Mark Harper might be without tough-tackling midfielder Tom Hickey this weekend, but the Hampton & Richmond Borough boss would not have him any other way.

The 19-year-old is currently serving a five-match suspension for a succession of misdemeanours this season and will sit out Saturday’s FA Trophy visit of Blue Square South Chelmsford City.

The Beavers will be without injured Alan Bray, Billy Jeffreys, Elliot Bent and Tresor Kandol for the clash, while Malvin Kamara is also suspended.

It is Hickey’s absence that may be felt the most, but Harper is not about to
change him.

“He likes a hard tackle and unfortunately in this day and age that consistutes a yellow card more often than not at this level,” said the manager.

“I’m never going to stop him playing that way.  You need players like him in the Ryman Premier League.”

The Beavers slipped to a 3-1 home defeat against Cray Wanderers last weekend and lost their grip on the Ryman Premier’s top spot.

And for boss Harper, the chance to cause an upset against Blue Square South high-flyers Chelmsford City could well have come along at the right time.

He said: “It’s a good opportunity to do something a bit different to what we have been doing in the league this season.

“We will go out there to enjoy and express ourselves and hopefully we will be able to get a result.

“Playing a side from the league we were in last season will be a good indicator as to how far we have come since then.”

Charlie Moone’s sixth league goal of the campaign could not prevent Cray from inflicting Hampton’s first home defeat of the season.

But Harper refused to dwell on the result and is concentrating on the next game.

“We were very disappointed to concede three goals. Defensively we didn’t achieve what we had hoped for.

“But it’s not the end of the world – we have to look at it as one poor performance in the context of our season as a whole.

“We haven’t really helped ourselves since the loss at Wealdstone.

“I feel as though that game is still hanging over us.

“The problem is that when we are playing in the Trophy, we may find ourselves slipping further down the league table.

“We know we still have a lot of work to do as a group.”

* Hampton’s opponents on Saturday, Chelmsford City, beat former Brentford manager Nicky Forster’s Dover Athletic 4-2 after extra time in the previous round.