PAUL SMITH has demanded a ‘perfect’ performance from his Bromsgrove Sporting squad if they withstand any chance of beating Cleethorpes Town in the first leg of the FA Vase semi-final this weekend.
In front of what is expected to be a 3,500 sell-out crowd at the Victoria Ground on Saturday (3pm KO), the Rouslers will be hoping to take first blood against their Northern Counties East League Premier Division visitors.
The Midland League Division One leaders are the lowest ranked side left in the Vase but having already knocked out Step Five sides in Sun Sports, Bristol Manor Farm and Buckland Athletic, Smith has full belief in his squad that they can keep creating history.
But the Rouslers boss was adamant his players need to be right at it if they wish to have an advantage for the return leg at Cleethorpes next Saturday.
“We go into the game as underdogs but we have been that in our previous three rounds so there is no reason why we cannot beat them,” said Smith.
“I stand by the fact we need a perfect performance to get the win as anything less than our best could see us get beat.
“It’s important the players realise that and understand the enormity of the task at hand.
“But on the flip side I have got a very good bunch of players for this level of football and they can take great confidence from that.”
Smith has done plenty of homework on Cleethorpes as he went to watch the NCEL Premier Division leaders secure a 4-1 victory over Worksop Town last Wednesday.
Having already travelled to Watford, Bristol and Newton Abbot to watch his previous Vase opponents, he has clocked up more than 1,000 miles to do his research.
And Smith admitted Cleethorpes were the best of the bunch.
“There are no two ways about it, Cleethorpes are easily the best team we will come up against this season,” he added.
“They have a very experienced group of players who have played in the levels above and there are no young heads among them.
“Their unit works well together, has a solid shape and they make very few mistakes.
“Going to watch opponents makes a huge difference as you see first hand what these sides are like and more importantly what weaknesses they have.
“I’m very lucky with my job and business to be able to put the time and effort into doing these things and I believe the result on Saturday will be determined by which side makes the fewest mistakes.”
Smith also has selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s game as four players will have to be cut from his squad of 20.
The one guarantee though is experienced goalkeeper Ryan Price will wear the gloves for both semi-final legs as Chris Jay remains out through injury while Jon Brown, who is on loan from Kidderminster Harriers, is ineligible.
“Some players are going to be very disappointed that they have not made the squad,” Smith said.
“All 20 players are available but two youngsters won’t come and then I have to pick two more lads to miss out even though they have done well all season.
“It’s a tough call to get the squad down to 16 and I have not quite got my head around it but in my mind choosing the starting XI is going to be easier.”
Sporting go into their huge Vase semi-final clash on the back of Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory against Bolehall Swifts.
Once again the Rouslers left it late as Jason Cowley put the hosts ahead in the 90th minute before Reece Hewitt added the second two minutes later.
There was still time for Cowley to grab another as he bagged the final goal of the evening moments later.
That result followed the 6-0 demolition of basement side Southam United on Saturday.
“It’s been a bit awkward the last few league games as I have been trying to tell the players not to have their eye on the Vase,” Smith said.
“Winning the league is more important but I think the players’ eyes have wondered a little but you can’t knock them for that as they are in the last four of a national competition.
“The lads have done brilliantly though to firstly beat Southam on a terrible pitch before showing a never say die attitude to beat Bolehall.
“They kept going on Tuesday night which is testament to them as they have got the bit between their teeth because they want to win things.
“You don’t get to win a lot when you are a player so it’s vitally important that when opportunities arise you take them which is what I have been drilling into my players.
“However, there is a hell of a long way to go as we have won nothing yet.”
Match highlights from Sporting’s win over Southam United and Bolehall Swifts courtesy of Danny Carter.