FOOTBALL: CARL ADAMS and his Stratford Town players will be fired up tomorrow to remedy the one failure in three years of record-breaking success.
While Town have charged up three leagues in three years, their record in knockout competitions had been hugely underwhelming, especially in the most headline-grabbing competition of all, the FA Cup.
Tomorrow, Town kick off on the road to Wembley when they entertain Coalville Town at the DCS Stadium in a first qualifying round tie.
More than the financial rewards – tomorrow’s winner will pocket £3,000 prize money – Town would love a chance to shine in the brightest spotlight of all. They have not won an FA Cup tie 2011 when they equaled their best ever run by reaching the third qualifying round.
“I had one good Cup run when I was manager of Coleshill Town but I’ve not done anything at Stratford, which is annoying,” said Adams. “It’s the one thing missing on my CV at Stratford. As well as we have done in the league, we’ve been poor in the FA Cup.
“It’s something we want to change because, for a non-League club, nothing beats a good run in the FA Cup.”
Stratford were top of the table last season when they headed to Leicestershire minnows Blaby & Whetstone but ended up being the victims of a giant-killing.
They will again be the favourites tomorrow against Coalville but their opponents from the Evo-Stik Northern Division One South are pushing for top spot so Adams knows Stratford must be on top of their game.
“I don’t think the draw has been kind to us in the sense that Coalville are flying and they are a good team,” he added. “We know we are going to need to be at our best, we need to show the right mentality against a strong opponent.
“The most important thing is that we’ve got a home draw. For the past three years, we’ve always been strong at home.”
That form on home soil was again in evidence last Saturday when Town hit back from conceding first to defeat Kettering Town 2-1 for a first win in six matches in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier.
Despite falling behind to a Gary Mulligan header on 18 minutes, Town equalised four minutes later through an Edwin Ahenkorah penalty, awarded after Dior Angus was flattened.
The winner came after 62 minutes with Rob Thompson-Brown cracking home a smartly-taken right-footed effort.
Beating a former non-League giant like the Poppies – for whom Adams played at Wembley – was a reminder of how Stratford have progressed.
“We’ve come such a long way,” said the manager. “To think three years ago we were playing in front of 50-60 in the Midland Alliance and now we are playing in front of 500 against a team like Kettering. It was a real sense of achievement and massive pride.
“It was good to get the win but I don’t think we have been playing that badly. Losing to Redditch was a bit harsh and in the three draws we had we could have won.”
Stratford are set to end their search for an extra left-back by signing Kieron Westwood from Leamington.
Westwood made his name at Boldmere St Michaels before spending pre-season with full-time Kidderminster Harriers.
“He is a very attack-minded left-back, and very athletic,” said Adams. “He had pre-season at Kidderminster and then joined Leamington but it didn’t work out. I know I can get the best out of him.”
Town face a race against time to get Westwood registered for the Coalville game, but Adams will select from an unchanged squad.
Richard Gregory, Kev Charley and Guy Clarke are still a month away from comebacks as they recover from their injuries.
Joe Halsall and Tyrone Fagan can play but then start one and three-match bans following their red cards at Redditch.