Bring on the big one! The Rocks are ready – on and off the pitch – for one of their biggest games for many years.
A crowd of around 2,000 is expected when they host Torquay in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy on Saturday.
It’s already further than the club have ever gone before in the Trophy.
And if they can overcome the National League premier-division strugglers, they will be just one two-legged tie away from the Wembley final.
It’s a tantalising prospect and one that management, players and fans are trying hard not to get carried away with. They know the Gulls, with a long history of Football League membership behind them, will present them with a stiff test in what should be a cracking atmosphere on Saturday.
The Rocks have had just about the perfect build-up to the game by taking four points out of six from visits to two of their Ryman premier promotion rivals in the past week.
We want fans to come and enjoy the game, and they can come safe in the knowledge that we are not just turning up to make up numbers or thinking the result is a foregone conclusion.Jamie Howell
A dogged display to earn a 0-0 draw at East Thurrock was followed by a superb 3-1 win at Tonbridge on Tuesday night – and a bonus was that no new injuries were picked up.
Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “We’ve had an excellent week, are all okay and are now greatly looking forward to Saturday.
“This Trophy tie has been in the background and I didn’t want it to distract us from league games, and it didn’t.
“Now we can focus fully on the Torquay game and we can go into it with confidence.
“Torquay are a National League team with a lot of very good players who play at a higher standard than ours.
“We will respect them but if we do what we can do, and do it well, we will cause them a few problems.”
Howell said his team talk and the side’s approach to the game would be no different just because it was such a big occasion.
They will train tonight and the management will take as long as they can to ponder the nice selection problems they have. Harvey Whyte is the only squad member out injured.
The manager believes his troops will be able to handle the pressure of the day.
“There’ll be a few younger players who have not played in front of that big a crowd before but it won’t be a problem for them – in fact one or two of them could thrive on it.
“There will be a few nerves for all of us but that can be a good thing in getting you focused on the job in hand.
“We want fans to come and enjoy the game, and they can come safe in the knowledge that we are not just turning up to make up numbers or thinking the result is a foregone conclusion. If we were to think like that, there’d be no point playing.”
Torquay, who are expected to bring more than 200 fans, head along the south coast in a bit of form themselves.
They have won back-to-back National League games in the past six days, beating Boreham Wood and Welling to lift themselves off bottom place.
Boss Kevin Nicholson has added to his squad recently in a bid to pep up their season, but some of those brought in are Trophy-tied and can’t play on Saturday.
Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick said Tuesday night’s success at Tonbridge was the perfect warm-up for the Torquay clash.
“I think our first-half display at Tonbridge was one of the best I’ve seen in all my time here as a coach,” he said.
“We have encountered two very different away games in four days and coped with them both admirably.
“It sends us into Saturday on a positive note and I just hope we can put on an entertaining display for the crowd.
“For me, the feeling looking forward to this game reminds me of when I was a Bognor player and we got to the second round of the FA Cup (in 1995).
“I’m pleased for the club and the community that we have this big occasion but I’m especially pleased for the fans.
“There were nearly 100 of them at Tonbridge which is unbelievable.”
Follow the Rocks-Torquay build-up and the tie live on this website
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