Ambitious Hartley Wintney will entertain 700 Hereford supporters on Saturday aiming to turn their cheers into a flood of tears writes Ken Gaunt
A place in the quarter-finals of the FA Vase – bringing Wembley a little bit closer into view – awaits the winners of arguably the tie of the round.
Joint manager Anthony Millerick said: “We are the underdogs but we thrive on being in this kind of situation.”
It is the biggest game in Hartley’s history and a capacity 1300 crowd, 10 times the average gate, will pack the Memorial Playing Fields.
Phoenix club Hereford arrive as Midland League leaders and so-called Vase favourites. However their 27-match winning run came to an end last weekend when they were held to a draw by title rivals Alvechurch .
And Hartley have good reason to be confident going into the match with Millerick pointing to their excellent run in the FA Cup when higher league opposition Banbury, local rivals Fleet and then Merthyr were sent packing.
Not only that, they are currently top of the Combined Counties League and have put their name forward for promotion.
Before last night’s (Tues) match, free-scoring Hartley had won 32 of their 39 games in all competitions – losing just four, a formidable record at any level.
Millerick, who shares the managerial duties with Daniel Brownlie, is relishing the challenge that lies immediately ahead.
He said: “I know we have some exceptional players, who are attracting a great deal of attention, and could play at a higher level. But they like it here because they are well looked after.
“They like the way the kit is laid out for them in the dressing room, they like the food on offer and the level of care they are given. This is a proper village football club.
“There is a lot of excitement around the place and the players are looking forward to the game. They cannot wait.
“We are not focussing too much on Hereford. That doesn’t come into our mindset to be honest. We are not too worried about them.
“They might find our pitch a bit tricky, not that we have set it up this way. There is a bit of a slope and it is likely to be a bit heavy. It is just the way it is.”
The club have worked tirelessly with the local council and police to make sure there is no compromise on safety in and around the ground.
Access is along a country lane and parking is limited. It is not normally an issue as visiting fans usually run into dozens rather than hundreds
Millerick added: “There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure we meet all the requirements asked of us.
“It is not one of these occasions where we can just sit back and wait for match day to come around. There is an an infrastructure here that is very positive.
“There are a number of terrific people involved, who are putting money into this club, and that is what makes it special.”
Article: Ken Gaunt – News and Mail