No pressure as Hucknall’s underdogs are told to enjoy big FA Vase tie

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves
Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves has told his players to go out and enjoy their day without pressure when they head for Sporting Khalsa as underdogs for Saturday’s big FA Vase second round tie at the Aspray Arena.

Despite being unbeaten all season, winning all but one drawn game, Hucknall know the enormity of their task away to a side riding high in the Midland League Premier Division.

“I have told my players to go out there, enjoy themselves and not be over-awed by the game,” said Graves.

“We’ve nothing to lose - apart from the game - and there is no real pressure on us at all to be honest.

“For once we don’t go into a game with everyone expecting us to win, though you should never expect that in football anyway.

“No one expects us to beat them as they play two levels higher than we do.

“But anything can happen in football and we go there in confident mood.

“As along as we enjoy it and we don’t see the gamesmanship we had to contend with in the last round, we will be happy if it’s a good game and the best team wins.”

Graves said he had been impressed by Khalsa on a scouting mission down when he saw them smash Wrens Nest 10-1 on their home 3G surface.

“We have been there to watch them and they possess some pretty talented players like Lee Chilton, who plays down the left hand side. I was very impressed with him,” he said.

“But we also have one or two players they need to be very careful of as well.

“I know they have the advantage of the all-weather pitch, but they have only had it down this season. They did use it to good effect when we watched them.

“But I don’t think the team they were playing were even up to Central Midlands reserve level to be honest, yet the opposition created four chances inside the first 15 minutes.

“We always create chances. It will be rare if we don’t create anything in a game. But we know against higher league opposition like this we have to take those chances.

“We created a lot of chances again last weekend in the 6-2 at Mickleover RBL and, despite some sloppy defending, I was pleased with the result. We should probably have scored more than we did.”

Hucknall will be without influential skipper Dave Leak on Saturday.

But the manager is confident they will cope with the defender’s absence.

“We will be without the captain as his partner’s twins came home yesterday, so he needs to stay with the family as that comes first.

“It’s a bit of a blow but I have been rotating players anyway and when we have had players missing this season I have been very confident of those who come in to replace them,” he said.

“In the past you’d be a bit worried to lose key players but now this squad have largely been together for three years, they all know each other. “Everyone has stepped up when needed so I don’t think it will give us too many problems.”

Graves added: “The lads have done great all season. The attitude is more positive than any of the four previous seasons and we’ve been unbeaten for a long time. We’re doing pretty well.

“We just need to stay tight at the back and not switch off and we need to give them the respect that higher opposition deserve but not get overawed by the occasion.”