Jul 27 2012 By Jon Batham
Rikki Banks Image 1
WEALDSTONE new boy Rikki Banks claimed this week it was a ‘no-brainer for him to join what he dubbed ‘the best team in the Ryman League’.
The summer signing made an excellent start to life with Stones, picking up the man of the match award on his debut in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Gianfranco Zola’s Watford at Grosvenor Vale.
The former Crystal Palace youth team keeper admits he suffered a loss of form and confidence during two years in a struggling side at Eastbourne Borough before finishing last season on loan first at Lewes and then at Hendon.
However, despite offers from Stones’ two Ryman League rivals, the 24-year-old was soon clear that playing for Gordon Bartlett’s side was the best route to restoring his goalkeeping fortunes.
“The last couple of years, my own standards have dropped from where they should have been and this is not make or break but a chance to get myself going again and rejuvenate myself,” he said.
“I could have gone to Hendon with Gary McCann again, who I enjoyed working with, but I knew I had to fight my way back in to where I should be.
“When I played here for Lewes, Wealdstone were the best team I had played in this league. I thought they would go on and win the play-offs last year to be honest, so there is a sense of unfinished business.
“I want to be in a winning side and that’s what they want as well, so it was really a no-brainer to be part of a good team, knowing what they want to achieve this year.”
The 6ft 3in shot stopper made a great early impression, clinging on to Joe Garner’s header from point-blank range after only five minutes, but was left helpless by Mark Yeates’ first-time volley just eight minutes later.
However, he was a commanding presence in the 77 minutes that followed, twice denying the Hornets’ Matthew Wichelow with excellent saves.
Triallists Rob Carrick and George Nicholas had eye-catching debuts as Stones created chances of their own, with Peter Dean and Lee Chappell going close before skipper Wes Parker ghosted in at the back post to power home a corner via the underside of the cross bar in the 77th minute.
Banks knows there are more meaningful tests ahead, not least when his rival for the number one shirt, Jonathan North – who took a gentle part in warm-up as he continues to recover from his broken leg – gets the go-ahead to return to action later in the season.
However, for the man in possession, having North lurking in the background is the ideal motivation to rediscover his best form.
He added: “I knew Jonathan was going to get fit at some stage and I’ve still travelled a long way to come here.
“It’s the challenge of it really. When Northy comes back and starts training, it will push everybody to new levels.”