FA VASE finalist Paul Smith is plotting a record-breaking run for Walsham-le-Willows as they prepare to hit the Wembley trail on Sunday.
The Willows’ first qualifying round tie at Essex Olympian League outfit Harold Hill has been moved back 24 hours so Hill can make use of Ryman League Brentwood Town’s ground for the national competition.
Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division outfit Walsham ply their trade two levels above Hill – formerly known as Mountnessing – and with ‘winnable’ ties already plotted for the following two rounds, Willows boss Smith is hoping his side can at least equal their club record run to the second round proper of 2010/11.
“The FA Vase has been part of my life,” said Smith, who played in three semi-finals with Sudbury Town and also reached the 1988/89 final, playing in front of 26,487 fans at Wembley before losing to Tamworth in a replay at Peterborough United’s ground.
“I know how good this competition can be and if you get through to the last 32, anything can happen – to win through a few rounds would be brilliant for the club.”
Should Walsham overcome Harold Hill – winning £500 in the process – they would host either Stowmarket Town or Stansted on September 15 in the second qualifying round, ahead of a potential first round proper clash at Stanway Rovers, Debenham LC or Hadleigh United on October 13.
“We’ve been unfortunate in the FA Vase and had very hard games early on without being able to get on a little run,” said Smith, who was not in charge when Walsham reached the second round proper in 2010/11 before losing 3-1 to Witham Town.
“This year we’ve been fortunate with a match against a team in a lower league.
“We are looking at this competition to really motivate us for the season.
“If we can stay in it up until Christmas, we can hopefully take our league form with it.”
Central midfielder Ryan Foster is unavailable and emerging talent Ben Reece suspended, but club captain James Tatham is in line for a recall to the starting XI after being on the bench in Walsham’s 1-0 success over Stanway Rovers on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mildenhall Town will have to dislodge a rather large thorn from their sides to progress to the second qualifying round when they travel to bogey team – and Thurlow Nunn First Division title hopefuls – Newmarket Town tomorrow (3pm).
Hall – who reached the fifth round proper of the FA Vase in 2005/06 and 2006/07 – have not won at the Town Ground since September 4, 2007, drew both league encounters as the Jockeys slumped to relegation last season and have only succeeded in beating Newmarket once out of their last five meetings.
“They always seem to raise their game when they play us and it is a local derby,” said manager Christian Appleford, whose side will come up against former players Aaron Turner, Shaun Avis and Ricky Cornish. “We just have to make sure we play how we have over the last few weeks.”
Mildenhall will be without Carl Murkin, Isaac Jagroop, Paul Jones and Steve Holder, but welcome back Owen Paynter, while Alex Steed is in line for a recall to the starting line-up.
The winners of the tie will pocket £500 and earn a trip to Great Yarmouth Town on Gorleston on September 15, with the chance then to go on and face Burnham Ramblers – conquerors of Walsham in this season’s FA Cup – in the first round proper.
Mildenhall’s Thurlow Nunn Premier clash at CRC was abandoned after 37 minutes due to rain on Saturday, with the score locked at 0-0.