League matters are set aside this weekend as we host divisional rivals Aveley in an Isuzu FA Trophy 3rd qualifying round tie. It’s a competition in which the club has a wretched record since making our debut back in 1974, only twice progressing beyond four rounds and exiting at the first hurdle on each of the last three seasons, not that that statistic concerns Dom Di Paola.
“I love ticking off little milestones” admitted the Hornets boss. “It’s a competition we’ve never done well in but they said that about the League Cup and we won that last season, and got through to the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in fourteen years, so why not have a run in the Trophy this year?
“It’s a competition I’d love to do well in, even if it’s to win three or four games and get one of the big clubs away from home in one of the later rounds; a Wrexham or Notts County. To have another weekend away with the supporters, like we did at Carlisle last year, would be fantastic.
“Hornchurch did great in winning it last year but I think they were exceptional circumstances and, realistically, I think the chances of a step three side repeating that success are pretty low but we’ll approach Saturday’s game as we always do, with the aim of winning the match and then we’ll see what happens. Although I haven’t been too disappointed with our recent performances, we’re on a poor run at the moment and need to get back to winning ways.
“Having Tom Richards available again is a huge positive for us, and Lee (Harding) has been given the okay to play again as long as he has no reaction to last night’s training session. We’re slowly getting our full complement of players back now so it’s just a case of getting through the next couple of weeks as best we can. In a way it’s nice to have a Trophy match this week, a one-off cup tie, rather than the pressures of a league game, but above all it’s just nice to be playing at home after a really exhausting run of away games.”
Saturday brings Aveley to the CWCS for the first time, having been promoted as Division One North champions last season, and unlike the Hornets they have enjoyed recent success in the competition having reached the last eight three seasons ago. Enjoying arguably their most successful period for more than a decade, The Millers finished as runners-up to Bowers & Pitsea in 2018/19, only to miss out on promotion when beaten by Heybridge Swifts in the play-offs, and might have felt their chance had gone after two Covid-voided campaigns. However, they came back after the enforced absence even stronger to take last season’s title by two points from Canvey Island.
Still enjoying that ‘promotion bounce’, Chris Scopes’ side have enjoyed a good start to the current campaign with six wins from nine in the Premier Division and sit two points off the top, having led the table earlier in the season. A look at their away form shows that they have already won in Sussex, with a 2-1 success at fellow Premier Division newcomers Hastings United on the opening day, but have lost their last two matches on the road – to leaders Bishop’s Stortford (0-2) and in the FA Cup at Potters Bar Town (1-2).
Their man in form is striker George Sykes, a former Barnet forward who has netted a third of The Millers’ goals this season to add to the twenty he contributed to their title winning campaign. But while our defenders will need to be on their toes to prevent the 28 year old from adding to his tally, our own strikers will be encouraged that Aveley have kept just one clean sheet in eleven matches.
For those who like their historical stats, the two sides have played each other 31 times with Aveley shading the victories by twelve to eleven, but tomorrow will be only the second occasion on which we have met in a knockout competition. The only previous occasion came at Queen Street, back in November 1969, when goals from Wimpory and Pellicci gave the visitors a 2-0 win in the first round of the Athenian League Cup.
More recently, albeit a decade ago, The Millers enjoyed another two goal margin of victory in what was the last meeting between the sides. The match, played during our time at Gorings Mead, was effectively settled in less than twenty minutes as a Billy Holland brace and a Troy Powell-Quarry effort put Aveley in the driving seat, with Charlie Farmer’s goal scant consolation for the home supporters.
Will the Hornets fare better this time around? Make sure you’re there to find out! Gates open at midday, with our usual food and drink offerings available, and why not stay after the match and watch live coverage of the Premier League clash between Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur on the big screen?
A reminder that this match is designated ALL PAY, so season tickets will not be valid for this fixture.
If the scores are level at the end of ninety minutes, the tie will go straight to penalties.
For anyone unable to attend, you can follow all the action via twitter @HorshamFC
Our thanks go to Jeff Barrett for his generous sponsorship of this match.