By Gerry PrewettThe full romance of the FA Cup will be on display at the Mem on Sunday when the Generals will be looking to overthrow the Pirates on their home territory.
In this instance, the Generals are Southern League, Chesham United who earned their nickname because they were once the football team of the General Baptist Church in Chesham. In 1917 the Generals merged with Chesham Town and became Chesham United.
There is great excitement within the town with six coach loads of supporters due to make the journey down the M4 to Bristol. United are currently in 17th spot in the Southern League with 22 points from 16 games. Their latest League game was a 3-1 home victory over leaders Poole Town.
United took the lead in the 20th minute, when Matt Taylor took a long throw on the right and the ball came to Nick Beasant (son of FA Cup hero and former Chesham player Dave) on the left edge of the area, he had his ankles clipped by Lewis Tallack for a penalty. Kelvin Bossman took the kick and converted with ease to give Chesham the lead. Poole were level within four minutes, as George Fenton brought down Marvin Brooks 30 yards out, and Luke Burbidge’s free kick deflected off the end of the Chesham wall and into the far corner of the net. 1-1 at half-time.
On 73 minutes Chesham made a double substitution, which paid immediate dividends, Ryan Blake pulling the ball back from the right to Dave Pearce who scored with his first touch of the ball. Five minutes later Taylor ran at the visiting defence, and was eventually floored by a combination of Jamie Whisken and Carl Pettefer. This time Pearce took the penalty, and also netted with ease to put Chesham 3-1 up.
Of course the big story has been the return of Barry Hayles. Hayles has been sidelined since being injured in the second minute away to Cirencester on September 19th but with Manager Andy Leese recently announcing, "The good news is that Barry is making progress now and the signs are that he will be fit to play", there is optimism that Chesham's talismanic Player/Coach will play at least some part on Sunday.
Leese also praised "We are grateful to the Southern League and Bedworth for agreeing to postpone Tuesday evening’s league game. It gave us more time to prepare ahead of Sunday, avoids any injuries, and allowed us to work on how we want to play. The players are looking forward to it. New territory for most of them, but a challenge they will relish as they have shown in other one off games this season. We have done our homework as you would expect and spoken to other clubs who have played at Bristol this season. It will be the biggest game in years for the club and we intend to do the club proud."
"We trained well again last night and finalized how we will set up on Sunday. The players are in fine form and looking forward to it as you would expect. We had some good news as Barry is fit to play having come through another session, and George Legg will also be fit to come back in to the reckoning. Barry has had a busier week I think than when he was playing full time with all the media interest, but he takes it in his stride and focuses on his fitness and helping get the players ready for the game.”
"I know the line up we want to start with to ensure we have the best chance of competing in what promises to be a really challenging afternoon for us. It is great to see the level of support we are likely to get and I am sure the noise will lift us all day. It will be strange having a Saturday off but I doubt we will be resting with FA Trophy and forthcoming opposition to watch. We are looking forward to Sunday and the chance to make a mark a name for the club."
Player Toby Little commented, "The excitement is building and the players are relishing the opportunity to showcase what we are all about. Personally it is one of the biggest games of my career having only once before played in this round. These games don’t come round very often and we are all determined to do our best."
Club Captain Bruce Wilson said, "League positions don’t lie, and we know Bristol will be favourites as they are technically better and stronger than what we are used to. We go there in confident mood having won our last 3 games. We will need to be at our very best, but if we stick to the game plan and we are hard to break down then we have a chance. It is the FA cup and anything can happen."
Finally Barry Hayles had the last word, "To pull it off we'd have to be at the top of our game, and a few Rovers players would have to have an off day, but every team has a chance in every game they play in".