PAUL SMITH has urged his Bromsgrove Sporting players to enjoy the occasion as they head to Cleethorpes Town this weekend for the second leg of their FA Vase semi-final.
The Rouslers make the trip up to the Northern Counties East League Premier Division leaders tomorrow (Saturday) knowing they are potentially just 90 minutes away from reaching Wembley.
Both sides played out a 1-1 draw on Saturday in front of 3,349 fans at the Victoria Ground which means the second leg is nicely balanced.
However, higher-ranked Cleethorpes, who play at the Bradley Football Development Centre in Grimsby, go into the clash as favourites as they are yet to lose at home in all competitions this season.
But Midland League Division One leaders Sporting will fancy their chances as their only away defeat of the season came in August last year when they lost 1-0 to Rugby Town in the second preliminary round of the FA Cup.
Sporting boss Smith said: “Cleethorpes are firm favourites and rightly so as they are in the level above, came to us and drew 1-1 and are yet to lose at home all season.
“But the squad I have put together does not know when it’s beaten because recently in the league we have been scoring goals deep into injury time as we are right at it.
“Being underdogs is not an issue and if we play at out best and go through, that’s great but if we play at our best and lose then you have to give credit to Cleethorpes.
“We are coming up against a very good side who are flying in the league above so we are up against it.”
The Sporting squad is to make the long four-hour coach journey up to Lincolnshire today (Friday) for an overnight stay in a hotel to make sure they are fully prepared for their biggest game to date.
But despite the enormity of the fixture, Smith has demanded his players enjoy the occasion.
“I have stressed to the players that during a ten to 12-year non-league playing career it is very rare you are in the semi-finals of a national tournament which offers the chance to play at the W word [Wembley] in the final,” he said.
“We are not afraid as we have put ourselves in an unbelievable position and have exceeded everybody’s expectations.
“So I have told the players to embrace the game and as long as they believe in themselves they have an unbelievable chance of progressing.
“I have always said the squad I have assembled is more than capable of beating anyone in the level above on its day and if we are at our best, we are in with a shout.”
Smith was also full of praise for the club’s achievements to date, not just in the Vase but also the league and other cup competitions too.
“I hope the run in the Vase does not finish on Saturday as the lads have been outstanding and they deserve some success,” he added.
“Every week the players have done exactly what I have asked them to do and worked their socks off to get into the position we are in right now.
“Without shadow of a doubt it’s going to hurt a lot if we lose this weekend but our focus is not on how it would feel to lose the game.
“Our focus is on making sure we do everything we know we can do correctly.”
After Saturday, Sporting make a quick return to league action on Tuesday night when they travel to Racing Club Warwick looking to continue their promotion charge.