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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 09:58 GMT
Margate master testing times
Buster Bloodvessel gees up the Margate fans before a match
Bad Manners' Buster Bloodvessel is a keen Margate fan
Margate manager Chris Kinnear speaks to BBC Sport Online's Gabrielle Lewis as the Nationwide Conference side continue their quest for cup and league glory.

Of all the sides Margate could have drawn to launch their bid for FA Trophy glory, it had to be another Nationwide Conference club.

One of four all-Conference ties, Margate will host Hayes in the third round of the competition in January, looking to repeat their early season league win over the struggling Londoners.

It was not the draw either side would have preferred, compared to the chance of taking on one of the feeder league teams to win the 1,000 prize money that is up for grabs.

For Margate in particular, it will be yet another test of how far they have progressed since making their debut in the Conference at the start of the season.

Hotly tipped to reverse straight back into the Dr Martens League, Margate have instead soared into the championship race and refused to budge.

Continuing on from last season's 28 wins, they lost only two of their first 15 outings.

After two promotions in three years and several cups, people have got used to us winning
Chris Kinnear

Their form has dipped slightly since losing to Northwich Victoria in October, during which period they were booted out of the FA Cup in the final qualifying round by Ryman League outfit Grays Athletic.

But they have completed the first half of the season perched in fourth place and, while their success has stunned many onlookers, it has been nothing less than manager Chris Kinnear expected.

"The players have adapted well to playing at a very good standard," he said.

"Obviously we're not going to win as many games as we won last year, as it's a much harder league.

"But we're thriving on being the underdogs. We don't overreact when we lose or win, which is probably why we've bounced back from bad results.

"And there are high expectations within the club. We definitely don't feel inferior in this league."

Kinnear is accustomed to success.

The former West Ham schoolboy was later part of the Maidstone side that won the Conference in 1990 and went on to play for Barry Fry's Barnet, then Dagenham and finally Dover.

He took up the managerial reins at the Crabble, steering Dover from the bottom of the Dr Martens Southern Division to their first Conference experience.

He repeated the feat with Margate, taking in a lucrative FA Cup first round visit from Kevin Keegan's Fulham in 1997 that Kinnear claims "stopped the club going under at the time".

Margate manager Chris Kinnear
Chris Kinnear has taken Margate into the Conference
At 45, Kinnear already has 15 years of part-time management behind him, not to mention the personnel skills he has developed from 20 years of teaching.

But, while he admits to being spoilt by his achievements, he still dreams of winning the FA Trophy.

"It's the only trophy I haven't won and I'd like us to do as well as we can in the competition," he said.

"I'd also like us to finish above some of the full-time sides in the Conference."

The prospect of more glory have seen Margate's attendances rocket from 250 four seasons ago to more than 2,000 this year.

And, while many of their league rivals strive to stay afloat, Margate are relishing the prospect of a 5m stadium upgrade.

Work is due to begin in May to be completed for the 2003-04 season and the proceeds from the ancillaries, including a casino and hotel, will be ploughed into the football club alone.

"After two promotions in three years and several cups, people have got used to us winning," Kinnear said.

"The club shop is making a fortune and they can't believe it."

See also:

01 Dec 01 |  Eng Conf
Margate 1-1 Boston
23 Nov 01 |  Eng Conf
Morecambe 2-1 Margate
02 Nov 01 |  Margate
Margate's ground plans
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