*BS*With just one day to go until Dover Athletic’s FA Cup second round match at MK Dons, defender Sean Raggett speaks to Jack O’Sullivan about the clash and the role supporters have to play on Saturday.*BF*
A product of Whites’ Academy, Raggett is one of only a handful of players in the side who experienced the club’s record-breaking FA Cup run in the 2010/11 season. Raggett, then with minimal first-team football experience at any level, did not make any appearances in the competition during that run but has been a key figure in this season’s campaign.
With two goals in the competition so far – the opening goal in the 3-1 victory over AFC Rushden & Diamonds, and the final goal in the 3-0 win over Oxford City – the tall defender has set his sights of emulating the club’s achievements from three seasons ago: “The Cup run means a great deal to me because to be involved, but not play in, the great run to the third round a few years ago makes me even more determined to do well and repeat, or even better, that success now that I am in the team.”
On Tuesday night, Whites defeated East Thurrock 3-1 in the FA Trophy replay and Raggett was full of praise for the opposition: “I think the East Thurrock games were two very tough matches, as we expected them to be. They are a physical side that were always going to make it difficult for us – and that’s exactly what they did.
Playing at home on a bigger and better pitch saw our quality come through, and we got the win we deserved in both games.”
Going into December still competing in the Skrill South, the FA Cup, FA Trophy and Kent Senior Cup is an achievement Raggett feels deserves praise, and the high number of games this brings is something he is not concerned about: “Still being in four competitions shows the strength both mentally and physically of the whole squad.
You can tell the boys go home from training and do their own bits during the week to keep fit, and this is going to help us through this busy month. I believe we are one of the fittest teams in the league. At the end of the day, players prefer playing games to training so having a game every three or four days is great as long as we prepare and recover right.
The gaffer is always drilling this into us, so I don’t think it is a problem.”
Raggett describes Saturday’s match as “the biggest of my career so far”, and is looking forward to testing himself against the quality of opposition he is due to face. MK Dons striker Patrick Bamford, who is the side’s top scorer with thirteen goals, is sure to provide stiff opposition but Raggett is confident of shutting him out: “Personally, I’m going there to keep a clean sheet.
We’ve been very successful in doing that this season. If we can keep a clean sheet then I’m sure we can win the game because our forwards and midfield will have a real go at them and I’m sure we could nick a goal or two. I may even pop up from a corner and put one in, who knows! But certainly my objective for the game – like any other game in any other competition – is to win!
The chance to play big professional teams is a dream for me, because that’s where you want to be as a youngster. I’m looking forward to seeing how I cope with top professionals because that’s the sort of standard I want to at least be playing at in the future.”
Raggett is part of a Dover defence who have the best defensive record in the Skrill South, having conceded just nine goals in 14 games. Away from home in the league, five matches out of eight have been won – conceding just four times in total. The superior record away from home is something that Raggett feels travelling fans have had a big hand in: “A lot of the time, our away form seems to be better than our home form.
I believe the fans play a great part in that – they have been brilliant ever since I joined the club. When we are warming up, all I can usually hear is our fans singing louder and over any home fans at most grounds we go to.
If they show that kind of support at MK Dons, which I know they will, it will give the players a real boost and that can drive us on to get a result.”