It has been a tough task getting Ryman Premier League club Bognor Regis Town to the FA Trophy semi finals but now manager Jamie Howell and his side face their biggest test yet.
Wembley is potentially just one hundred and eighty minutes away for the West Sussex side and Monday’s semi final draw paired the Rocks with Vanarama National League club Grimsby Town.
The Mariners are one of the form sides in the National League and are currently sat in third position in the table.
However, despite landing what he admitted was “the draw nobody wanted”, Howell is relishing the challenge ahead.
He said “I must admit people have said we didn’t want Grimsby Town because they are flying high and playing well aren’t they?
We knew any game would be difficult and it is a great challenge for us.
But we didn’t expect to be where we are in the competition and although it is a challenge, it is one that we will relish having a go at”
Howell is taking the positives from the draw, by insisting that because his side will start as outsiders to win the tie, they will be under less pressure than their opponents.
“If we were drawn against Nantwich Town I think both clubs would think it is a winnable tie but then if you get beat, you would be more upset at missing out on Wembley.
We have nothing to lose in this tie. Nobody expects us to win, nothing is expected of us but if you want to progress, you have to win ties against strong teams and that is exactly what we will have to do”
The Rocks secured their passage through to the semi finals with an impressive 1-0 over Torquay United.
On-loan Portsmouth midfielder Snorre Nilsen scored the only goal of the game to send his side into the last four of the competition.
When asked to explain the reasons behind his side’s fine run to the semi finals, Howell pointed to the strength of the Ryman League as the primary reason for their success.
“It has been a really good season for us and if you were at the game you wouldn’t know who is the higher ranked team.
That is a massive compliment to the work done by my players.
I think the Ryman League has prepared us well, there are strong teams with good players and good managers. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves and it has enabled us to take on clubs from higher up the pyramid”
And he also believes that the success of two step three clubs in the FA Trophy shows that the non-league pyramid has plenty of strength in depth.
“I think it does show the strength in depth non-league has now, very much so in fact, there is a high standard in non-league.
If you look at our games in the Trophy, as a step three club, we haven’t been hanging on in games. Nantwich will be the same I think and that shows, with two step three clubs into the Trophy semi finals, it just shows the depth of quality within the non-league pyramid”
Interview: Mark Carruthers