LONG Melford and Halstead Town go into the FA Vase first qualifying round nine wins away from an appearance at Wembley, writes Russell Claydon.
But Ridgeons First Division high-fliers Thetford Town, for Melford, and Premier Division outfit Wivenhoe Town, for Halstead, stand in their way of progressing in the competition on Saturday (3pm).
They will both hope to join Cornard United in the hat for the second qualifying round after they received a bye from the Football Association to face the winners of FC Clacton and Ely City’s tie away on September 24.
Long Melford hope to be able to call on striker Dan Cann, who underwent an operation on his face during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup at Wroxham while suspended.
Manager Jason Maher, who took great heart from his side’s performance against a strong Wroxham outfit, said: “Both teams will look at the draw for the next round with a Ridgeons First Division club (Ipswich Wanderers away) and think ‘this is a decent chance to get money in the bank (£500)’ and get a win. Thetford are a good side but if we play to our best I am confident we can be in the hat for the next round.”
Melford have received a massive boost with 23-year-old skipper Errol Durrell turning down a move to Ridgeons Premier side Hadleigh United, following on from an approach from AFC Sudbury, to stay at Stoneylands, with Maher describing his loyalty as “refreshing” in modern-day football.
Halstead Town would set up a home tie with Newmarket Town if they overcome Wivenhoe, who are still without a point after six Premier Division matches.
Manager Jimmy Holder, who has a full squad to choose from, said: “It is a big game for us and we would love to progress.”
Cornard United welcome back former Southend United defender Ben Lewis for an away match at Ipswich Wanderers in the Ridgeons First Division on Saturday (3pm).