Seven long years have passed since Cornard United last finished high enough up the table to qualify for the FA Cup.
But a resurgence under joint managers Liam Aves and Ryan Lines — who in three months have guided a side without a win and bottom of the league, to five victories and fifth-from-bottom — has led people at the club to start dreaming again.
Ahead of a run of festive fixtures which sees The Ards host fifth place Framlingham Town on Saturday (3pm) before travelling down the A131 to mid-table Halstead Town on Boxing Day (11am), their sights are now firmly fixed on looking up, rather than down, the Thurlow Nunn League First Division table.
Aves said: “Someone said the other day that 13th gets you in the FA Cup, and we are 17th now and have managed to close the gap to those above us recently.
“So we will be looking to push on into that top 13 and to get back in the FA Cup, which would be a massive achievement for this club.”
On Saturday, Cornard bounced back from their 2-1 defeat at King’s Lynn Town Reserves with a resounding 3-0 victory at an improved mid-table Diss Town side.
On the stroke of half-time the visitors got ahead when Luke Payne beat Jake Hayhoe with a well struck shot that the goalkeeper did manage to get fingertips to, but could not keep out.
Two quick goals followed within 10 minutes of the restart to all but secure the three points, with Payne smashing in the rebound from a saved shot from Lee Kidger from an acute angle before Reece Keating fired in a third following a free-kick into the penalty box.
And it was not just the convincing scoreline which impressed the management team.
“Diss is not an easy place to go and a few weeks we had a bit of a problem with discipline, so I put out a text the following day to the lads saying what a positive result it was and how we were pleased not to see any cards as well,” said Aves, whose side saw two players dismissed despite the 4-0 win at AFC Sudbury Reserves last month.
“It shows the lads are starting to buy into what Ryan and myself want to do.
“We are also controlling games a bit more.
“We played some really good football on Saturday and in the first half we dominated the game.
“They came back into it a bit but we kept our heads and defensive shape and played well on the counter, nicking a couple of goals too.”
Speaking more generally about the impact they have had at the club, Aves said: “We are really happy with how things have gone.
“It is our first jobs at this level (previously managing Halstead Town Reserves and Stanway Rovers Reserves) and we knew we needed to make an impact.”
Recent additions have included goalkeeper Matt Grove, a former Colchester United trainee, as well as Jake Egner, a full-back or winger, with both having previously been with Wivenhoe Town.