Wroxham defender Pauling is on an FA Vase mission
Paddy DavittWroxham's long serving defender Gavin Pauling is bidding to erase the worst moment of his career in Saturday's FA Vase semi-final, second leg against Whitehawk at Trafford Park.Paddy Davitt
Wroxham's long serving defender Gavin Pauling is bidding to erase the worst moment of his career in Saturday's FA Vase semi-final, second leg against Whitehawk at Trafford Park.
The 38-year-old is still haunted by his role in the club's quarter-final exit at Durham in 2002 when he conceded a controversial stoppage time penalty that put the north easterners through.
Pauling is now just 90 minutes from a potential Wembley swansong with David Batch's current crop 2-0 up from the first leg on the south coast.
'I'm looking forward to it, definitely, I've waited ten years for this,' he said. 'For me, there is a little bit of unfinished business. This is a big competition for us and I've been here 16 or 17 years so it has been a long time coming to get this far. We were drawing 1-1 up at Durham that season and playing the better football. I remember the winger got the ball, cut inside, and I made a challenge which was two or three yards outside the area. He fell inside and they were awarded a penalty and scored. I've had to live with that for all these years - the worst moment of my career. I got home that night and footage from the game was on the telly. They had Alan Brazil in the studio who said it was never a penalty. I'm sitting there thinking, 'well, I knew that' but what can you do?'
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Pauling endured a fresh reminder during this year's quarter-final derby win at Ridgeons rivals Needham Market.
'When we reached the quarters again that was in the back of my mind,' he said. 'Of course, what happens but they go and get a penalty which was scored by Damian Hilton, who had played with me at Durham. He said, 'the demons are back,' when he ran past me, which didn't go down too well, but we scored again and I was over the moon.
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'In an earlier round I also got sent off with about five minutes gone, so that was another low to leave the boys with ten men, but credit to them they dug in and got me out of pickle. I've told the boys I'll retire if we get to Wembley, so whether that has spurred them on a bit or not, I don't know.'
The veteran is enjoying a new lease of life at Trafford Park under Batch's regime.
'David and his coaching staff have done their part to get us up for every game,' he said. 'I thought some of the things were a bit weird, like watching videos and some of the tactical things, but Dave has got it spot on every round.
'I don't allow myself to think about Wembley. If you do then you get too nervous. Maybe come Saturday around midday the nerves will kick in but once you cross that line that goes out of the window and you have to do the business.
'Playing the second leg at home in front of our own fans is obviously a big thing for us but it also brings with it pressure to perform, because all those people have come along to watch. The boys are focused and up for, it like we have been at every stage of this competition. This is great for everyone behind the scenes at the club and we owe it to them as well as ourselves.'