FA Cup fever comes to West Sussex on Saturday – and as one of our teams aims to avoid an upset, another will be out to cause one.
The first qualifying round of the world’s most famous football competition sees the Rocks host a team who play two levels below them and Pagham entertain a club two divisions from higher than them.
Both know the Cup has a reputation for shocks and while that puts the Rocks on their guard against what would be an embarrassing exit against Epsom & Ewell of the Combined Counties League, it gives the Lions hope of some headlines and an extended run if they can beat Ryman premier side Carshalton.
The games take place simultaneously a couple of miles apart at Nyewood Lane and Nyetimber Lane and both camps are ready for the challenge.
Rocks joint boss Jamie Howell watched Epsom’s 1-0 win at Dorking on Tuesday night and came away believing the Surrey side would give his troops a tough time.
“We certainly can’t afford any complacency – it won’t be easy,” said Howell. “But we the favourites and at home, we know that if we play as well as we can, we should go through.”
The Rocks will be without injured pair Ashley Robinson and Darryl Wollers and may give promising 17-year-old Dan Kempson a start if James Crane covers for Wollers at left-back.
The Rocks have had a solid start to their Ryman premier campaign, but suffered their first defeat – 2-0 at home to Margate – on Saturday. Howell and Darin Killpartrick are happy with the way their side are playing, but said they needed to start taking more of their chances.
It’s another team from the Rocks’ league, Carshalton, who Pagham welcome to Nyetimber Lane for their stab at Cup glory. The Lions are hoping for a crowd of between 200 and 300.
Howard Neighbour, who has scored seven goals already this season, was rested for the Lions’ FA Vase game at Steyning last weekend but is likely to come back into the side.
Pagham boss John Price said: “It’s a big, big game for the club. We’ve already come through two rounds and earned some money and we want to carry on through another round now.
“Winning FA Cup games when you’re a club our size is a huge financial boost and of course there’s the prestige too for the players and the management.”
Price was part of Bognor’s FA Cup success in the 1990s, when they got as far as the second round, and said it was a magical competition if your club could go on a run.
“You need a bit of luck but great things can happen,” he said.
“We are ready to give Carshalton a really good game. If we are at our best and they are a little taken by surprise by us, we have a chance.
“We had a good crowd in for our replay victory at home to Lordswood and hopefully a lot of those fans will come back for this game and be joined by some other local people who have not been before.”
Price has almost a full squad to choose from although regular keeper Andy Smallpiece is banned for a recent red card and is set to be replaced by teenager James Binfield.
Price doesn’t mind the fact the Lions are facing a month with very few league games because of the FA Cup and Vase action.
He said: “I’m quite happy for us to have these sorts of distractions. The FA Cup and FA Vase are massive competitions. In the Vase we’ve a chance to go as far as any club in Sussex.”