A DAY for the underdogs – that’s how Long Melford manager Jason Maher is eyeing up Wednesday’s Suffolk Senior Cup final against Whitton United at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road (7pm).
The Villagers’ boss admits it will be the biggest day of many of his player’s footballing lives against the competition’s reigning champions, but will not be letting them get overawed by the occasion.
And with off-the-field problems having made the headlines in the build-up to the club’s biggest game since they were last on this stage in 2005 – losing to Hadleigh United on penalties – Maher hopes to give the whole club a final to revel in.
“This year has been tough for the club off the pitch and I would be lying if I said it had not affected us on the field, but this is a day to concentrate on the team,” Maher said, referring to the apparent ‘admin mix-up’ which has seen the club’s financial holding company officially dissolved by Companies House for 12 months now for ‘consistent non-compliance with tax returns and annual accounts’ since August 2009.
“It has been an excellent effort from the lads to get to the final in this competition,” added Maher.
“Nobody thought we would make it to the final and we deserve our place as we have had to beat some good sides and it is a fitting reward for the players and they deserve their big game outing at Portman Road and, hopefully, it will be a day for celebration.”
But Maher knows that beating Whitton United, who finished second in the Ridgeons First Division last season and only forfeited promotion due to an issue with ground regulations, will be tough.
“For many this will probably be the best day of their footballing lives, to play at Portman Road where some really good players have graced down the years,” he said. “Whatever happens it is about enjoying it – to win would be brilliant and it will be a tough task.
“It is not disrespectful to say we will be the underdogs, but sometimes underdogs win.”
And the Melford boss, hoping for a big following from the village, says he has the ‘utmost respect’ for former Northampton Town striker Ian Brown, Whitton’s manager and close friend, which will provide an interesting backdrop.
Maher will tell his players his side on Monday evening and take a 16-man squad to Portman Road, naming five substitutes.
Top scorer Danny Twyman and new frontman Adam Rickwood are both cup-tied. Tickets for the match can be purchased at the ground on the night priced at £6 and £3.
n FOR live match updates from Portman Road on Wednesday, follow @russclaydon on Twitter from 6.30pm.