Battle gunning for place in national final

Battle Baptists celebrate their opening goal against Cleanslate in the quarter-finals.

Battle Baptists celebrate their opening goal against Cleanslate in the quarter-finals.

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Battle Baptists manager Gary Walsh says it ‘would mean everything’ for the football club to reach the National Christian Cup final.

The Macron East Sussex Football League Premier Division high-flyers will host Christ Central (SE London) in the semi-finals of the prestigious nationwide competition tomorrow (Saturday).

Walsh said: “Ever since we had the final in 2013 (when Battle played in the lower grade National Christian Trophy final at Northampton Town FC), we’ve wanted to do it again.

“We’ve been disappointed not to get very far in the competition (in previous seasons) and it would mean everything to us (to reach the final). We’ll be feeling so fantastic if we’re through to the final on Saturday night.

“We’ve got another final to look forward to (in the league’s Premier Travel Challenge Cup), but it (the National Christian Cup) is the one competition that all season our players have been looking to the next game and taking a big interest in.”

Battle have convincingly made it through their three National Christian Cup ties so far this term, beating 2016 finalists St Mary’s West Croydon (Surrey) and Cleanslate (Milton Keynes) 4-1 either side of a 5-0 victory away to St Albans Romans (Herts).

Harry Loates on the ball during Battle's quarter-final victory.

Harry Loates on the ball during Battle's quarter-final victory.

And their form in general is red hot. The Baptists have won 14 of their last 15 matches in all competitions, scoring 13 goals and conceding none in their most recent four.

“The way we’re playing at the moment is terrific; it’s just such a blessing,” continued Walsh. “You never know what might be round the corner, but defensively we’re very, very strong at the moment.”

Battle’s opponents tomorrow, though, are also enjoying a splendid season. Christ Central saw off Ruislip Baptist (Middlesex) 4-0 in the quarter-finals having previously beaten Emmanuel Croydon (Surrey) 2-0, FC Cornerstone (Stevenage) 5-2 and Gold Hill Baptist (Bucks) 3-1.

“I don’t know a great deal about them, but you look at their league position and results, and they’re in a similar situation to us,” Walsh went on.

Dean Boyd lays the ball off during Battle's 4-1 victory against Cleanslate.

Dean Boyd lays the ball off during Battle's 4-1 victory against Cleanslate.

“They’re sitting second in their league with enough games in hand to get them to the top, they’re scoring just under three goals a game which is very similar to us and they’re conceding just a little bit more than a goal a game which is very similar to us.

“Something has got to give hasn’t it. One team will be in the final and the other won’t be. It’s a fantastic occasion isn’t it and I do feel like we’ve got a great chance.

“We’ve got home advantage and we’re hoping to see a good crowd out there supporting us. That certainly gave us that extra advantage against Cleanslate when we had so many people there supporting us.”

Battle have everyone available apart from influential midfielder Glen Carrick, who picked up a heavy knock in last weekend’s league fixture against Westfield II but is unavailable in any case.

Trystan Mayhew, a similarly combative player, is an ideal replacement, though.

Kick-off at Battle Recreation Ground is 2pm and the club will be offering refreshments for spectators in the pavilion.

The other semi-final, incidentally, is between two clubs from Liverpool - Elm Hall Dons and Bridge Chapel. The final will be played on a date and at a venue to be announced, probably at a Football League ground some time in May.

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