Saturday 24th February 2018
Leighton Town v 1874 Northwich
FA Vase Quarter-Final
Since September last year, over five-hundred non-league clubs have entered the 2017/18 FA Vase. This Saturday the final eight teams left in the competition take to the field to battle it out for a place in the semi-finals and be just two games from playing at the home of English football, Wembley Stadium. There aren’t many managers, staff, players, supporters & committee’s that get to watch their side play on the hallowed turf at this level; back in September when the first qualifying round of matches took place not many were thinking ahead to Sunday 20th May 2018 and the FA Vase Final. Fast forward seven rounds, we are now down to the quarter-final stage, and everyone is thinking about the final.
Leighton Town were no different to most clubs, just hoping for a good run to swell the financial coffers, but on Saturday they host 1874 Northwich with the opportunity to reach the last four. Scott Reynolds men are on an eleven-game winning sequence, but once again come up against unknown opposition from another league, and another part of the country, a part of the country where teams are notorious for doing well in FA Vase competition!
Ahead of the fixture, Sports Shots caught up with defenders James Towell & Dave Murphy, and asked Dave just what it means as a player to be this far into an FA competition:
It’s a huge game & a massive achievement to get through to the quarter finals in such a prestigious competition. To know that we are in the last eight after winning seven previous games makes it even more special. For so many teams at this level, it’s a dream to have a good run in it and we are going to do all that we can on Saturday to make sure we are in the hat for the semi-final draw on Monday
James agreed that it’s been a dream run so far:
It’s getting very real now, a cup final at Wembley is at arm’s length; the sort of occasion you dream of being involved in as a kid. We have done very well to get this far, however there is still work to be done so we shouldn’t get too carried away just yet. But of course, it’s a great feeling to still be in the cup
We asked James what the highlight of the cup run has been so far:
I’d have to say that beating Norwich CBS has been the highlight for me, being so close to exiting the competition to get back into the game so late on, and going on to win so convincingly in extra-time, we showed tremendous character in that game, that will long live in the memory
Where does this run rank in Dave Murphy’s career:
This is actually the second time I’ve played in a Vase quarter-final, unfortunately in 2014 I was at Ampthill and on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline and our dream ended there. To miss out on the opportunity to play in a two-legged semi-final was crushing. At that point to be so close, and even if you were up against one of the top northern teams, the fact is playing over two legs always gives you a chance to get to the final. So for me, this game on Saturday is right up there, I don’t want that losing experience again and I will do everything I can to stop that from happening again
We asked Dave if there was any secret to the Leighton run?
I honestly believe that we‘ve kept the games as low key as possible. We know that we have a lot of quality in our squad and on our day, we can match any team at this level. We’ve tried to take our consistency and good form from our league campaign and replicate it in the Vase, and up to this point it has been an expectation that if we perform well & play to our strengths then we have every chance of winning. That hasn’t always happened, and we have had two very tough ties against Norwich and Wolves but our poor performance during stages of those games has been as much a factor of making those ties difficult as the quality of the opposition. But our attitude to games is that we do not know when we are beaten, we have a great group of players who will fight for each other until the end
We questioned James whether it was difficult to concentrate on league games with the Vase in the background?
It’s not that difficult if I’m honest. They both seem to give us a break from each other of late, the league is obviously our priority and we must gain promotion this season. But we give it our all in all the competitions we’ve been in this season, and I’d hate for anything to slip through our fingers now
We looked at what players James thinks will make an impact for Leighton on Saturday:
I actually think myself and Matt Hall will have a big part to play, keeping our opposing players quiet, stopping crosses & shots, and winning our own individual battles, I think the pace of Lorrell (Smith) up top causes every team we’ve played problems, he could really make the difference for us going forward
Dave is expecting a tough battle on the pitch:
I would expect them to be a very good side, you can’t get to this stage of the competition through luck alone. They will be organised, disciplined and no doubt have quality all over the pitch. But we need to make sure that we focus on our strengths and what we can do, if we can do that & play to our potential that we know we can at Bell Close, then we have a great chance of making it through to the semi-finals, and that’s when you really start getting excited
Rounding up, we asked Dave how he feels his own personal season has been:
It’s been good, we are in a good position in the league table, and obviously this huge game this week-end. We are only really in that position due to the incredible run we find ourselves on at this time, eleven wins in a row and a momentum we need to keep going on Saturday. Personally, I have managed to keep injury free and had a good run of games which is always nice, but it really has all been about the effort the squad is putting in. But it all comes down to Saturday, and then some huge league games over the next few weeks, that’s when we can really then look at what an incredible season it has been for Leighton Town FC
And what will James do to relax on Friday evening:
I usually get to my local gym for a yoga class on Friday evenings, I go to two classes a week, one on Monday and the other on the Friday. It’s only a beginner’s class on the Friday so it’s nice & light but I find it just gets me in a clear frame of mind ready for the game the next day. However, this Friday a couple of the squad and I are having a get together at Lewis McBride’s, so it’ll be nice to just get a few of us together and have some food, play the Nintendo Wii and just chill ahead of the match
Sports Shots would like to thank both James & Dave for their time this week.