Braintree Town chairman dreaming of a FA Trophy trip to Wembley

Braintree Town celebrating a goal scored earlier this season

Braintree Town celebrating a goal scored earlier this season - Credit: Archant

Braintree Town chairman Lee Harding is dreaming of Wembley ahead of this afternoon’s FA Trophy third round match with Ebbsfleet United.

Victory at Cressing Road would not only scoop the Essex club £7,000 in prize money, but also see them progress to the quarter-finals of the esteemed competition and a step closer to a showpiece final under the arch of England’s national stadium.

On paper, the Iron – who have won six of their last eight games in all competitions to rise to 15th in the Conference Premier table – are favourites against a side currently eighth in the Conference South.

Harding is of the opinion that his team are the underdogs though; not that he doesn’t believe manager Alan Devonshire – who famously was part of a great Wembley FA Cup Final upset when West Ham beat Arsenal in 1980 – can’t take his team all the way.

“One or two of the bigger clubs in the division, the ex-Football League sides, don’t attach as much importance to the FA Trophy as a competition, but the ones like us, who have come up through the non-league system, love it,” said Harding.

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“Winning the league is a tough ask for a team like us, while getting to the third round of the FA Cup and drawing a big Premier League club is a one thousand to one shot really.

“The FA Trophy provides you with a genuine chance of getting to Wembley. If Gosport Borough, who play a league below us, made it to the final last year then why can’t we?

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“We’re so proud to represent the town and district and I would love for us to give the residents a day out at Wembley.

“I was lucky enough to get to two FA Trophy finals in my former role at Enfield. We won them both, beating Altrincham in ‘82 and Telford in ‘88, the latter going to a replay at the Hawthorns.

“They were both very special occasions and I would dearly love to achieve something like that with Braintree.”

Braintree have not made it past the third round since their promotion from the Ryman League in 2006. They go into today’s match in good form after the return of several key players from injury, but the visitors have also turned a corner in recent weeks.

“This is tricky game for us because Ebbsfleet are the Manchester City of non-league football really in that they are very well funded,” said Harding. “Their owners were a little bit disappointed with their progress so they changed manager just before Christmas and brought in seven or eight players with Football League experience – players who have played for the likes of Northampton, Gillingham and Dagenham & Redbridge.

“The bookies have made us the favourites because we’re at home and play a league higher, but I disagree. I actually think we’re the underdogs a little bit.

“We’ve won six of last eight matches to creep away from the foot of the table, though, and we’ll be very much up for it.”

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