Dunston UTS manager Billy Irwin is ready to take on a Chorley side that are on “a completely different level” to anything he has faced.
The EBAC Northern League club pulled off an FA Cup giantkilling on Tuesday night by seeing off Evo-Stik Northern Premier League club Skelmersdale United in a First Qualifying Round replay.
Scott Heslop’s late winner sent Dunston into a tie against National League North club Chorley, meaning Irwin will come up against former England U21 international Matt Jansen.
The former Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers star has been in charge of the Magpies since July 2015, after taking over from former manager Garry Flitcroft.
In 2002 Jansen was widely tipped to make Sven Goran Eriksson’s England squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, only for a stomach illness saw him withdraw from a pre-tournament friendly and ended his dream of representing his country at the World Cup.
During his domestic career he was linked with moves to Manchester United and Newcastle United, a complete contrast to his opposite number in the Dunston dugout.
Irwin played the majority of his career in the Northern League with the likes of Durham City and North Shields and he admits that his credentials don’t exactly match up to his Magpies counterpart.
He joked “Matt Jansen will probably have all of the coaching badges, I have one badge and that is my twenty five metre swimming badge.
“Seriously though it is a massive contrast.
“Put us two together and there is a massive difference between the two of us.
“But I do have experience at Northern League level, that will count for a lot because it is a good level.
“He is a different level but we will give it everything we have got”
Although Irwin’s side go into the tie high on confidence after their win over Skelmersdale United, he did admit that they would need to be on top of their game if they are to produce another FA Cup giantkilling against the Magpies.
He paid tribute to his UTS squad and called on the local community to get behind them ahead of the tie.
“We have a young squad, with an average age of twenty three and they are still relatively new to the club.
“They have gelled together so well, they fight for each other and they seem to be enjoying playing for the club.
“But this is a huge test for us and we will need to stick together to get anything out of this game because they are a big club and will have some top players.
“Hopefully all of Dunston will be behind us because it is a massive test”
The First Qualifying Round replay at Skelmersdale United represented a new test for Irwin and his players.
When plying their trade in the Northern League their furthest journey is a trip along the A69 to face Penrith.
However, the trip to West Lancashire meant that the UTS management and squad had to contend with a day at work, followed by a three and a half hour journey for the tie.
Many felt that Dunston has wasted their opportunity to pull off a giantkilling in the first game between the two sides as they shared four goals to ensure they would meet in a replay.
However, that sentiment wasn’t shared in the Dunston dressing room, with Irwin revealing that they knew they always had a chance of producing a historic night for the club.
“It doesn’t get much better than that to be honest” said Irwin.
“The lads adapted brilliantly from getting on the bus at 3 o’clock, to getting back off the bus at Dunston at 3am in the morning, they were a complete credit to the club and to themselves.
“There were top class to pull off a result like that.
“After the first game we knew we will still in the tie. We knew our game plan and we knew their weaknesses.
“We knew we had to contend with finishing work, getting on the bus, travelling three and a half hours, but I can’t fault the lads and we deserved to win it”
Irwin has produced some notable highs in his decade at the UTS Stadium, none more so than their FA Vase Final win over Northern League rivals West Auckland Town at Wembley in 2012.
The replay in West Lancashire was Dunston’s sixth game in this year’s FA Cup after replays against Barnoldswick Town and Penrith in the earlier rounds of the competition.
And the forty five year old believes that the win in West Lancashire rates alongside their Wembley triumph four years ago.
“As manager it is one of my greatest acheivements.
“Last night was our sixth FA Cup tie of the season already, the winners of the competition could win it in the same amount of games, so that tells you what we have been through so far.
“I think this has to be right up there. It is a harder competition to progress in than the Vase, the prize money adds pressure to do well and we can’t wait for the next round”