Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Final preview - Northwich Victoria v Chertsey Town
Thu 14th March 2019 | FA Challenge Vase | By Ian Templeman
Northwich Victoria are once again gearing up for a big cup day, as they prepare to host Chertsey Town in the Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Final first leg at Wincham Park on Saturday.
It’s been a memorable journey for Vics to get to this stage of the competition, and with two games against their opponents from the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties Football League standing between them and a trip to Wembley for the final, the scene is set for two cracking games over the next two Saturdays.
Opponents Chertsey Town will be facing opponents from our league for the second time in the competition this season, having beaten Irlam 2-0 at the Ambitek Stadium in a Fifth Round tie, and Vics manager Steve Wilkes was soon on the phone to Irlam manager Michael Dodd after the darw was made.
"I spoke to Michael, we had a chat when the draw was made and I spoke to him on Tuesday as well. He gave us one or two tips, and they are obviously a good side, and have only lost once in the league all season.
"Any team that gets to the last four of the Vase are going to be a good side, but they will be saying the same about us.
"I'm sure when the draw was made they didn't want us and we didn't want Chertsey, but that is hand we've been dealt so we use every bit of help you can get you take".
Since the win at Irlam, the Club nicknamed The Curfews have won four and drawn one of their five games, which included an impressive 2-0 up at West Auckland Town in the Vase quarter final.
When they played Irlam they were top of their league, but at the moment are in second place, one point behind Sutton Common Rovers at the top, but have five games in hand due to their cup exploits, and have warmed up for Saturday by scoring eight goals in their last two games.
But Vics have overcome some tough tests in previous rounds and Steve is confident that the team can step up to the mark once again.
"In the last few rounds we have been the underdogs, we went to Newcastle Benfield and Histon, and then at home to Sholing, under no pressure, we weren't favourites.
"I think the team that settles better in the opening 20 minutes might go on to win the game, but nerves will play a part for both sides, and I think over the two games the team that can handle the nerves and the occasion will win".
Semi-finals in the Vase are, of course, two legged affairs, and Steve sees no issue in being drawn at home in the first leg
"Not many people get to play or manage in a two-legged semi-final, especially when there is so much at stake.
"People were saying to me after the Sholing game do you want to be drawn home or away first, and I was saying home first.
"I'm not sure it makes a massive difference, and I don't think you can win the tie in the first leg but you can lose it.
"Obviously, there's an advantage of being at home in the second leg is if it goes to extra time you have an extra 30 minutes at home.
"But if we are going down there in the second leg and don't have a big lead or it's a draw or even if we are a goal down, everyone will be expecting Chertsey to win. The pressure is then all on them, they are at home and people will expect them to finish the job off.
"As a manager, I think I have only ever won a two legged tie once, when I was at Runcorn Linnets. That first leg was at Wincham Park, and we lost 2-1 to Silsden in the League Challenge Cup semi-final, then went up to Silsden and won 2-0 in the second leg to get to the final.
"We'll approach like a one-off game and try and get a result, and then do the same the following week down there, just as we have done in all the other games".
So as Saturday approaches, Steve says everyone at the club is gearing up for another memorable day.
"We're excited, nervous, apprehensive. It's a game we've been looking forward to since the draw was made.
"We hope the weather holds out and we need to have a pitch inspection on Friday, with Chertsey travelling up on Friday night. The forecast for Friday is OK but it's not very good for Saturday, but we are hoping to get the game played.
"If was off it would mean we played at home on the 23rd and away on the 30th, which causes massive problems with our league fixtures as we are behind with them at the minute. So fingers crossed we'll be OK.
"It's a two legged affair, so at 5 o'clock on Saturday no matter what the score is, it's only half time and we've got to go down there the following week.
"We're looking forward to it, we've got a full squad to choose from, so bring on Saturday and let's hope we get a good crowd on".