Stourbridge manager Gary Hackett has urged his players to relish and embrace the occasion when they head to SkyBet League Two side Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup Third Round on Saturday.
The Glassboys wrote their names into the club’s record books with their shock 1-0 win over Northampton Town in the Second Round.
That victory sent the club into the Third Round for the first time in their 141-year history and although the draw failed to pair them with a Premier League giant, Hackett still declared the match as “the biggest day in the club’s history”.
He said “We have sold 2,200 tickets, there will be more there I have no doubt.
“I know people from my local pub have hired executive boxes for the game and they aren’t the only ones.
“This is huge, it is the biggest day in the club’s history and believe me, I don’t say that lightly.
“It is a proud moment for myself, my friends and family will be there.
“But we will relish the challenge, we will embrace everything that the day brings and we will give it a good go”
The Glassboys have become FA Cup specialists over the past eight seasons, reaching the “proper” rounds on five occasions.
One four of those occasions the club went on to reach the Second Round, although until this season a Third Round place has eluded them.
Their duck was broken as Jack Duggan smashed home a late winner against Northampton Town in a pulsating tie at the Glassboys’ War Memorial Ground home.
Since that famous win Hackett’s side have faced a testing run as their chase promotion from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Stourbridge have faced Spennymoor Town, Rushall Olympic and Barwell in that time and have come through that tough run unscathed.
One win and two draws were secured and Hackett paid tribute to his players for their “first class” attitude in focusing on the bread and butter of their league campaign.
“The Northampton game feels a long time ago now.
“We have played a lot of big games since then and it would have been easy to just focus on Wycombe Wanderers, to forget about the league and what we had ahead of us.
“We have had a tough run. Spennymoor Town, Rushall and Barwell are good sides, strong sides, but we came through it strongly and we came through it unbeaten.
“The player’s attitude was spot-on, it was first-class to be honest. They weren’t thinking about the Third Round, or they didn’t seem to be and it doesn’t matter what you say as a manager in the dressing room.
“You can tell them no to think about it but maybe they were, but it didn’t show.
“Now they get their reward and now we focus on what will be a very tough game”.
“A tough game” is a very apt description of what lies in wait for Hackett and his Stourbridge squad.
Wycombe Wanderers currently sit in the League Two play-off positions, with their 2-1 win over Newport County keeping them within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots.
They are unbeaten in the league since a 0-2 home reverse against Barnet in October and they have notched up notable wins against the likes of Portsmouth and Leyton Orient.
In manager Gareth Ainsworth they have one of the most highly-rated managers in League Two and, having watched them on a number of occasions since the two sides were pulled out of the draw together, Hackett is full of respect for everything the Chairboys have to offer.
“He said “They are in great form aren’t they? They are on quite a run so we know the size of the task that is ahead of us, but we don’t fear it.
“We have had them watched and we saw them against Cheltenham and Newport so we have seen them and no doubt they will have had us watched.
“We have a lot of respect for them and that is the way it should be”
If Stourbridge’s FA Cup run is to continue then they will have to deal with Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa.
The former AFC Wimbledon target-man has forged quite a reputation for his strength and power in recent seasons, becoming a cult hero at clubs he has represented.
“The Beast”, as he is nicknamed, has seven goals so far this season, including two in the FA Cup.
And although Hackett joked that his side would just bully Akinfenwa, he did suggest that it would be dangerous to focus only on the threat that the former Northampton Town forward offers.
“He isn’t the most mobile, but he has so many other aspects to his game that can be a threat” said Hackett.
“He is so strong, he has awesome strength, maybe we will just bully him a bit”
“Joking aside he is near enough the perfect target-man.
“But it’s annoying to see him put into that bracket. He is underrated as a player, he is a very good footballer.
“We know their quality as a team, and we appreciate the threat he will offer, but we can’t just focus on one player.
“It’s already a tough game without just focusing on him, either way we will give it a good go against them”.
Whatever happens this has been a remarkable season for Gary Hackett and his Stourbridge FA Cup heroes.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters (www.actionimages.com)