Despite our elation at the win at Leatherhead Mark and myself chose to carry out our normal interview on the coach on the way back to Hitchin. While we were on cloud 9 we wanted to give supporters the inside view from Mark straight after a pulsating game:
SATURDAY – HOME TO LEATHERHEAD
The first 20 minutes saw both teams cautiously probing one another and probably Leatherhead were in the ascendancy. Their cause was boosted with the sending off of Jay Dowie and whilst I thought the referee could have chosen to issue a yellow card instead at such an early stage of the game I could not really complain that he showed a red card.
We had been playing a diamond formation but were forced to switch to a 4-3-1-1 formation. All the players worked tremendously hard and were very disciplined in their jobs and we came in 0-0 at half time. We then suffered a massive blow just after half time when we conceded a goal from a corner when we did not react in the penalty box. Immediately after the restart we were denied a penalty when Isaac Galliford went down in the box. I stand by Isaac in saying that he did not dive and should not have been booked for simulation.
Fortunately we responded well after going behind and got our equaliser from a stonewall penalty. Josh Bickerstaff was happy to take the penalty despite missing from the spot at Bedworth last Saturday and I admired his bravery and guts. After scoring I felt we were the better side and in the last ten minutes could have stolen victory.
Can I say what a fantastic response there was from the Hitchin public and the attendance of 1,278 created a great atmosphere. Overall I was happy to get a draw after playing 70 minutes with 10 men and it guaranteed we would still host the draw the F A Cup First Round.
MONDAY – THE CUP DRAW
I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening on Monday when we staged the draw for the F A Cup First Round live from Canary Club. It was great to meet mark Chapman, Dion Dublin and Denis Wise together with the other guests. I think the programme came out good natured and humorous and everyone present enjoyed it. As for the draw while it would have been nice to draw a League team at least it was another home tie if we won the replay.
WEDNESDAY – AWAY TO LEATHERHEAD
We had decided on an early departure of 3.30pm because of the possibility of the M25 being a problem. But the best laid plans do not always work out and the realities of non league football hit home. Due to problems in getting away from work we lost more than half an hour waiting for a player and member of the backroom staff. It meant a near 3 hour journey with no chance of a relaxing stop on route which is not the ideal preparation for such a big game. Indeed I think the long journey affected our start to the game and up to the time Leatherhead scored we were not playing well. However I think the goal possibly relieved a lot of pressure and we started to relax and play some of our best football of the season.
We then suffered a crushing blow by conceding a penalty on the stroke of half time but Michael Johnson made an excellent save which proved the pivotal point of the game. As the half time whistle blew our supporters were celebrating as if they had scored a goal while it lifted our players and definitely had an adverse affect on the Leatherhead players.
In the second half I felt we played some good football but needed to get some fresh legs on. I wanted to use Dan Webb’s strength in the air in both our defence and attack while I knew Scott Belgrove would work tirelessly so could make an impact. We got the equaliser and the game became very open. There were chances at both ends but a draw after 90 minutes was probably a fair result.
I felt the team were really up for the challenge of extra time and we got the reward of a very well worked goal. The last five minutes were tense and seemed to drag on but the players got their reward for all the hard work. It was also a reward for our supporters who travelled in such great numbers and really got behind the team which we really appreciated.
We must now turn our thoughts to the F A Trophy and League games and again park the F A Cup journey for a couple of weeks.
HAYES AND YEADING
This will be a difficult tie as Hayes and Yeading are having a good season while we needed penalties to beat them in the League Cup last season. It is my job to manage the jubilation after Wednesday and ensure the players concentrate on the job in hand and are focused.
Under new joint managers Kings Lynn have only lost once since September and they retain 75% of the squad that reached the play-offs. So again it will be difficult but I know how important it is that we do not get cut adrift in the table in our cup run.