THE apprentice will come up against the old master when AFC Sudbury go into battle in the FA Cup at Leiston on Saturday (3pm) in a mouthwatering tie.
Nicky Smith will be pitting his wits in the dugout against his former mentor, ex-AFC boss Mark Morsley, for the first time since they were side-by-side at King’s Marsh in the 2006/07 season.
With six former AFC Sudbury players in the Leiston squad, including former captain Gareth Heath, and a place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup along with £3,000 prize fund up for grabs, the stakes are high.
And it all comes ahead of a second instalment in the league 10 days later - also away - adding a fascinating extra psychological layer to the tie.
Smith, whose side were in action last night at league-leaders Grays Athletic (see Free Press website for result) following a deeply disappointing 2-1 home surrender to 10-man Harlow Town on Saturday, said of the cup game: “It is something we need at the moment. I think the added spice is it is Leiston and even more added spice it is Mark Morsley and ex-Sudbury boys.
“I have said in the dressing room we are not going to go there and roll over, I want to go there and win the game.
“It is a massive competition, you go through a few rounds and it becomes really big, there is nothing like the FA Cup.
“If you can’t bring yourself to play in the FA Cup you might as well give up football.”
But Smith, who was left fuming about his side’s defensive frailties once again after conceding an injury-time winner against Harlow, leaving them in the bottom half of the table ahead of last night, has a number of selection problems.
Last season’s top scorer James Baker is rated as doubtful having limped off on Saturday after pulling his hamstring while influential midfielder Michael Shinn and left-back Jemel Fox are both suspended and player-coach Jack Wignall (knee ligament) and left-back Danny Swain (arm) are carrying injuries.
Leiston have made a strong start to life in the Ryman League since Morsley led them to the Ridgeons League title last season, with 11 points from their opening six games.
Smith will be looking for a big reaction from his side following the shock of Saturday’s home defeat, which came after they needed extra-time to get past lower-league St Ives Town in the FA Cup preliminary round replay.
He said: “Like I have said to the boys, week in, week out we keep doing the same things wrong and I look at myself sometimes and ask ‘are we going forward?’
“I think we have a better squad but we are still getting caught defensively. It is difficult to get experienced centre-halves or defenders in but it is not just the defence, it is collectively.
“It hurt me being 1-0 up with 10 men and we have to be clever enough to kill the game off and we didn’t.”