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Gillingham and Dover ready for 'grudge match' in FA Cup

Andy Hessenthaler and Jim Parmenter (DAFC)
Dover chairman Jim Parmenter says it is time to forget about the fallout

For clubs in the first round of the world's most famous club competition - FA Cup day inspires and excites.

But in what is being dubbed as a "grudge match" - the tie between Kent rivals Gillingham and Dover will have a little extra spice.

When the two teams walk out onto the Priestfield turf on Saturday - Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler and his assistant Ian Hendon are fully prepared for a hostile atmosphere.

For three years Hessenthaler was Dover's golden boy - he led the Blue Square Bet South club to two consecutive promotions - and they narrowly missed out on a third.

But last summer the chance to return to league management - back with his beloved Gillingham - was too hard to turn down.

Although disappointed at his decision - most Dover fans understood Hessenthaler's decision and wished him well.

But the events of the following few weeks left a sour taste.

Hendon accepted the job as Hessenthaler's replacement but left just 18 days later when he was offered a role at Priestfield.

To make matters worse for Whites fans - senior player Nicky Southall and youth team coach Darren Hare completed the exodus to Gillingham.

Andy Hessenthaler
Hessenthaler started his second spell as Gillingham manager in May

"Andy Hessenthaler shouldn't have come back and asked Ian Hendon to go with him, so I have no feeling for Andy," long-time Dover supporter Simon Harris told BBC Radio Kent.

"I'm very disappointed that Andy didn't leave Dover with the legacy he should have done - which was a superb manager who took us up two leagues. All we're going to remember is the way he treated us afterwards."

But Hendon insists he and Hessenthaler did nothing wrong.

"That happens in football," he said. "If it had been a player who had been due to go to Dover but then Gillingham came in for him then I'm sure I know where that player would end up signing.

"It's no different as a coach or a manager - I made a decision based on football and I'm happy with my decision."

Hendon insists they will be able to deal with any flack thrown at them on Saturday.

"I'll be prepared I'm sure - I'll just bite my lip and get on with my job," he said.

"It's not about me it's about Gillingham on Saturday.

"They can boo me and do whatever they want - as long as our players aren't affected then I don't care."

Those open wounds will heal for Dover fans if their team can pull off an upset, and the new man now in charge at Crabble thinks it is possible.

Whites manager Martin Hayes told BBC Radio Kent: "Strange things happen in the FA Cup and we've just got to believe that we can be one of those upsets.

Ian Hendon
Hendon was in charge of Barnet before being offered the Dover job

"I honestly believe that on our day we can play and we can cause teams problems.

"They're not having the best of times at the moment and if we do play the way we have in some of the games this year, and they're a little bit off their game it could be an exciting afternoon."

Although the League Two side will naturally start as favourites - they have lost their last two games and the Gills boss knows anything can happen in the cup.

"I've been on both sides of a shock," said Hessenthaler.

"We've just got to make sure we approach it the right way - it's a tough game for us.

"Because of our recent performances I'm sure they think it's a good time to play Gillingham.

"The odds will say that we should win the game but it's FA Cup so who knows.

"This will be a tougher game than the other night when we got beaten by Wycombe because they'll give everything for Dover Football Club and some may not play in front of a big crowd like this for the rest of their careers.

"It's going to be an interesting day - an exciting one for Kent football."

One player who is bound to come under extra scrutiny from Gillingham is Dover's in-form striker Adam Birchall - who Hessenthaler brought to the club in 2009, after he was released by Hendon's Barnet.

Already this season the 25-year-old has scored 19 goals in 16 games.

Martin Hayes
Hayes was Arsenal's top scorer in 1986/87 with 24 goals

"They are finding it very difficult to stop him at the moment at that level - but I'd like to think we can stop him.

"At the moment he's on fire."

Several of Birchall's team-mates will also be looking to impress their former boss.

When the draw was made and fate brought the two sides together former Gills defender Tom Wynter admitted: "I put a hole in my ceiling jumping up with excitement - I just can't wait for it."

Midfielder Jon Wallis added: "I'm sure he's worried about our team because we've got players who are going to hurt them.

"But they've got players who are going hurt us.

"The FA Cup's a leveller and we're just going to go there and give it our all."

There is not just a place in round two riding on Saturday's result - it is also a matter of pride and bragging rights for Gillingham and Dover.

With so much anticipation surrounding it, both sides will be hoping it is remembered not for any animosity but for being a true cup classic.

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see also
Gillingham 0-2 Dover
06 Nov 10 |  FA Cup
Gills draw fired Dover - Birchall
27 Oct 10 |  FA Cup
Gills boss offers help to Hythe
26 Oct 10 |  Gillingham
Dover boss not keen on Gills draw
14 Oct 10 |  FA Cup
Dover install Hayes as new boss
16 Jun 10 |  Gillingham
Hendon justifies Dover departure
17 Jun 10 |  Gillingham
Hendon quits Dover for Gillingham
15 Jun 10 |  Gillingham
Chairman optimistic on Dover goal
21 May 10 |  Non League
Hessenthaler named new Gills boss
21 May 10 |  Gillingham
Hessenthaler quits as Dover boss
20 May 10 |  Non League

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