 

Gowler went from villain to hero as the Deres sent their Conference hosts crashing out at the quarter-final stage.  After the visitors had taken a first half lead, Gowler allowed the Fleet to get back on level terms when he bundled over Gravesend striker Kevin Budge inside the box.

 

However, despite going behind minutes later, the Deres claimed a notable scalp, and completed a remarkable comeback, when Gowler powered home a header in the 90th minute.

 

Gravesend pushed the Deres back to the edge of their penalty area almost from the first to last whistle but, apart from the occasional break from ex-Fisher winger Tostao Kwashi, failed to get behind a visiting defence well marshalled by Richard Vercesi.

 

Liam Hatch, Kwashi and Budge all had chances to break the deadlock for the Fleet before the experienced and prolific Darren Adams forced goalkeeper Jamie Turner into a fine save in the 30th minute.

 

However the Fleet failed to heed the warning and a minute later Erith took the lead when Adams released Scott Bennetts into the box.  His effort was blocked by a combination of Turner and Kwashi but the ball was headed goalwards by Marvin Neufville and helped over the line by Gravesend defender John Armstrong.

 

The Fleet were handed a lifeline in the 58th minute when Gowler bundled over Budge and Che Stadhart duly dispatched the spot-kick.

 

Gravesend maintained the momentum and appeared to be in control of the tie when they took the lead in the 69th minute.  Budge ran at the retreating Deres defence before finding substitute Louie Evans, who struck a powerful shot past Clark Hunt.

 

Erith levelled the match with a goal good enough to grace any cup final when Adams latched on to a half-cleared ball on the edge of the box and sent a stunning volley into the bottom corner of the net.

 

With extra time looming, Adams’ corner was met at the far post by Deres skipper Gowler, who ensured his side’s tremendous workrate did not go unrewarded.

 

Erith & Belvedere: Clark Hunt; Barry Gibson, Mark Vercesi, James Vercesi, Darren Gowler, Scott Bennetts, Jason Davy (Chris Whitehouse 79), Richard Vercesi, Darren Adams, Marvin Neufville, Lee Snowsill.

 

 

This win took the Deres to the semi-final on 1 April 2003, which wasn’t quite so memorable.  We played Margate at PVR, and it was 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes.  Five minutes from the end of normal time Deres youngster Allen Gobbett headed wide of an open goal, but in extra time Margate ran out 3-0 winners.  The following evening Everton’s 17-year-old Wayne Rooney became the youngest player to start an England match, a Euro 2004 qualifier v Turkey at the Stadium of Light.

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