By Jon Couch
Alan Dowson is hoping teenage prodigy Dylan Randall can help complete the job and fire Hampton & Richmond Borough into the FA Trophy second round tonight.
The 16-year-old midfield starlet climbed off the substitute’s bench to salvage a 1-1 draw against Heybridge Swifts on Saturday with a first senior goal two minutes into stoppage-time.
Now, Dowson is expected to reward the teenager with a starring role in tonight’s replay (Tuesday) with a trip to National League Maidstone United awaiting the winners.
Like Saturday, Dowson is likely to reshuffle his pack again at Scraley Road with his side ensconced in a National League South promotion race, thanks largely to a run of eight straight league victories at the top of the division.
But despite being held by a Swifts side 60 places and two leagues below them in Bostik North at the weekend, Dowson was actually pleased with the Beavers’ performance before Randall saved the day.
“I actually thought we played OK,” Dowson said. “It was a difficult game and I would say we had 75% possession – we just couldn’t put away our chances. It was one of those days in front of goal.”
And of his unlikely hero..? “Young Dylan has got us the goal and I’m delighted for him,” said Dowson, before joking: “I may let him stay up and watch Match of the Day tonight!”
While Randall will be looking to feature for Hampton tonight, one man who won’t be on show is Heybridge’s FA Cup hero Sam Bantick.
The 18-goal former Brentwood and AFC Sudbury winger wrote himself into club folklore with the equalising goal in their FA Cup tie at Exeter City last month.
But he was surprisingly released by the Swifts last week after reacting badly to being substituted in the Swifts’ draw with Bury Town last Saturday and has since move to Bostik Premier side Tonbridge Angels after having initially rejected a move to Longmead.
Brown explained: “He recently turned down a move to Tonbridge, saying the progress he’s made to his game, his bind with the team and the opportunities we have as a club were the reasons he wanted to stay.
“He’s agreed a long-term contract and was very happy about his future but after his substitution after an hour on Saturday and the subsequent reaction, I asked him to leave the club until further notice.
“Having not included him in Tuesday’s squad – and having no intention to include him [at Hampton] on Saturday – it is in both his and the club’s interest to mutually agree to release his registration, which we have now done.”
Brown, however, was delighted with his side’s response to losing their talisman, holding an in-form Hampton side with only 14 fit players available.
“We led for 70 minutes and were exceptional,” Brown added. “Their wide players were very good and their eight and six got hold of midfield. Arguably, they were better than Exeter.
“But we have heart and discipline, and despite the 60-place gap in the pyramid, we have enough quality to compete with these sides. We can be proud again.
“Whatever the outcome of our season, this club is well and truly back on the map.”
Brown is hoping to have Harrison Chatting and Joshua Fagbohun back from their sick beds tonight, but Kreshnic Krasniqi is still out injured.