Hastings United’s footballers must be ‘on their toes’ to avoid being on the receiving end of an FA Cup upset today (Saturday).
That’s the verdict of manager Darren Hare as the U’s prepare to visit lower grade Camberley Town in a preliminary round tie worth £3,000 to the winners from the FA’s prize fund.
Hare said: “I think it’s important for the coffers to at least get through this round if we can and maybe the next one. We need to make sure we’re on our toes and looking forward to the game.”
United have picked up eight points from their first four Ryman Football League Division One South matches, while Camberley have taken six from five in the Combined Counties Football League Premier Division, which is one level further down the non-league pyramid.
Although Camberley play at the same level as the Cray Valley (PM) side which United comfortably saw off 2-0 in the previous round, Hare is expecting a ‘much tougher’ assignment this time.
“We’ve had them watched twice, and they’ve got energy, pace and a bit of quality so it’s not going to be easy,” continued Hare, who says his team will adopt a similar approach to the Cray Valley tie.
In-form loan striker Jay May is ineligible, but fellow forwards Frannie Collin and Bright Temba returned from injury last weekend without any ill-effects.
Hare is hoping Matt Bodkin (hamstring) will be fit after sitting out Monday’s 2-0 win over East Grinstead Town, while Steve Watt (calf) is doubtful for tomorrow but hopes to be fit for the league match at home to Sittingbourne on Tuesday night (or FA Cup replay should today’s tie end in a draw). Richard Davies will return to the defence.
May’s 30-day loan from Maidstone United will finish next weekend and Hare believes it’s unlikely that the six-goal forward will stay at The Pilot Field beyond that initial month.
“Unfortunately that (his goal return) could mean Maidstone will want him back,” Hare said. “I think they’re still short of a forward. At the moment anyway I don’t think we’ll be extending his loan, but 10 days is a long time in football and things could change. I’d say there’s only a 20 percent chance.”
Hare is still looking to strengthen, though, and says there could be one or two developments on that front by the league fixture against Godalming Town next weekend. It’s possible one or two players may be let go to make way for any arrivals.
Although unbeaten in their five games in all competitions so far this term, Hare says United will play better as the season progresses.
He said: “Eight points from four games - that’s two points a game - so I can’t be too disappointed with that. We’re still finding our feet, that bit of confidence and our match fitness if I’m honest.
“It hasn’t been an easy start (with several early season injuries), but we’re ploughing through it. I think we’ve got character and I don’t think there’s going to be many days where we don’t have a go.”
Hare added that he’d never seen a game like last Saturday’s 3-3 draw away to Chipstead, in which United recovered from 3-0 down to draw level by half time, and was happy to come away with a point. He said he will settle for the three points from Monday’s victory, but felt his team was still in a bit of a daze from Saturday’s game during the first half.
TODAY'S FOOTBALL FIXTURES
1st round qualifying (3pm)
Camberley Town v Hastings United
MACRON STORE SOUTHERN COMBINATION FOOTBALL LEAGUE (3pm)
Little Common v Oakwood
Selsey v Bexhill United
Rustington v Westfield
MACRON EAST SUSSEX FOOTBALL LEAGUE (3pm unless stated)
Battle Baptists v Robertsbridge United (2pm)
Hawkhurst United v St Leonards Social
Hollington United v Sedlescombe Rangers (2pm)
Ore Athletic v Eastbourne Rangers
Westfield II v Rock-a-Nore
Crowhurst v Little Common II
Icklesham Casuals v Wadhurst United
Mountfield United v Bexhill Town
Northiam 75 v Rye Town (2pm)
The JC Tackleway v Herstmonceux
Hastings Rangers v Mayfield (2pm)
St Leonards Social II v Hastings Athletic
Ticehurst v Peche Hill Select
Westfield III v Bexhill AAC
Battle Baptists II v Punnetts Town (4pm)
Hailsham Athletico v Catsfield
Hollington United II v Bexhill Rovers (4pm)
Pebsham Sibex v Bexhill United II
Sedlescombe Rangers II v Orington
Bexhill AAC II v The JC Tackleway II
Magham Down v Victoria Baptists
Mayfield II v Sandhurst
Parkfield v Hawkhurst United II
Sovereign Saints v West Hill United
Bexhill Spartans v Battle Baptists III
Hampden Park v Robertsbridge United II
Northiam 75 II v Cranbrook Town (4pm)
Sedlescombe Rangers III v Bexhill Broncos (4pm)
West Hill United II v Wittersham II
See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!