Trophy tie holds no fear for boss
THE Stones will travel to Conference National side Southport with no fear as they attempt to relive the magic of 2011-12 in the FA Trophy on Saturday, writes Jon Batham.
So says boss Gordon Bartlett, who led the then-Ryman Premier League side to the semi-finals of non-league football’s premier cup competition in Olympic year, claiming the scalps of Conference sides Barrow and Cambridge United en route.
Conference South outfit Dartford were another of the victims in that epic run five years ago. Therefore, while Bartlett is happy to wear the underdog tag for the trip to the northern seaside town, he isn’t ruling out another upset.
“This evokes memories of beating Barrow and then Cambridge in the quarter final a few years ago,” said the Stones manager. “They were fine days and ones that prove we have done it before.
“We are technically a better side than we were back then, with more ability in the group and [we are] a better passing side. If we can match the energy of the opposition, we will be in with a shout.
“It is a long trip, but the way we are playing we will give everyone a game. Their league status alone says they should be better than us so we are the underdogs, but they don’t frighten us.”
The ‘Sandgrounders’ find themselves at the wrong end of the Conference National table ahead of the cup clash, giving Bartlett reason to hope they may be distracted by relegation fears.
Nevertheless he is aware of their scoring prowess, and with his defensive resources stretched despite both Wes Parker and Tom Hamblin being back on the bench for Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at home to title-chasing Ebbsfleet, Bartlett is not underestimating the challenge.
“They have a home game with Barrow on Tuesday which, if they lose, means they are in a dogfight,” added the Wealdstone boss. “I know they have had injuries and are running with a small squad, but I’ve read they are trying to bring players in on loan. They score a lot of goals at home, having had some 5-4s and 4-3s, so it should be quite an open game.”
Meanwhile, Bartlett has added to last week’s capture of former West Ham man Nathan Mavila by turning defender Liam Goulding’s loan from Accrington Stanley into a permanent signing.