Eastbourne Borough Football Club are determined to give their chairman Len Smith a welcome boost this week as they prepare to take on East Thurrock in the FA Cup tomorrow.
As Smith continues his recovery in hospital following a recent stroke, the first team will be gunning for a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup against their Ryman Premier League opponents.
Defender Gary Elphick netted a late winner to progress from the previous round and bank an FA cheque for £7,500.
Victory over Thurrock will bring an additional £12,500 in prize money and a possible big name draw in the first round proper against a League side.
Boss Garry Wilson will be keen to improve on his side’s Jekyll and Hyde performance against Tonbridge Angels in midweek.
The Sports dominated the first half but, worryingly, appeared to run out steam during the second period.
He said, “We need to forget about Tuesday and concentrate on the cup match. This a huge game for us and we want the players at their best.
“It’s about time we had a decent cup run and we are desperate to get into the next round - the fans deserve it.”
Eastbourne have not appeared in the first round proper of the FA Cup since they were beaten by Barrow in 2008. The most memorable cup clash was back in 2005 when a packed Priory Lane saw Boro’ battle to a 1-1 with League Two side Oxford United.
They went on to lose the replay but the contest captured the imagination of the fans and the town and Wilson is determined to create a similar buzz this year.
However, East Thurrock, despite competing in the division below are likely to offer stern resistance.
They required a replay to advance beyond North Greenford in the previous round following a 3-3 draw but ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Greenford.
They are struggling near the bottom of the Ryman Premier but Wilson is all to aware the cup can bring out the best in the underdog.
He added, “There is only one division between us and that’s not much at this level.
“They are here on merit and we know we are in for a tough game. For me this is our biggest game of the season, we want to be in the hat for the next round.
“The FA Cup is always special and after last year’s relegation this can help put a smile back on the faces of the supporters.
“The game against Sudbury was edgy. I want the players to be a bit more relaxed and play more football. It’s a big game for us but we don’t want the players to freeze. We want them to play with a bit of freedom.”
Wilson will hope to have star summer signing Gary Hart fit and available. The striker missed the match against Tonbridge with a knee problem but is expected to resume training this week.
Club captain Ben Austin is also due to participate in his first full training session following a groin operation but Saturday is expected to arrive too soon for the 34-year-old defender.
Winger Ross Treleaven continues to build up his fitness following a goalscoring return to senior football in the Sussex Senior Cup although he is not expected to feature in the starting line-up.
Wilson who visited chairman Smith in hospital last night (Wednesday) added, “He was in good spirits and I’m sure a win in the FA Cup would give him a lift.
“We spoke about the game on Saturday and he also gave me some stick for our second half performance against Tonbridge.
“I didn’t manage to get away with that one.”
The draw for the FA Cup first round will take place on Sunday at 1.30pm live on ITV1.
All League One and Two teams enter at this stage along with 32 non league teams.