08:30AM, Thursday 12 October 2017
FORMER FA Cup winner Alan Devonshire knows his players will have to be on their mettle if they’re to overcome Havant & Waterlooville in Saturday’s qualifying clash.
The Magpies come into the fourth qualifying round tie as heavy favourites, but Devonshire is wary of the talent Havant have within their ranks and knows they’re more than capable of pulling off a cup shock.
The rigours of playing in the National League have shown on the surface of the Magpies’ stretched squad in recent weeks but whether this Saturday’s clash comes as a welcome distraction or an unwanted burden remains to be seen.
“I’ll tell you at ten to five on Saturday,” said Devonshire with a knowing smile.
The manager expects he’ll make a few changes for the visit of Havant but insisted the Magpies were taking the competition seriously, with the carrot of a first-round tie against a side like Portsmouth or Blackburn Rovers a possibility if they can put their names in the hat.
“We’re one game away from the first round,” Devonshire added. “We could get Blackburn or something in the next round. We want to take that seriously.
“I’ll probably make a few changes but we’ll try to get through that.
“This is the time in the season when it hurts the part-time teams a bit more. They can’t come in tomorrow (Sunday) and have a relax down, and I think it caught up with us playing Saturday and Tuesday last week.
“Havant are a big spending team that have got really good players. On their day they can beat anyone. They’re a big squad with all ex-pros playing, a bit like the Billericay situation. We know it will be tough so we will have to be on our mettle.”
Havant have had some troubling times in recent seasons and their demotion to the Ryman Premier Division two seasons ago was one of the shocks of that campaign. But, with Lee Bradbury at the helm, they’ve stabilised and were promoted as champions last season, holding off Bognor Regis Town in a gripping title race.
Bradbury doesn’t know if a double promotion is a realistic aim for his side this season but he knows that, on their day, they’re capable of upsetting the Magpies, even on their own patch where results have been good of late. Dev is well aware the Magpies won’t have things all their own way on Saturday.
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