Sunday 6th January 2019
Canterbury City v Newport Pagnell Town
FA Vase 4th Round
Newport Pagnell Town travel to Faversham on Sunday to face fellow step five side Canterbury City for a place in the final sixteen of this season’s FA Vase and come up against a side that haven’t lost a game since they progressed in the previous round against Southall, an undefeated December saw them win four in a row beginning with that third round victory and draw their two league games since Christmas. City currently sit bang in middle position of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, having won nine and drawing three of their nineteen league games to date, and whilst Newport have progressed this far in the competition, their league form hasn’t been what they were hoping since the season began. Two wins and a draw around the Christmas period see’s Darren Lynch’s men travel to Kent with some momentum behind them, and the lure of that fifth round place should lift both squads in to a pulsating cup tie.
Ahead of the game Sports Shots caught up with defender Ollie Wilkinson and front man Harry Stratton and asked the former how long he’d been at the club and how he ended up there:
This is my third season at Newport, I knew Smeaths (Stuart Smeathers), Faze (Fazel Koriya) and Lingy (Greg Ling) from playing with them at Long Buckby where we won the UCL and also at Bedford. I played with Lynchy (Darren Lynch) at Corby as well as knowing a few of the others from playing against them so when I got a phone call about coming over it was all fairly straight forward. It was also a good changing room to get into, I knew we’d be competitive from the off
This is Harry’s second spell at the club:
I joined the club last season before having a short spell away and returning at the beginning of this season, both times I had no problem settling in as the bunch of lads here are great
How does Harry feel his season has been so far?
For me this season I’ve felt good, I was only out for a week with a small knock but other than that I’ve been available, performance wise I’ve managed to get a few goals and assists however I believe there’s still much more to come
Ollie looked back at the team’s fortunes:
This season has been a really strange one so far, I feel like we’ve not been playing badly at all but things haven’t gone our way in games and we’ve been punished. We’ve had our fair share of injuries as well which never helps, let’s just hope we’ve got them all out of the way now
How good a squad does Ollie feel the club have this season & which players have impressed?
I feel like we’ve got a really good squad and everyone is just about coming back to full fitness so hopefully we’ll see our results picking up. There are plenty of lads that have been around for a few years and everyone knows the quality that they have but we’ve got a few younger lads coming through this year that are impressing. The two Jakes (Stronge & Watkinson) are very lively and have taken to the challenge & physicality in the first team well this year, and I’m sure they’ll be giving defenders headaches for years to come!
Harry believes the squad are now starting to show signs of putting a run together:
It’s no secret that we haven’t had the greatest of starts to the season for whatever reasons, however with the quality we have in the squad I feel we should be right up there, if I’m honest I think everyone will agree that none of us have been at our best this season. However, over the last month or so everyone has stepped up their game and have been different class, we are now starting to look like the Newport of last season
Where does Harry feel his best position is in the side & formation for the side?
I feel my best position is either out wide or behind the striker. I love to get on the ball to try and create opportunities for my team mates, as well as score a few goals myself. Systems and formations I really don’t mind, that’s up to the gaffer to decide, whatever instructions he gives me I try my best to execute on the pitch
Ollie is more defensive minded:
I don’t mind where I’m playing as long as I’m contributing positively to the side, I can play at centre back or right back but I think Lynchy & Gouldy likes to keep me at right back so they get at least forty-five minutes rest from me!
We asked Ollie how the three games over Christmas were:
The first half against Northampton ON’s and the Eynesbury game were exactly what we’ve been trying to get to all season, we looked dangerous going forward whilst solid at the back, there was a good intensity about us. The second half against ON’s we lacked any real intensity or quality on the ball but managed to dig in and stay organised to defend well and see the game out to the end. The Rothwell game definitely wasn’t a good spectacle for this league, with very little football being played on an awful pitch where it looked like Christmas had caught up with a few, myself very much included!
Harry thought they deserved all the points:
I feel in the last three games we should have really taken all nine points based upon our performances. We’ve been a lot better offensively and defensively producing probably our best performance of the season against Eynesbury
On to Canterbury this week in the FA Vase, what is Harry expecting?
If I’m perfectly honest and no disrespect to our opponents but I don’t know very much about them at all, I’m preparing the same way I do for any other game, to go out there and do my best to win the game, however regardless of how much I know about them it’s going to be a tough game, they wouldn’t be in this position otherwise
Ollie is similarly in the dark on their opponents:
I don’t know anything really about Canterbury other than that is it miles away! We’re training on Thursday so we might get fed a few bits then but I don’t think it will make too much difference to how we approach the game itself. It will be strange having to do it all on a Sunday but as long as we get ourselves at it and with the intensity we know we’ll need, there’s not much more we can do and the result will take care of itself. They’re obviously a decent side to have got this far in the competition, so we’ll have to be wary of them but also know what quality we have
Does Ollie find it hard to concentrate on league matters when this cup run is still ongoing?
I don’t think you can approach any game differently really because they’re all games of football and you never want to lose! Once the game starts anyway, any other game is gone completely from your mind and you just take each part of the current game you’re in as it comes. It’s no good telling yourself that you’re going to play differently in a game because as soon as the adrenaline kicks in it just won’t happen
Harry agrees it is simply one game at a time:
Concentrating on the league with the Vase in sight is not a problem whatsoever for me, I just take each game as it comes, and if I’m honest I haven’t even thought about this competition until after the last game we played
Rounding up we asked Harry how important it is to win on Sunday, will the season be over if Newport lose?
Of course it’s very important for us to progress in this cup, however that would be the same regardless of our league position, no matter what the result on Sunday we will always do our very best to climb up the league table to get as close to the top as possible. I won’t feel as though the season is over, I hate losing and will try to win every game no matter where we are
Ollie looks back at teams from last year to find encouragement:
Obviously we are all really disappointed with our current league position and its something that we all desperately want to improve on this year. The season is never over at Christmas, just look at what Wisbech & Yaxley managed to do after poor starts last season! I don’t think that will happen again any time soon but we’re only halfway through the season now, so even if we do lose on Sunday no one will be sacking off the rest of the campaign and just playing through to get to May. There are too many winners in our dressing room to allow that to happen, that being said we’d all love to win and progress further in the Vase. There are quite a few of us left from the run we had two years ago and we had a few great Saturday’s that year so it would be brilliant to replicate that again. You can’t play football forever, and the memories you make last the longer you can carry on playing. We’ll give it our best and hopefully that will be enough to keep us in the hat come Monday morning. Happy New Year!
Sports Shots would like to thank both Ollie and Harry for their time this week