It's probably the first time we've gone into a game this season as underdogs, says Jay Saunders
Thursday 23rd October 2014MAIDSTONE UNITED manager Jay Saunders says the pressure is off his side when they welcome Welling United in The FA Cup on Saturday.
The Fourth Qualifying Round winner-takes-all showdown has been made all-ticket and Saunders wants his side to take advantage of being at home.
The Stones sit proudly at the top of the Ryman Premier League table – with a 100% home record in eight league games - having won 12 of their fourteen league games, two points clear of Margate.
Maidstone United have scooped £15,000 in prize money after getting past Littlehampton Town (10-0); Brentwood Town (2-1) and Biggleswade Town (2-0) and there is a further £12,500 up for grabs this weekend.
Welling United kick-off their FA Cup campaign at this stage as all 24 Vanarama Conference clubs are exempted until the Fourth Qualifying Round.
But Jamie Day brings his side to Maidstone sitting in seventeenth-place in the table – two leagues above the Stones.
“I think it’s a big game for everyone associated with the club,” said Saunders.
“It’s a big game being on the verge of the First Round Proper. It would be lovely to get there. I’ve been told its 30 years or something since the club got to the First Round proper.
“It’s a massive day associated for everybody at the club and a game that everyone’s looking forward to. I know the players are but it certainly will be a tough game against a good Welling side.
“Jamie Day, Barry Ashby and Dean Frost have done a superb job getting Welling there and keeping them there last season. I know a lot of their results this year have been unlucky losing by the odd goal.
“I speak to Jamie every now and then and they’re a good side. I know people say they’re struggling and we’re at the top but they’re two divisions above and their there for a reason. They’ve got good players, quite a young squad and sprinkled with a little bit of experience and we certainly need to be on our game.
“We’ve got to be at our game and we’ve got to be at it. If we’ve got one or two not quite right then it will be even tougher.”
Saunders is relishing the underdogs tag for this eagerly-awaited Kent derby.
He said: “We are underdogs and it’s probably the first time we’ve gone into a game this season as underdogs, other than when we played Margate.
“It does take a little bit of pressure off us and we can go out and enjoy it. We’ve got a sell-out crowd there and a lot of people are paying money to watch us and the boys will be keen to try and go out there and put on a performance.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to get drawn against a lower league side but we have got Welling. We are at home and you have got to take advantage of that.
“You never know. The FA Cup does throw up some surprises and hopefully we can get a win.”
When asked what kind of game he’s expecting on Saturday, Saunders, who oversaw three Academy games on the club’s 3G pitch today, said: “A tight game, I’d like to think. I’m hoping we’ll give them a real good game and we’ll certainly have a good go at them.
“But we’ve got players who can cause them problems. They’ve got players who can hurt us.
“You normally find these games are tight affairs and I’m sure that will be the case and it will be a bit cagey.
“Whether the big crowd affects different players, you don’t know. I expect it to be quite a tight game.”
The world-famous silverware will be at Maidstone on Saturday and when asked whether he’ll touch it, the Stones boss replied: “Er, no, not really! I’ve been fortunate to have my picture done with it before so I won’t go near it.
“There’s an excellent buzz having The FA Cup there. It will be great for supporters and everyone involved.”
Saunders admits Kent’s largest supported non-league club still appreciates the prize money that The FA Cup brings.
“It’s massive for the club. I know people go we’re a big club but whatever club you’re at it’s important,” said Saunders.
“It’s the fact that the publicity it will bring with the 3G pitch. The owners have put a lot of time and effort in that and promoting it and if we can get through against a League club it will be a lot of interest.
“For us it’s not just the money, it’s the publicity but the money is the big part of it.”
Visit Maidstone United’s website: www.maidstoneunited.co.uk
Maidstone United v Welling United
The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Saturday 25th October 2014
Kick Off 3:00pm
at James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1LQ