Chichester City head into their biggest game in decades bidding for a place among the big boys in the first round of the FA Cup with their boss telling them: We’ll have to be much better than last week.
Manager Miles Rutherford says City will ‘get a good hiding’ in their fourth qualifying round tie away to Bowers and Pitsea if they play at the same level that got them knocked out of the FA Trophy at Barton Rovers last Saturday.
The City boss is hoping that performance, which resulted in a 4-2 defeat, was a one-off and partly down to some players having their minds already on the FA Cup tie. But he is looking for a big improvement in Essex, where City stand on the brink of national fame.
Chi have already come through five rounds of the Cup this season, most recently beating Isthmian premier side Enfield Town 1-0, with a dramatic late strike by Lloyd Rowlatt getting them through in front of 500-plus at a rocking Oaklands Park.
They’ve earned £27,640 with their run so far and the winners of Saturday’s tie at the Len Salmon Stadium in Basildon will net a cool £18,750.
More importantly, they’ll gain a ball in Monday’s draw for the first round proper, which will feature League One and League Two clubs.
The prospect of a tie against Pompey, Sunderland, Ipswich, Coventry or one of the other big league clubs is something the players must at least try to forget as they focus on Saturday’s game.
It is another against a team from the Isthmian premier, one step above Chi’s Isthmian south-east division.
This is already City’s best FA Cup run since 1967-68 and if they reach the first round it will be for only the second time in their history.
The previous occasion was in 1960, when they lost 11-0 to Bristol City.
Rutherford said: “Both ourselves and Bowers and Pitsea are probably feeling the same right now.
“Both clubs desperately want to be in that draw on Monday. It’s massive for whoever gets through and we want that to be us.
“Getting to the first round would be a massive achievement. This is the big chance for both sides.
“Bowers and Pitsea will be favourites but we don’t mind that.
“I’d like the players to treat it as another game and our build-up and preparation will be the same.
“Whichever team doesn’t succumb to nerves will probably be the one that gets through.
“We’ve been exceptional to get this far and in fact the only game this season in which the lads have let themselves down was on Saturday at Barton.
“I don’t know if it was because some had an eye on the FA Cup game but we were awful in both boxes and if we play like that this weekend we will get a good hiding.
“You have to allow yourselves one bad day and hopefull we have had ours.”
Bowers and Pitsea are in the bottom three of the Isthmian premier with only two league wins from nine games but Rutherford warned that could be a false position. “I think they’re better than their position suggests,” he said.
Chi will be without prolific scorer Scott Jones in Essex but otherwise have a full squad and Rutherford said they had enough in-form attacking players to cope without their surfing striker.
“We’ll be training hard and then be ready to hit the road on Saturday,” he said. “There are two coaches of our fans going and it should be a great occasion.”