Hednesford Town welcome West Auckland Town of the Northern Football League First Division to Keys Park on Saturday in the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round and, at first glance at least, The Pitmen look strong favourites to progress to the Fourth Qualifying Round where a Conference giant could be lying in wait.
However, the team from County Durham should not be underestimated by supporters or players alike, their start to the first 17 games of the season has yielded 11 wins, six draws and no defeats in league and cup and they have seen off higher-placed opposition in the last two rounds of an FA Cup journey which started back in mid August. Both Whitby Town, relegated from Hednesford’s then Northern Premier League last season, and Skelmersdale United have been dispatched 4-1 and 5-0 respectively earning the Club over £10000 in prize money.
With a place in the next round and a sizeable financial payday at stake on Saturday, manager Rob Smith is under no illusions about the importance and seriousness of the task in hand.
‘From the outside we may be big favourites but we are not looking at it like that. West Auckland are unbeaten in what is a very strong league indeed, in my opinion it is not the equal of the same levels in the Midlands, it is a much higher standard, so we will not be fooled into believing we are massive favourites.
‘They have players well capable of playing in our league, they will come to us pressure free and full of confidence so will prove very difficult to beat.’
The Pitmen have tasted disappointment at this stage of the FA Cup twice in the last three seasons, having lost to Buxton in 2012 and Corby Town in 2011 – Smith has stressed that his side will approach the game in the correct way to ensure that it’s not third time unlucky.
‘We approached the very difficult game against Telford in the right way and if we show the same attitude on Saturday we will have a very good chance of winning.’
Recently crowned ‘Player of the Second Qualifying Round’, Elliott Durrell will be looking to score his 16th goal of a stunningly prolific season, whilst as Wayne Riley continues his recovery from a groin injury, Neil Harvey is also a doubt.
The phrase ‘banana skin’ is often used in these early rounds of the competition but it is fair to say that Saturday’s game, with another large crowd expected, represents a tricky test for The Pitmen.
Hednesford Town Form – WLWWWW
Previous Result – Hednesford Town 4 Gloucester City 1 – The Skrill North – Saturday 5th October 2013
Next Fixture – Workington AFC (A) – The Skrill North – Saturday 19th October 2013
League Position – 1st
West Auckland Town Form – DWWWWW
Previous Result – West Auckland Town 3 Birtley Town 1 – League Cup – Tuesday 8th October 2013
Next Fixture – Crook Town (A) – Northern Football League Division One – Wednesday 16th October
League Position – 6th
KO – 3pm
Address of Ground – Keys Park, Keys Park Road, Hednesford, Staffordshire, WS12 2DZ
Adult Main Stand: £12
Adult Terrace: £11
Concessions Main Stand: £7
Concessions Terrace: £6
Under 16: £3