Stockport Town manager Jake Davies is gearing up to lead the Lions into the biggest game in their history, when they face Nantwich Town of the Evo-Stik League Premier Division in the Cheshire Senior Cup final next Wednesday.
The Lions are only the second North West Counties League club to reach the final of the competition, and the first since 2004 when Woodley Sports defeated Witton Albion 2-1 after extra-time at Altrincham.
But Jake, who stepped in to take temporary charge of the team last month when Dave Wild left to join Mossley insists that the game, which takes place at the Millbank Linnets Stadium, home of Runcorn Linnets, will hold no fears for his side.
“We have a few league games left and obviously we want to see how many points we can get in the league, but the cup final is at the forefront of everyone’s mind”, said Jake.
“We are going to give Nantwich a good game, I can assure everyone of that.
“A lot has gone on at the club this season, some good and some bad, but getting to the final is something to really look forward to and something to hold on to”.
Town’s run to the final consisted of two home victories - a 4-0 win over Cammell Laird 1907, and a penalty shoot out win over Hyde United following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes – before a battling performance away at Winsford United in the semi-final.
Jake says that the 2-1 win at the St Luke’s Barton Stadium was an outstanding display from his side.
“The semi-final against Winsford was tough, we had to dig deep, but the players really worked hard in difficult circumstances.
“It was a very open game of football, with wave after wave of attacks from both teams. Winsford had their chances and our goalkeeper was outstanding on the day, but we had some real quality on the pitch.
“We hurt them in the first 15-20 minutes, and when you have the quality of Ben Halfacre and Aaron Dwyer you are going to hurt teams. It was a superb, dig in, dogged performance.
“We had so many people missing for that game, we had a makeshift back four with only one regular defender in that back line but they all did so well”.
The same qualities will be required from the Lions if they are to cause an upset and defeat a Nantwich Town team who currently play three leagues higher, and are making their second successive appearance in the final, after losing 2-1 to Crewe Alexandra in front of 1,831 fans at Gresty Road last season.
Their route to the final involved a 2-0 away victory over Sandbach Town, a 2-1 home defeat of Runcorn Linnets' first round conquerors Crewe Alexandra, and a 4-3 win over Stalybridge Celtic at Weaver Stadium.
Jake is under no illusions about the task facing his side.
“I watched Nantwich in the earlier rounds when they played Sandbach. They have got some fantastic players and it is going to be difficult for us.
“They are probably disappointed about how their league season has gone this season, but they lost in a league play off last season and that tells you that they are not a bad side, and they have got some very good players.
“They play some good stuff and we have just got to look and do our job and stay in the game. We have got players who can hurt them and we’ll look to do that, but they are a good team, there’s no doubt about that”.
But despite being underdogs, Jake is confident that his team will put a showing worthy of the occasion.
“We are going to compete, we want to win of course, and we are not going to make it easy for them”, he said.
“We’ve got the likes of Ben Halfacre who has played at a higher level, and has played in these types of games before. It’s going to be difficult, but we are not there just for the occasion, we are there to give a good account of ourselves.
“It’s a great night for the club to look forward to. A lot of these players can be history makers, if they win the first trophy for the club and they have been absolutely superb.
“Collectively it’s been a great effort from the team, right from the word go, to get to this point in the competition, and I can’t tell you how much everyone at the club is looking forward to what is a massive game for us”.
The final, next Wednesday 2nd May, will kick off at 7.45pm. Admission is £10 (adults) and £7 (OAP and Under 16s). Children will be admitted free if accompanied by an adult.
A match programme will be on sale, priced £2.