MANAGER Paul Smith has urged his players to ‘release the shackles’ when Bromsgrove Sporting lock horns with Hinckley AFC in the FA Cup tomorrow (Saturday).
A run of four straight victories, including a 3-1 win over Littleton on Tuesday night, has put Smith in ‘high spirits’ ahead of the Preliminary Round tie.
But Smith told The Standard he still felt some of his players were playing within themselves due to increasing expectations from supporters this season.
And with a large crowd expected to turn out at the Victoria Ground to see the FA Cup clash, the Bromsgrove boss said he hoped his side would not be overawed by the occasion.
“The players are feeling the pressure a bit,” Smith said. “Expectancy levels are high at Bromsgrove, so every misplaced pass, every missed chance and every mistake defensively is being crucified.
“I have tired to reiterate to the boys that they need to stop feeling the pressure because it is me that should be shouldering that, so they need to go out there, release the shackles and enjoy themselves.
“Josh McKenzie has been beating himself up over the last three or four games as he has not got on the score-sheet.
“Each game you could see him going into his shell, so it was tremendous to see him score on Tuesday.
“But there are still two or three who are playing within themselves and just trying their hardest not to make a mistake, so I have just told them to express themselves.”
Smith, who will be without striker Luke Corbett for the encounter, said he also believes the fans’ vocal support could be key to seeing off Hinckley, who have won their last three matches.
“Hinckley’s fans are loud and in your faces,” Smith said. “They are nice people and they enjoy a drink, but they will come and sing their hearts out.
“Fortunately our crowd are just as good, so hopefully our extra numbers will push us on.”
A win over the Leicestershire side would also set up a mouth-watering game against Redditch United on Saturday, September 12, but Smith said he was not letting his players look too far ahead.
“It is a tremendous draw as Redditch are our local rivals and there is a lot of history there,” he added.
“But I have said to all my players they’re band from even talking about Redditch.
“If I hear them talking about Redditch they get a £10 fine, so it is very important that we take it one step at a time and tomorrow is an enormous game against Hinckley.”