Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday or Pompey may lie in wait - but Hastings play it cool in the FA Cup
Hastings United are 90 minutes away from a potential FA Cup tie with Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday or Portsmouth – and manager Chris Agutter could not be more relaxed about it.
The Us have won through four rounds of the famous old competition to reach a fourth qualifying round tie away to National League Maidenhead tomorrow (Sat Oct 16).
If they win they will be in the first round proper alongside teams from League One and League Two, giving them the chance of their biggest game since their run to the third round in 2012-13.
But Agutter says they’re unfazed by the tie and what victory could mean for the club.
They’ve already won away to National League South side Chippenham in their run and the manager says this is another winnable tie.
“We’re just looking forward to testing ourselves against a National League team who have a good, experienced manager,” Agutter told the Observer.
“We’re not daunted by it as we seem to save our best performances for games with teams at higher levels.
“I have no worries sending the players out for this sort of game. They’ll be ready and up for it and don’t need any motivation from me.”
United have watched Maidenhead in the flesh and on video and Agutter says they’re a strong unit.
And he does not think the fact they are struggling in the National League – with only two wins from 10 so far – will have any bearing.
“League form doesn’t matter in these games. It’s what happens on the day,” he said.
“We’ll probably have more than 200 of our fans there, and if we draw or win then we’re in the draw for the first round.
“I’m not really excited about the thought of the first round at this stage. We will try to be the best version of ourselves and if that’s enough, that great; if not, we’ll be out and get on with the season.”
Hastings United CEO and chairman Billy Wood is excited by tomorrow’s tie – which comes eight days before the United women’s side continue their own FA Cup adventure away to Bromley.
“Maidenhead will be another test. It will be very tough but winnable,” said Wood.
“I don’t think we’ll get nervous. We’ll be excited for another challenge.
“And I think with the girls’ Bromley tie, the name probably makes it bigger than the club we’re facing.
“It’ll be a great tie and it will take place at Bromley’s ground which will be great for the girls.”
At Maidenhead, Hastings will be without striker Ben Pope – he has two more games of a ban for a harsh red card to sit out.
But James Hull proved an able deputy in last Saturday’s 2-0 FA Trophy win at home to Ashford United, in which Kenny Pogue also netted (report: hastingsobserver.co.uk).
Forward Lloyd Dawes is also out with another hamstring injury while Dave Martin and Tom Chalmers are doubts for the Cup tie.
Agutter said Ashford proved their toughest opponents of the season to date and he was delighted to reach the third qualifying round, in which they will host Felixstowe & Walton on Saturday, October 30.
Before that, and once the next dose of FA Cup excitement is over, United will get back to Isthmian south east league business.
They travel to Hythe Town on Tuesday – unless they have a replay with Maidenhead – then go to Phoenix Sports next Saturday.
Hastings are building up games in hand because of their Cup runs but Agutter says it’s not an issue.
“We will have a few Tuesday night games in order to catch up and we say ‘bring them on’. We have a very good record in floodlit midweek games. Playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday seems to suit us.
“And a lot of teams around us are beating each other and dropping points in the league while we’re not playing.”