FA VASE BUILD-UP: Brightlingsea Regent see game at 2012 Vase winners Dunston UTS postponed while injury-hit Hadleigh United looking to progress into quarter-finals of competition with a win against a Wisbech Town side, who finished as runners-up of Thurlow Nunn Premier Division last season. Brettsiders boss Stuart Crawford is expecting a crowd of 500-plus, it promises to be a non-league cracker.
- Credit: Archant
Hadleigh United boss Stuart Crawford is confident that his side will put themselves into the hat for the quarter-finals of the FA Vase on Monday with a last-16 home victory over a familiar-looking Wisbech Town side this weekend, despite missing four key players.
While Neil Calver (knee) and Scott Chaplin (ankle) will remain in the treatment room on Saturday, midfield duo Matt Downing (army duties) and Kelsey Trotter (cup-tied, having previously played for Diss Town in an earlier round of the competition) are also unavailable for what is undoubtedly Hadleigh’s biggest game of the season so far.
“It’s a blow being without those four as they are key players for us,” confessed Crawford.
“They’ll be missed but we’re strong enough to win the game without them, it’s a one-off cup game where whichever team turns up, comes away victorious.”
The Brettsiders are also sweating on the fitness of Tesfaye Bramble (hamstring), Liam Jennings (back) and Mark Maher (knee) with Crawford admitting that all three will be ‘touch and go’ before tomorrow’s 3pm encounter.
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Crawford’s men advanced as far as the last eight in this prestigious competition last campaign and will look to reach the same stage this year by defeating Cambridgeshire-based Wisbech, who transferred to the United Counties League at the start of this season following several years in the Thurlow Nunn Premier.
Wisbech finished as runners-up in the Thurlow Nunn Premier last campaign but have struggled to adapt to their new surroundings, with the Fenmen currently sitting in seventh-place in the Premier Division of the United Counties League.
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And although remaining very confident of progression, boss Crawford is going into the encounter with caution against dangerous opponents.
“The game should be a cracker,” said the Hadleigh manager.
“Wisbech are certainly up for it. They aren’t having things all their own way in the league so this competition is their only realistic chance of silverware this season.
“To be fair to them though, their league position doesn’t really reflect where they should be.
“We’ve had them watched and they’re a well-organised and hard-working outfit.
“They came second in our league last year so that tells its own story really doesn’t it?”
With Wisbech located just across the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire border, Crawford is anticipating a large number of visiting fans on Saturday, with the Hadleigh boss hoping for a 500-plus crowd.
“I’ve been told they’re going to bring around 250 fans and with it being such a big fixture, I’d hope for the same from us,” said Crawford.
“Being at home is such a big advantage, we’ve been in great form at home this season and I’m hoping we can impress the local crowd with a win and performance.”
The Brettsiders have indeed been in fine form this campaign, and up until the recent 1-0 defeat to Norwich United, had remained unbeaten in the league at Millfield all season.
Hadleigh followed this up by another shock home defeat to Newmarket Town in the Red Insure Cup recently but Crawford isn’t concerned about his side’s mini-blip heading into such a big game.
He said: “The last two results don’t concern me at all. We’ve played just as well as we have all season but through a mixture of good goalkeeping and poor finishing, haven’t got the goals to kill teams off.”
The Hadleigh pitch is currently playable although the weather over the next 24 hours will most likely deem whether the game goes ahead or not.
Meanwhile, fellow Thurlow Nunn Premier Division outfit Brightlingsea Regent’s proposed tie away to Gateshead-based 2012 FA Vase winners Dunston UTS has already been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
James Webster’s men will now have to delay their Vase ambitions for another week with the rearranged game set to take place next Saturday, February 22.