Wembley is a dream for anyone involved in football, says Ashford United coach John Ovard
The Southern Counties East Football League leaders have defeated Steyning Town (2-0); Cobham (4-1); Greenwich Borough (4-1), Littlehampton Town (1-0) and Tring Athletic (1-0) to reach the last 32.
Paul Chambers’ side travel to Hanwell Town in the Fourth Round, knowing that the club are only four wins away from playing in the showpiece Final, which will be played at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 10 May.
Standing in their way, however, are Hanwell Town, who are in second-place in the Spartan South Midlands Premier (the same level as Ashford) with 19 wins and one draw from 21 games, four points adrift of leaders Ampthill Town, but with five games in hand.
The Magpies, managed by Ray Duffy, are playing at this stage of the competition for the first time in their history – like Ashford United - having defeated Kentish Town (4-3); London APSA (4-1); Great Yarmouth Town (2-1) and thrashed Simon Halsey’s Lordswood 5-0 at home in the last round.
“Everyone associated at the club is really looking forward to the game,” said Ovard.
“There’s no pressure on us going there so we can go and try to perform to the levels we know we can.”
Ashford United are the only Kent club left in a competition that can get you to Wembley – Dover Athletic and Ebbsfleet United were both knocked out of The FA Trophy by Eastleigh and Havant & Waterlooville last weekend.
Deal Town won the FA Vase under Tommy Sampson in 2000, while Martin Larkin’s Tunbridge Wells reached last season’s final, when they went down to a brave 2-1 defeat to Northern League outfit Spennymoor Town.
“To be the only team in our league still in the competition means we will try to carry the Kent flag and get a result,” said Ovard.
“We’ve done our background work on them which most club’s at this stage of the competition should, so we know they are a good side and their strengths, but will certainly try to exploit their weaknesses.
“Wembley is a dream for anyone involved in football and obviously people remember what Tunbridge Wells did last year but we are concentrating on Saturday’s game first and foremost, nothing else.”
Ashford United are two points clear of Whyteleafe at the top of the Southern Counties East Football League table, with 39 points from fourteen games.
They will travel to Phoenix Sports in the last eight of the Kent Senior Trophy and travel to Erith Town in the League Cup Quarter-Final Second Leg next Tuesday, after losing the first leg 1-0 at Homelands.
Ashford United must play a lot of football between now and the end of the season.
But Ovard said: “The (Hanwell) fixture may be in doubt due to the weather along with a lot of games this weekend and to be honest all the clubs in our league are in the same boat with a backlog, so we have to try to be prepared the best as possible to handle what’s thrown at us.”
Ashford United were promoted after two seasons in the Kent Invicta League after finishing in third-place in the table last season, 12 points adrift of promoted champions Phoenix Sports.
Ovard said: “As Paul (Chambers) and I have stated we have had a good start to Kent League football especially considering other teams at the top, budgets and experience at this level compared to ours.
“It’s been a good start but that’s it. The players have been brilliant in terms of quality and attitude but now we have to try to have a good second part and we’ll see what we can achieve together.”
The club have confirmed that they will be taking a strong travelling contingent to west London on Saturday.
Ovard said: “We can guarantee our supporters we will always try to reward their loyalty with effort and play football the way it should be played. The club, players, myself and Paul thank them for their continued support.”
Meanwhile, there will be a 10:00 pitch inspection on Saturday morning to see if the game goes ahead.
Visit Ashford United’s website: www.ashfordunitedfc.com
Hanwell Town v Ashford United
The FA Carlsberg Vase Fourth Round
Saturday 18th January 2014
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Reynolds Field, Perivale Lane, Perivale, Greenford, Middlesex UB6 8TL