We've shown it can be done, says Tunbridge Wells boss Martin Larkin
The Wells are sitting in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League table, having won 11 and drawn five of their 21 league games.
Larkin’s side are seven points adrift of unbeaten league leaders Phoenix Sports, who have four games in hand.
Larkin takes his side to Deal Town – FA Vase winners in 2000 - on Saturday, a side that sit in the bottom three on 15 points from 19 games, three points clear of Erith Town, who occupy the sole relegation spot.
“It brings a whole new level of pressure this year, I suppose, now someone is getting relegated,” said Larkin.
“Normally at this time of year, you go to places like that, you think all you need to do is turn up and play well and we’ll be ok, so the added pressure of relegation is they’ll come out of the blocks.
“They had a good win last week against Woodstock, who were on a really, really good run.
“We’ve got a Vase game a week after so there’s no need not to be motivated for it.”
But Larkin admits the league title is out of reach at this moment in time.
He said: “I went to watch the Phoenix-Erith & Belvedere game (over Christmas) and I’m really proud of Scott Whibley and their defensive record.
“He was with us for a good few years and all the boys in the changing room commented on their defensive record (conceding only 7 goals in 17 league games) and how well Scott’s very vocal there, which is something he wasn’t for us. It’s great to see him go away and grow into that role.
“Phoenix are on an unbelievable run, which is great. Corinthian in third place are also on an unbelievable run, which is good and you’ve got Greenwich and Ashford with games-in-hand.
“We’ve said in the changing room our priority is the Vase and probably the League Cup.
“We’ve played a couple of games too many. If, however, those teams all around us decide to falter and we’ll keep winning our games, and see how we go, but the Vase is our priority.”
Tunbridge Wells travel to Swindon to play Highworth Town – currently in ninth-place in the Hellenic League Premier Division – on 17 January.
Looking forward to The FA Vase Fourth Round tie at the Elm Recreation Ground, Larkin has a second visit to Wembley Stadium in his sights.
“It’s a different kind of feeling really because the first time we did it we didn’t really talk about it because we didn’t really believe it could be done. Now we’ve shown it can be done.
“That team will always hold a special place in everyone’s hearts with regards to the club.
“The squad we’ve got now is stronger, without a doubt, but it doesn’t mean anything. We have to go down to Swindon, we know what it’s like away from home, they’ll be doing to us what we used to do to big teams and we’ll have to prepare properly.
“We’ll have them watched a couple of times. It will be tough down there. They’ll won’t be used to playing in front of a large vocal support that we’ll bring and we’ll have to perform. They’re a well-run club.
“If we don’t perform down there, we’ll get beat, simple as that. If we go down there and play well, we’ll give ourselves a chance and that’s all we can ask for.”
Tunbridge Wells lost 2-1 to Spennymoor Town at Wembley Stadium on 4 May 2013, Josh Stanford, now playing Ryman League Division One South football for Faversham Town, equalising with thirteen minutes left in front of a crowd of 16,751.
“Anyone can (get to Wembley), that’s the thing, because you get a reputation behind you. Those teams up north, Shildon are unbelievable, Whitley Bay, the run they had. Part of it, it’s the aura surrounding it. You’re playing a team that’s been to Wembley already, it’s a different level to us.
“We’ve had a good run again this year and the run two years ago, it creates a little strutt, that we can stick out our chest and be proud about.
“But it’s not until the quarter-finals two years’ ago when we won that quarter-final at home, you really start thinking that you’ve got a serious chance.”
For the first time there are five Kent sides left in the last 32 of The FA Vase.
Ashford United host Norwich United; Greenwich Borough are at home to AFC St Austell and Erith & Belvedere face Yaxley at Park View Road on Sunday, 18 January.
Phoenix Sports must travel all the way down to Cornwall to play Bodmin Town.
“I know none of us want to be playing each other at any point during it,” added Larkin.
“You want everyone to go as far as possible. If you’ve got to play someone (from Kent), let’s play them in the final, but that’s a long, long way off and everyone will be thinking the same.
“There’s some tough games this round. Phoenix have a tough game, a long travel down there. Norwich are a really good side and the team we’re playing are really good so it will be tough for everyone but hopefully everyone will go through.”
Visit Tunbridge Wells’ website: www.tunbridgewellsfc.com
Deal Town v Tunbridge Wells
Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 10th January 2015
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Charles Sports Ground, St Leonards Road, Deal, Kent CT14 9AU