With a Cup upset already tucked firmly under their belts this season, Stourbridge manager Gary Hackett is only too confident the magic of The Emirates FA Cup can strike once more as his side head to League Two Wycombe Wanderers this weekend.
December’s victory over League One side Northampton Town saw jubilant celebrations aplenty at the War Memorial Ground, as Jack Duggan’s 86th-minute strike sent the Glassboys flying into the third round for the first time in their 141-year history.
Wycombe Wanderers v Stourbridge
- The Emirates FA Cup
- Third Round Proper
- 3pm, Saturday 7 January 2017
- Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC
- By Katie Falkingham
And more history beckons as they travel to Adams Park on Saturday to face a Chairboys side flying high in the fourth tier – but their recent fine form is not a concern for Hackett.
Stourbridge themselves are in good shape, having not lost a game in all competitions since October, and their 54-year-old boss is optimistic that is not a run about to end.
“The feeling in the camp is very good and we are very much looking forward to the game,” he said. “There has been quite a bit of time since the win over Northampton and we’ve had to play some league games in between.
“We are very respectful of Wycombe, they are on a great run themselves and they have flown up League Two, and they are certainly going to be a tough nut to crack.
“But hopefully, it will be another case of the magic of The FA Cup. We are the underdogs and we just have to try and create that major upset that makes the competition so special.
“Our recent form has been good, we’re unbeaten in 13 and we’ve managed to sustain some healthy league form in light of playing some massive FA Cup games.
“That’s testimony to the players, and we’ve completely sold out our tickets for Wycombe, there’s going to be well over 2000 Stourbridge fans there and it’s going to make for a marvellous occasion.”
Stourbridge are currently sitting ninth in the Northern Premier League and enter the third round as the lowest-ranked side remaining in the competition.
But while the Glassboys may start this weekend’s tie as the underdogs, it is a status they are determined to prove wrong once more.
“It’s going to be the biggest game in the history of the football club, there’s no doubt about it,” added Hackett.
“We have a very proud history, but to be competing in the third round, even to be in the draw with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, it’s a very proud day.
“I think we’ll see a committed, determined performance from the team, and I like to think we have some ability in this side.
“Wycombe will go into this game as the favourites, but we have proved before that we can upset the apple cart.”
Emirates FA Cup history
The 2009-10 season proved to be a memorable campaign for Stourbridge, reaching the first round for the first time in their history, before going on to reach the same stage in four of the next seven years. During the following season, they went one better, securing a second round clash with Stevenage having defeated Plymouth Argyle at the War Memorial Ground in the previous round – a game which saw the highest crowd for 37 years (2519) attend, with two temporary stands erected.
But it is the current campaign that sees Stourbridge mix with the crème-de-la-crème of English football, and the Glassboys boss is only too aware of how momentous the occasion is.
"Reaching the third round is a massive achievement,” said Hackett. “We’re the lowest-ranked club in the competition, and we will do our very best to cause another upset.”
One to watch
Jack Duggan may have been Stourbridge’s goalscoring hero when Northampton Town came to play last month, but it is Luke Benbow who is stealing all the headlines in the league.
With 16 goals already to his name this season, Benbow will be looking to add a strike against League Two opposition to his tally, but his manager is refusing to create further pressure on any of his players ahead of the big day.
Hackett said: “Any player can be a hero on the day. I’m not going to put any pressure on any individual but we’ve got players who can cause surprises, like Jack Duggan who was the match winner in the previous round."
Did you know?
Manager Gary Hackett was born and bred in Stourbridge, and has managed the club since 2003. For the first two years of his time at the helm, he was joint manager with Jon Ford, and has since led the side to two promotions.
The winners will pocket £67,500 and book a spot in the fourth round.