Hills Eyes Up First Round

2017-18 Emirates FA Cup Preview - Preliminary Round

KNAPHILL FC be hoping that the magic of the FA Cup doesn’t come back to bite them this season, writes Andy Fitzsimons.

After securing a hard-fought 2-0 win away to Bournemouth (Poppies) in the extra preliminary round replay last week (8 Aug ’17), The Knappers now travel to Laverstock & Ford in the preliminary round this Saturday (19 Aug. ’17).

MORE UPBEAT: Knaphill manager Keith Hills ahead of his side’s FA Cup showdown against Laverstock & Ford. Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

But the Sydenhams (Wessex) League Division One side, who play one level below Knaphill in the National League System, will be no pushover.

The Lavvy, who started their league season on 1 August ’17, have already scored 15 goals in their opening four fixtures; including a 3-0 win against Whitchurch United in the last round of the FA Cup.

By comparison, The Knappers have played two games in the FA Cup prior to the start of their Combined Counties League Premier Division season last Saturday, something that Hills believes is disorientating for some non-league clubs.

He said: “It’s ironic that The FA (Football Association) schedules some clubs to play in the FA Cup even before they commence their league season.

“Clubs should at least have one league game under their belt before they turn their attention to cup competitions, as teams are still sorting themselves out.

“It was no different last season, as we played two games in the FA Cup (versus Hanworth Villa) before the league season began several days later,” he added.

Hills was full of phrase for his side’s FA Cup triumph against Bournemouth at the Victoria Park, which he believes marks a turning point.

After an indifferent league campaign last season and a less than convincing pre-season showing, Hills feels that his side is now gelling and responding well to a new style of training.

“We didn’t have the greatest of finishes last season, but the boys showed what they are capable of after travelling to Bournemouth and beating them at their own ground,” said Hills.

“We brought in several new faces during the closed season; most of which are attacking players; so we know that we can score. The issue was the goals that we were conceding.

“Sorting the defence out and a formation that worked for everyone was phase one, which I believe we have sorted.

MOTIVATOR: Alex Lumley.

“Things are now starting to click, which I believe has a lot to do with Alex Lumley – my coach – who (among others) has changed the dynamics of how we train. The players have really taken to it.”

“When we travel to Laverstock on Saturday (19 Aug. ’17), if we pull all the factors from training together, we will be ok.

“On paper, we should win the game, but it’s the old adage of the FA Cup: anything can happen on the day, and I really believe that,” added Hills.

With £1,500 already in the bank, The Knappers will be hoping to cash in again to the tune of £1,925 if they can get past Laverstock & Ford to book their place in the first qualifying round in two weeks’ time (2 Sept ’17).

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