ASHINGTON CFC’s lynchpin defender Iain Nickalls reckons the Colliers rearguard will have to be at their best when they head south to face Long Buckby in the fourth round of the FA Carlsberg Vase at Northampton on Saturday.
Nickalls, who recently returned to the side, said: “I think we have shored our defence up, especially since Christmas, conceding an average of one a game, and even then the ones we have let in have been against the run of play and haven’t been justified.
“But we are going to have to be at our best on Saturday.
“Long Buckby are scoring on average two goals a game and are a good side.”
The Northamptonshire side are second top of their league.
But it is not just Vase glory the Colliers’ skipper is looking for success in.
He added: “I want us to do as well as we can in the FA Vase, but we’ve also got the Senior Cup semi-final to look forward to and we want to push for a top six place in the league, so it’s all to play for.
“It’s exciting times and there’s certainly a buzz around the place.”
Nickalls admits that confidence is a key word in the dressing room
“I think the majority of the players in the squad now are playing with a high confidence level,” he added.
“We’ll be looking to perform to our best that’s for sure, but there’s no reason why we can’t go to Long Buckby and win, and if we have to bring them back up to Woodhorn Lane for a replay then so be it.”
Woodhorn Lane boss Gary Middleton said: “We’ll be going into the tie with a professional outlook, just as we have done for the last two rounds.
“We’ve had Long Buckby watched and will include details in our pre-match meeting, and hopefully we’ll be going into it with a full strength team.
“It’s the last 32 of a national competition and all opposition will be tough.
“Everyone is on an even playing field and we need a bit of luck and good fortune.
“We are under no illusions but we are more than capable of winning.”
The Colliers are currently tenth in the STL Northern League’s first division, but Middleton does not feel their league position holds any significance to the cup chances.
“When I was in the Whitley Bay side which defeated Tiptree United 1-0 to lift the trophy in 2002 at Villa Park, we finished mid-table in the league, so it doesn’t necessarily follow that the best side in the league will get through to the final as everyone is of the same standard.
“I have got a squad of players who if they are on their game will take a lot of beating, and it will take a really good side to knock us out.”
Middleton has doubts surrounding defenders James Taylor and Darren Lough in addition to midfielder Scott Blandford, and all three will undergo fitness tests.
If Saturday’s game is drawn after extra time, the replay will take place at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday, January 29.