Published 3rd March 2012
...League First Division club into the semi-finals when they go head-to-head against Sydenhams Football League (Wessex) Premier Division side Bournemouth Poppies in their first ever FA Carlsberg Vase Quarter-Final today.
The West squad set off Friday afternoon for the south coast, and Dixon, who made the 600-mile round trip in midweek to spy on their opponents, said: “Our team spirit is fantastic, and that will be an important factor. It has carried us through these last three seasons, to this stage of the Vase and to the top of the Northern league table. We all socialise together, play together and win together.
“Even the players who are unable to play, John Campbell and Elliott Gardner, are making the trip down. There are no cliques, every player we sign we make sure that they can fit into our dressing room.
“Team spirit aside, we must be at our best, and perform like we did in the second half against Spennymoor last Saturday. We can’t afford to start slowly.
“The bottom line is, there are no mugs in the competition now. Bournemouth are a good team, they’ve done well in the FA Cup, and they’ve won five home games in the Vase so far.
“I don’t know how much I learned in midweek, they only used half of the players from the previous Saturday, and used a different formation. But Billingham Synthonia have been very good and have sent us a DVD of their game and given us a rundown on them.”
Billy Irwin, manager of the other Northern League side left in the competition, Dunston UTS, is hoping that the experience of playing in last season's quarter-finals will be a decisive factor when they take on ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties Leaguers Peterborough Northern Star.
The Tynesiders reached the Quarter-Finals last season, only to be beaten by Whitley Bay in a thrilling tie that saw Whitley go through and finally lift the trophy for the third successive season.
But Irwin feels that his players have benefited from the experience of that day. “Quite a few players are still involved in the club that played in the Whitley game last season and know how to approach the game and how to react in certain situations. It’s all in our own hands, and we must keep playing the way we have been recently. We’ve certainly had some good preparation, because we’ve played Bedlington in two tough league games.
“I’ve watched Peterborough in action, and they’re a decent side, and they play on a good pitch. They have some good players, but we’ve also got a few players that can change a game.
“They don’t have big crowds though. They will probably have more than normal for our game, but we’ll be taking down at least eighty supporters, and they can make a big difference.
“We played in front of 700 at Wisbech Town two rounds ago, and the fans behind the goal were breathing down our keeper’s neck, but I think it will be different this time.”
Dunston expect to be at full strength, except for striker Micky Chilton, who is cup-tied. (Ray Simpson)
Staveley Miners Welfare’s chairman Terry Damms labelled today’s Quarter-Final against ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division side St Ives Town as the Baris Northern Counties East League Premier Division club’s "biggest ever game".
The Welfare, who reached the last eight of the competition for the first time in their history after beating Oadby Town 2-1, go into the home game as favourites to take another step towards Wembley and into the last four.
But while chairman Damms played down the potential appearance at the national stadium, he admitted the size of the occasion at Inkersall Road on Saturday.
"With what we’ve got on - a league campaign as well as other cups - we haven’t really thought about the ‘W’ word yet," he said.
"This is as far as the club’s ever got. In some respects, it has to be the club’s biggest game ever, just on the fact that it’s a national competition."
Placed third in the NCEL after promotion from Division One last season, Staveley have more than one competition on their mind going into today’s tie as this month looks to be key in deciding the outcome of their campaign.
"March will determine our season," said Damms. "We’ve got two quarter-finals, we might have a third and we’ve got league games.
"Come the end of March, we’ll have a good idea of how good this season’s been."
The eventual winners of the FA Vase would accumulate over £30,000 from the prize find and Damms admitted: "Yes, the prize money would help. It would go into developing the football club."
But Staveley’s chairman, who has been at the club since 2009, denied that there was any financial pressure on manager Billy Fox when asked.
"There’s none whatsoever. I haven’t even thought about it."
St Ives beat Gresley FC, another Derbyshire team, 4-0 in their last-sixteen game two weeks ago.
Two goals from star striker Conor Washington and one each from captain Lee Ellison and substitute Scott Fielding did the damage that day.
And that’s why the club’s secretary Simon Clark is so confident that St Ives will be in the draw for the semi on Monday.
“If we perform like we did against Gresley then there is no-one who can match us,” he said.
Plus, he was keen to point out the 200 to 250 fans who will travel north will play such an important part, too. “We can generate such an amazing atmosphere. If the fans are like they were at Long Eaton, Peacehaven and Tunbridge Wells in previous rounds that will help the players.”
Washington and his strike partner Junior McDougald were both ‘rested’ for St Ives’ 4-0 away win at Thrapston Town last Saturday, having both picked up slight knocks in their midweek League Cup victory over Bugbrooke St Michaels.
It is 19-year-old Washington who will be the team’s major threat up front again - but because of his absence from the team sheet, the representatives from Stavelely who visited Thrapston may still be unaware of just how good he is. When Washington is on song, he can tear a defence a part - especially at this level.
After the last round, Gresley’s manager Gary Norton was clear in his praise for the youngster. “We’d done our homework on him and we knew he was a great player with pace and good movement,” he said, adding: “He was mustard!
“Washington uses his body fantastically well for a small guy and he caused us problems all afternoon.”
Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division club Shortwood United could move to within sight of a dream Wembley final if they defeat Kent Hurlimann League side Herne Bay in the quarter-finals today.
A bumper crowd is expected at Meadowbank as John Evans' men seek a place in a two-legged semi-final. Wood warmed up for their big day by earning a place in the AM Print and Copy Floodlit Cup final with a 4-0 success at Maidenhead United reserves on Tuesday.
Assistant boss Mark Sumpter took control of the game as Evans decided to rest a number of his first-team players with tomorrow's game in mind.
Joey Tustain bagged a brace while Alton Axton and veteran Andy Hoskins both scored one apiece to earn a place in the final against Binfield.
Herne Bay were also victorious in the semi-final of the Kent League Cup on Tuesday, defeating AFC Pheonix 1-0.
The Bay are currently eleven points clear at the top of the Kent Premier Division table.