Saturday see’s Spartans in the FA Cup 3rd qualifying round attempting to win at home in at this stage for the first time since October 2003, when goals from and Mark Atkinson and Michael Laws dispatched Halesowen Town in a 2-1 win in front of 667. That game may have actually been managed by Graham Fenton, as then manager Paul Baker was out with a back injury. Conveniently this was also the last time we got a home draw at this stage as well.
This weekend’s opponents are of course Worksop Town, once regular opponents of Spartans in the 2000’s and early 2010’s, even once handing Spartans an 8-1 thrashing back in October 2012 while a young Dan Maguire sat on the bench as an unused substitute. Worksop would then drop down to the Northern Counties East League (equivalent of the Northern League) due to financial issues and even had to move away from their home ground for a time.
They’d finally win promotion out of that league in 2019, before winning the Northern Premier League Division One East last season by an incredible 31 points while only losing once in the league as they wrapped up the title in March, winning the league with 7 games to go.
This season they currently sit 7th in the league and only 1 point outside the play offs, winning 5 out of their last 6 games with their only recent blip coming at the hands of league leaders Radcliffe, in a 4-3 thriller last weekend before they bounced back on Tuesday night against as they beat Matlock Town 2-0. Given their form over the past 14 months or so, it’s safe to say they’ll go into Saturday’s game with every confidence.
Since 2020 they’ve been managed by Craig Parry who had previously won a few promotions at Pontefract prior to leading The Tigers to last season’s impressive promotion and at the rate he’s going. He’ll no doubt be managing in the NLN in the very near future, be that with or out without Worksop.
Over the past 2 seasons he’s recruited a lot of experienced NPL/NLN players. Captain and well-travelled centre back Hamza Bencherif is one of those players, having racked up a lot of appearances in the Football League, National League and National League North before joining Worksop last summer. A tall and physical presence with a wealth of experience at this level and higher, though he likely won’t be able to deal with any of our pacey players.
Alongside him in defence should be 6’5 defender George Taft who joined them from Scunthorpe United this summer. Another experienced centre back, Taft will play a similar sort of game to Bencherif so it’s safe to say crosses into the box will be swatted away often by them. NLN journeyman Josh Wilde features at left back, having spent the past decade at the likes of Halifax, Alfreton, North Ferriby (before they went to shit), Gainsborough Trinity and Buxton. A pacey player who’s certainly capable of hoying a cross in, he’ll be hard to deal with on Saturday.
Former Poland international and Lechia Gdańsk goalkeeper Sebastian Małkowski is usually the man in between the sticks, though he’s not been seen since the middle of August and young Barnsley loanee Paul Cooper has been the man wearing the number one shirt of late.
In midfield, former Republic Of Ireland centre midfielder Paul Green rejoined The Tigers this summer. The 40-year-old who counts Leeds United, Derby County, Doncaster and Rotherham as former clubs is a well renowned and respected player, capable of both picking a pass and kicking the fuck out of someone. Terry Hawkridge will likely partner him midfield. He’s another experienced but capable midfielder who can pick a pass and will no doubt pose a bit of a goal threat, feeding off the scraps of the big lad(s) up front.
The club’s top scorer with 8 goals this season is former Darlington player Liam Hughes. An out and out Target Man with a strong physical presence, Hughes has scored most of the goals this season with his heed from crosses into the box from wingers/full backs, so that’ll be something we obviously need to try and prevent. As well as Hughes, Jacob Hanson is another ariel threat up top. Though most of us in the crowd could beat him over 20 yards, 35-year-old Hanson who spent most of his career in the Football League will be a headache to deal with, should he be brought on. A younger and more pacey threat will likely come from Striker/CAM Vaughen Redford, who has so far notched 5 goals this term in a supporting role alongside/behind Hughes. The average age of Worksop’s squad is just shy of 30, so a physical and direct style of play from them.
As for Spartans, we go into the into this game with 2 wins in 5 games, which is also conveniently the same as our record at this stage in competition in recent years, with wins over Chorley and Gainsborough Trinity but defeats at Marske, Guiseley and Hednesford. Spartans have notched 10 goals in those 5 league games though so hopefully the goals will continue to flow come Saturday.
Injury wise, hopefully Rhys Evans will be involved come Saturday. Lewis Knight may make the squad and as for Billy Gordon, no news on him. Sounds like it’s all but confirmed that Nicky Deverdics will be back in action thankfully though. Given that we can have 7 subs for an FA Cup, so young centre midfielder Oscar Hartley may once again make the matchday.
With it being the FA Cup and with the last 2 home performances still fresh in the memory, I’ve ne doubt the lads will be keen to put on a display akin to some of the performances throughout August and secure passage to the 4th QR, where the competition starts to really drum up interest. That being said, Worksop will be coming up to the North East full of confidence.
As for off the field stuff, Shy’s Pies will be on sale once again this Saturday after Piefacae’s annual day off. Oh and the burger van will be round the other side near the club shop like it was last week, as that unit is far too big to fit around the other side near the fanzone.
As ever the clubhouse will be open from midday, with Aston Villa vs Brighton on the big screen as the featured game on TNT Sports. Ne segregation is in place for Saturday either.
So far only Willy Hill and Betfred are offering odds on the match and of course we are favourites for now at the moment, though were hardly worth hoying a ton on the odds for us to get a win aren’t superb.
Hope to see as many of you as possible for the match and a pint before/after in the clubhouse as it is the FA Cup and most importantly of all, payday weekend!