Martin McIntosh says he has every reason to believe his Ilkeston Town side can make it to Wembley in this season’s FA Vase - but has acknowledged it will be a very tough task.
The Robins host local rivals Eastwood CFC in a massive local derby this weekend in the third round proper of the competition.
The winners on Saturday will be just four rounds away from the Wembley final on May 19, and with Ilkeston currently top of a step five league - the highest level that can play in the competition - they have as good a chance as anyone remaining to progress all the way.
McIntosh said: “We have a great chance, without a shadow of a doubt.
“This competition has been on the back burner while the league season has gone so well and it’s been great for the club and the fans, as well as being a good earner.
“There are some very good teams still in it - the north-east teams tend to dominate it each year and often produce winners and lots of other sides will sense a great opportunity if they can get past the third round stage.”
With regard to the game itself against Eastwood, McIntosh expects old rivalries to be renewed despite the trials and tribulations football fans from both towns have endured in recent years.
He said: “Clubs have gone bust and reformed and regimes have taken over and then disappeared but the passion for football in both towns remains and I expect it’ll be a very good atmosphere on Saturday.
“We have a few players and staff here who took part in Ilkeston/Eastwood games in the past, plus of course lots of players are local to either town so are well aware of the rivalry.
“They’ve been talking about it since the draw was made and can’t wait to get out there.”
The Robins are hoping to attract a four-figure crowd for the encounter, with Eastwood currently lying in fifth place in the East Midlands Counties League, which is one level below the Midland Football League Premier Division currently led by McIntosh’s men.
That position was strengthened by a 3-1 win at home to Dunkirk on Saturday, which left McIntosh delighted having seen his side recover from a goal down to win.
He said: “We made it hard for ourselves and both Deaks and I had to have a pop at the players at half-time as we’d not met the standards we set.
“Thankfully in the second-half we raised the tempo and were too much for them. We’d missed three or four great chances in the first-half and Dunkirk had what I thought was a stonewall penalty turned down, so I’m pleased we got the job done.
“This division is very competitive and teams will take points off each other, therefore being in the position we’re in is very pleasing as teams have to play catch up.
“Clubs are raising their games when they come to the New Manor Ground, that’s human nature, but we are coping well with it.”
The Robins took on Brocton in the MFL League Cup on Tuesday night (see page 93 for details), with McIntosh keen to avoid any injuries to his players that could see them out of Saturday’s Vase clash.