Michael Schofield looks at Suffolk Senior Cup as a chance to bring good times back at Cornard United
They stand 180 minutes away from a Portman Road final – and Michael Schofield is intent on bringing the good times back to long-suffering Cornard United in this year’s CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup.
Their last and only triumph in the prestigious Suffolk FA competition, that will end in a showpiece at Ipswich Town again on May 10, came in their glorious treble-winning season of 1988/89 when they beat Sudbury Wanderers 1-0.
But ahead of their quarter-final tie at Kirkley & Pakefield Reserves on Saturday (2pm), joint manager Schofield sees a golden opportunity to end a barren spell for success since their 1995/1996 relegation to their present Step 6 level in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North.
“We don’t see why we can’t win. We feel we are as good, if not better than the teams left in this competition,” said the player-manager who has masterminded the Ards’ rise from third bottom (17th) to 13th with Matt Grove since replacing Liam Aves five games into the season.
“There’s a real belief we can go all the way and that’s exactly what we are going to try and do.”
Cornard will be strong favourites to equal their best run in the competition since that famous final, when Chris Tracey’s side lost 2-1 to Haughley United in the last four in 2015/16. But Schofield says they will not be underestimating their opposition, currently 12th in the Hadley & Ottaway Anglian Combination Division 1 – two levels lower than themselves.
“There’s no doubt they’ve got good quality, otherwise they wouldn’t have got this far in the competition,” he said. “And with reserve sides you never know what side they are going to put out.
“So with that in mind we will be very cautious going into Saturday that they could have first team fringe players available, so we will have to be at our very best to progress to the semi-finals.
“If we out-work them I’m very confident it will see us through.”
Club captain Dan Clark said the importance of the game will not be lost on the players.
“Saturday’s game is huge for all the players, management and the club itself. We are determined to be in the hat for the semi-final draw,” he said, before adding they want to repay what Schofield and Groves have done for the team with the cup run.
Cornard (13th) go into the game on the back of their five-game unbeaten run coming to an end in a 2-1 defeat at home to Lakenheath (7th).
Two goals conceded in five minutes in the second half was followed by the dismissal of Ryan McGibbon for two yellow cards.
But the Ards went on to set up a tense finish with Jack Graham’s goal inside the final 10 minutes.
“On two occasions we were very close to forcing home an equaliser, so I’m delighted with the response to going down to 10. It shows how much character this side has,” said Schofield, who will also have to make do without the unavailable Ezra Drann, Charlie Hayes and Dave Dowding on Saturday.
But goalkeeper Grove will return along with Schofield’s brother Andy.