ROAD TO WEMBLEY: Full FA Vase preview
CARL Chenery's Leiston and Danny Laws' Needham Market both face tough tasks tomorrow to reach the last 16 of the FA Vase.FA Cup heroes Leiston visit Hellenic League, Premier Division leaders Hungerford Town, who are ten points clear at the top having won 18 of their 23 league games and losing just two.
CARL Chenery's Leiston and Danny Laws' Needham Market both face tough tasks tomorrow to reach the last 16 of the FA Vase.
FA Cup heroes Leiston visit Hellenic League, Premier Division leaders Hungerford Town, who are ten points clear at the top having won 18 of their 23 league games and losing just two.
And last season's Vase semi-finalists Needham entertain AFC Fylde, who top the Vodkat North West Counties Premier League table four points clear with 51 points from 19 games and just two defeats.
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Evening Star football correspondent ELVIN KING looks at the chances of both Ridgeons League Premier Division clubs.
IF any player in tomorrow's fourth round of the FA Vase wants to win the final at Wembley it is surely Leiston's defender David Head.
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The 29-year-old has reached three previous finals - and lost them all.
These were with AFC Sudbury, and the matches were played at Upton Park, St Andrews and White Hart Lane.
The desire to reach Wembley is heightened because Head's father Martin led out Sudbury Town along with joint manager Don James at the then twin-towered stadium when Sudbury Town drew 1-1 with Tamworth in 1989.
Brett Girling and Shane Wardley tasted the misery of two Vase final defeats with AFC Sudbury, and will also be looking to make amends.
“We know that getting to the final is feasible with Leiston,” said Head, whose brother Simon will also be in the squad for the visit to Hungerford tomorrow.
“On our day we are well capable of beating anybody in the competition.
“I have an ambition to put the record straight after three final defeats, and am looking forward to having another serious go.
“Hungerford have not been beaten for 18 games I am told so we know it will be tough, but we know we have a realistic chance of going all the way.”
After their exploits in the FA Cup when they lost a first round replay at Blue Square North Fleetwood, Leiston have been made 'unofficial' favourites to lift the Vase, and become the second Ridgeons League side after Diss Town in 1994 to do so.
And his experiences in the FA Cup have heightened Head's expectations of going 'one better' in the FA Vase.
“With AFC Sudbury I got to the fourth qualifying round but never to the first round,” added Head, whose father is now Suffolk Football Association chief executive.
“I achieved this with Leiston this time around - so why not go one better in the FA Vase.”
Leiston have new signing James Rowe from AFC Sudbury eligible to play tomorrow against a team that Sudbury Town beat in the 1989 semi-final.
AFC Fylde manager Mick Fuller today warned Needham Market that his players do not intend letting go of the FA Vase.
Before leaving the north west at 1.30pm today for an overnight stay at an Ipswich hotel, Fuller looked forward to a trip to Bloomfields (kick-off 3pm) where he was successful in last year's semi-final before the club changed their name from Kirkham and Wesham.
“We're the holders and I would like to think my players will give everything to keep a grip on the trophy,” said Fuller.
“Our squad is stronger. There's a little more quality in different areas and we've got a bit more bite in central midfield.”
Fuller is anticipating a more difficult game because his team aren't taking a one-goal advantage to a second leg this time.
“Needham will have a point to prove,” he said. “I read things about this being a revenge match so Danny Laws will have his players jumping up and down.
“We need to defend properly and be solid. We have the ammunition going forward - it's how we use it. Do we keep back one or two of the pacy lads on the bench or do we start them? Even if I start with the quick lads, we've still got players who can come on and make a difference.”
“There will be some pressure on Needham because they're at home - if they're going to go through, they'll need to do it on the day.”
Fylde have new signing central defender Phil Robinson in their squad after he played for Fleetwood against Leiston in the FA Cup. He could replace defensive lynchpin Phil Thompson who has travelled but is struggling with an ankle injury.
And Fuller must decide on whether to keep second choice keeper Nathan Worrall in the team after a good show in a league game on Tuesday when regular custodian Peter Summerfield had flu.
Needham have a full squad to select from, which includes the influential Craig Parker who missed last year's semi-final through injury.
Needham manager Danny Laws is relishing the challenge, saying: “This is definitely the tie of the round, another big game in my reign as manager.
“I am under no illusions how difficult a task this is going to be, but my squad will be thoroughly prepared.
“It's good to be drawn at home and it's important that we attract a good crowd and really get behind the team, they need to be our 12th man.”
Laws does not see it as a revenge mission, adding: “People have tried to get me to use the word revenge but I'm not that type of guy.
“Last season's gone now - things change. The heartbreak of not playing at Wembley was difficult to take but we have to give full credit to the opposition.
“Even if we didn't get the right result, we enjoyed two highly competitive games and the atmosphere of big crowds.
“The Ridgeons League is a strong, competitive league with good teams, two of which are Lowestoft and Leiston. But we're aware that tomorrow's opposition will be our toughest game of the season. “
Last season's Vase semi-final produced a record attendance at Bloomfields of 1,375. Needham still have 11 players that featured in that match.
AFC Fylde employed an 'agency' scout to spy on Needham Market in the Ridgeon League club's 4-0 home victory over Wivenhoe on Tuesday.
Manager Mick Fuller was planning to watch Needham play Harwich last Saturday, but the game was an early casualty of the icy weather.
He could not make Tuesday's game because Fylde had their first match since Boxing Day on the same night with a 4-1 win over Colne.
Former Clitheroe manager Gary Butcher watched the Fylde game on December 26 on behalf of Needham manager Danny Laws. Butcher is a former Norwich City youth player who was coaching with the Canaries at the same time as Laws.
Butcher was manager of Norwich United in the Ridgeons League until he quit just before Christmas.
NEEDHAM Market's Kevin Horlock has a unique connection with Blackpool; a club within striking distance of tomorrow's FA Vase opponents AFC Fylde.
After having four daughters his wife gave birth to a son two years ago. “We did not have a boys' name,” said Horlock.
“So when watching a game while injured with Doncaster I was impressed by the name of a Blackpool substitute in one game - Keigan Parker.
“So this is what we called our lad, and he is already showing footballing ability and has a left foot to boot.”