Norwich United full of confidence ahead of FA Vase challenge
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Norwich United will face another away tie in the FA Vase – if they progress to the fifth round of the competition for the first time in the club's history tonight.
The Planters were due to travel to Kent on Saturday to face Ashford United of the Southern Counties East Premier Division, but the match was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
The fourth round match has been rearranged for tonight, although with temperatures predicted to be freezing in Kent overnight and no higher than 2C today, it remains to be seen if the game will go ahead.
The winner of the tie will then travel to Berkshire in the fifth round to face Ascot United in the last-16, with £2,500 in prize money and a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
Ascot won 4-2 at home against Colliers Wood United in the fourth round on Saturday, but needed extra-time to settle the tie after the tie had finished 2-2 at full-time.
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The Yellamen, based near Windsor, are currently sixth in the Hellenic League Premier Division table – the equivalent level to the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties Premier Division, which Norwich United currently lead by six points.
The Planters have been in great form this season and remain on course for a remarkable quadruple, as they are also in the semi-finals of the Norfolk Senior Cup and the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
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'The lads' form has been fantastic, we've won 18 out of our last 19 and our confidence is high,' said manager Damian Hilton.
'All three of our strikers scored again last Saturday (in a 4-0 home win against Gorleston), as they have done for the last three games, so we're confident.'
Those three frontmen have racked up 55 goals between them so far this season – with top scorer Matt Blake so far plundering 29 goals in 30 games, Ben Thompson scoring 17 in his 28 appearances and Paul Cook weighing in with nine in 29, although Cook has started 15 of his games on the bench.
It is this firepower that Hilton hopes will fire his high-flying team to victory tonight, as he has not been able to do much research on Ashford.
That is because the Nuts & Bolts have played only two league matches since a 4-3 home win against Rochester on November 15, due to postponements and their FA Vase run.
Two league games either side of Christmas brought 3-0 and 5-0 wins but so far this year they have played only a friendly against Ryman South side Hythe Town, winning 2-0.
'We don't really know a lot about them, they've not really had any fixtures and it would have been a long distance for us to travel to have a look at them anyway,' Hilton said.
'We know they are big and strong and have got a good striker from Thamesmead (Stuart Zanone) who a couple of our lads have played against before.
'The way I look at it, irrespective of who we were playing, our team probably wouldn't have changed much. We knew whichever team we faced at this stage of the Vase would be good. So we'll find out what they are all about in the first half, be strong, and if we need to make changes then we can.'
The victors would be four games, including the two-legged semi-finals, away from a Wembley final.
Former Wroxham manager Hilton is not getting ahead of himself though, adding: 'Wembley hasn't even crossed our minds, certainly not mine anyway. We got to this round last season and got knocked out by Ampthill.
'This round is the furthest the club has ever been so we want to do better than last year and to win there would be another record for the club, but we've got to take it one game at a time.'
£2,000 for the winners
Ashford United play at the equivalent level to Norwich, at step five of the non-league pyramid.
They are currently sixth in the Southern Counties East Premier Division table with games in hand on the teams above them, having suffered just two defeats in their 19 league games so far.
The club was reformed as Ashford United for the 2011-12 season after Ashford Town went defunct in 2010, 80 years after it was formed.
In its first season back in existence the Nuts & Bolts finished third in the Kent Invicta League and gained promotion to their current league after finishing second.
The winner of today's tie will win £2,000 in prize money for reaching the last-16 of the Vase.
One other Eastern Counties team remains in the Vase, with Stanway Rovers drawn away at Cornwall side AFC St Austell in the fifth round.