08:00AM, Saturday 01 May 2021
Flackwell Heath's progression to the quarter finals of the FA Vase last weekend has got manager Marcus Richardson wondering what this group of players are truly capable of.
He already believes they're capable of playing at a higher level, and believes the other seven sides remaining in the Vase are probably in the same boat.
Heath proved too strong for Plymouth Parkway on Saturday, taking control of the tie in the second half and winning it 4-2 with goals from James Taylor, Mitchell Parker, Simeon Weekes and James Mansfield. And victory has presented the squad with another opportunity to put themselves in the shop window to play at a higher level, not that he’d like to see this exciting team dismantled just yet.
United Services Portsmouth stand in the way of a home tie against either Long Eaton United or Hellenic League rivals Binfield in the semi-final. They’re only two wins from walking out at Wembley Stadium and, while the dream of playing there looms large for the manager and his players, Richardson insists they’re taking it one game at a time.
“They have an opportunity here to push on to higher levels in the game,” said Richardson. “They can show that they’re worthy of playing at a higher level, and I think most clubs left at this stage of the competition could probably play at a higher level, and you start to ask yourself, what sort of team have I really got here? What are we capable of? Everyone is enjoying this moment and so they should.
“We just have to go out and play our game like we have been doing? As long as my boys leave everything out on the pitch, that’s all that matters to me.”
Richardson said his players were viewing each tie like a cup final as their competitive season will be over if and when they’re finally knocked out.
“That’s what it is at this stage of the season,” he said. “It’s like a cup final because if we go out that’s the end of our season. We’ve got to play every game as if it’s our last game because it could be. That’s why I’m saying to them, leave everything out on the pitch. If they do that you never know what might happen.”
The Flackwell boss also has a bit of a selection headache ahead of the trip to Portsmouth this Saturday, with Josh Baines set to return to the squad after missing the Parkway match to be at his brother’s wedding.
Three other players are also due to return from suspension meaning there are likely to be some disappointed players when the squad is announced.
“The truth is some of the players I’ll have to leave out have been big players for me this season,” he said.
“I’ve got to find a way to deal with this squad and I’ll have to disappoint some people. I would love to play all of them, but you’ve got to pick a team you think can win the match.
“Sometimes you go with your heart but in a game as big as this you’ve got to go with the team you think can win the match.”
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