I’m really excited, very, very excited actually, I think it’s the biggest game in the clubs history, says Corinthian captain Jack Bath
CORINTHIAN captain Jack Bath insists Leighton Town cannot be underestimated on Saturday – but he’s feeling very excited playing in the club’s biggest ever game in their 48 year-history.
The 31-year-old centre-half is a key player for manager Michael Golding, as Corinthian welcome in-form Leighton Town in The Buildbase FA Vase Quarter-Finals.
Corinthian reached the summit of the Sea Pioneer Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table after thrashing K Sports 4-1 at Gay Dawn Farm last weekend but Beckenham Town, who lost 4-1 at Sheppey United, returned to the summit after coming home from Deal Town with a 2-0 win on Tuesday night.
Corinthian go into Saturday’s Quarter-Final in second-place in the table with 49 points from 23 games, two points adrift Beckenham Town but with a game in hand.
Leighton Town, meanwhile, are in seventh-place in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division table with 42 points from 24 games, 25 points adrift of leaders Colney Heath.
But Joe Sweeney and Paul Copson’s side have won seven games on the spin in all competitions and cannot be underestimated.
“I’m really excited, very, very excited actually. I think it’s the biggest game in the clubs history,” said Bath, who partners Jamie Billings at the heart of defence and has helped Golding’s side going five games unbeaten.
“It’s a bit surreal getting this far really. I don’t think at the start of the season, when you set your stall out, you’re quietly confident but getting to this stage of a competition is exciting, but a national one of that is very exciting!
“I don’t know too much about them to be honest. It’s only what you see on the social media side and stuff.
“I know the gaffer has been down and watched them a couple of times. I think they’ve got a fairly big squad and they’ve put out mixed teams so we don’t know too much about them.
“They’ve won seven games in The FA Vase as well having been in from the very beginning, so they can’t be underestimated.
“We’ve also had a very, very tough run by beating Chatham, Sheppey, Ascot and Sporting Khalsa, who were all at the top of their leagues.
“We’ve got a home draw so we’ll be really confident going into it.”
Corinthian are now only three games away from playing at Wembley and following in the footsteps of Deal Town (winners in 2000), Tunbridge Wells and Cray Valley (Paper Mills) on embracing the hallowed Wembley Stadium turf in The FA Vase Final.
“If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until after the Sporting Khalsa game I thought about that, not necessarily Wembley but if we get past Leighton, the next team you play, it’s either us or them going to Wembley so when I think about that it’s when it hammers home a little bit.”
One of Leighton Town’s threats will be coming from striker Danny Webb, who has scored 33 goals this season.
“Absolutely, yes, absolutely, from what I hear he plays on the shoulder a little bit, he’s quite lively. He’s not like a conventional target man from what I’ve heard in the reports, so we’ll be wary of that,” said Bath.
“The back five will adjust ourselves accordingly to their threat but from what I hear is that the SCEFL is one of the stronger leagues and week-in-week-out we play against good strikers in this league.
“I don’t want to name drop particularly but Dan Bradshaw has got 47 goals for Sheppey and we’ve played against him a few times this season and kept him relatively quiet.
“You’ve got strikers like Ryan Hall (at Beckenham) that have come from League One football so it’s not like we’re dealing against muppets in our league. We play against very good strikers in our league, so we’ll be fully prepared for that.”
When asked who he believes is favourites going into the game, Bath hesitated before saying, “It’s difficult to tell. I don’t know too much about them to be honest. We’ll be confident in ourselves that if we stick to our game plan, on our pitch, I feel confident in that manner.”
For an amateur side to be so close to a Wembley Final and challenging for the league title is simply fairytale stuff and Golding has produced miracles for little Corinthian, who are currently chasing the treble.
When asked what the secret is, Bath said: “Probably heard it a thousand times but it is the changing room. The squad has been together for a long time. We’ve added a couple around it but most of the boys have been here for five or six years, myself included.
“Where it used to be when you beat the teams with budgets every game won was a little bit of a scalp for us, it’s a feather in our cap but we’re expecting to win now.
“The secret is, I don’t want to sound cliché but it is just the unity in the changing room – and a bit of quality in the changing room goes a long way.”
Bath is keen to bury the ghost of despair of missing out on two fronts in agonising fashion last season.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that last season did hurt us. We got to a cup final and lost the League by a point and I think that’s galvanised the squad a little bit, brought us a little closer, the focus and galvanised it,” said Bath.
“To get 90 points on the board and come away with nothing was tough to take so we go into every game, the old cliché, every game is a cup final and we truly believe that.
“We don’t want to slip up in any way, especially in the cup competitions and especially the league, every game is a cup competition.”
Corinthian are competing against some big hitters in the title race with Beckenham Town, Sheppey United, Chatham Town and Tunbridge Wells all having larger support and bigger playing budgets.
“It’s fantastic, it’s where you want to be. You don’t want to train Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and sitting midtable and not really a lot to play for,” said Bath.
“The clubs been in that place before but the club has turned the corner over the last couple of seasons.
“It’s exciting, you can’t take anything for granted. There’s some fantastic teams up there and some tough, tough games as well and we’ll keep knuckling down and we’ll keep trying to put points on the board.”
Admission prices: £7 (adults); £3 (concessions, under 18s or over 65s)
A Corinthian statement said: “Please note that under 18’s entry will only be permitted with an accompanying adult.
“Challenge 25 will be in operation. Anyone who is over 18 but looks under 25 is required to carry acceptable I.D (passport/driving licence).
“Bag searches will be completed prior to entry into the ground. Please note no alcohol or flares are permitted into the ground.”
Turnstiles will open from 1:30, while the clubhouse, which is located outside the turnstiles will open at 12pm.
Meanwhile, for those fans’ walking from Longfield train station, Valley Road has no pavements or street lighting and it’s advisable to book a cab or hail one from outside the train station.
If scores are level, extra time shall be played. Any replay will take place in Leighton Buzzard next Saturday, 7 March (15:00).
Corinthian v Leighton Town
The Buildbase FA Vase Quarter-Final
Saturday 29 February 2020
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Gay Dawn Farm, Valley Road, Longfield, Kent DA3 8LY