By David Richardson
Justin Edinburgh insists there’s no chance of Leyton Orient underestimating AFC Telford in their mission to reach Wembley.
The O’s survived a scare at holders and lower-league Brackley Town in the quarter-finals, coming from behind to win 2-1, and now take on another National North high-flyer.
The Orient boss admitted his side were second best for most of their previous tie, but is adamant complacency wasn’t and won’t be a problem going forward.
“We go into it fully prepared and fully understanding of the difficulty of the game,” he told The NLP. “We had the tough encounter with Brackley, who are doing very well in the league, and we played Blyth as well, who were in and around the play-offs.
“We were way below-par for the first hour; Brackley were the better team there’s no doubt about that, but didn’t find a second goal which they probably would have felt they should have had.
“Testament to my players, because to play as poorly as they did for an hour, to find something within and galvanise themselves to go on and win the game was a big achievement. It took a lot of character, we have that, and that’s what we’re going to need in these two ties.
“We’d never ever be complacent or disrespectful. We’re only one league above; we’re not a Football League side anymore.”
Edinburgh’s passion for the FA Trophy has been evident in his spells as a Non-League manager, and despite Orient’s ambitions to return to the Football League, he made the competition a priority.
“I said to the players at the start of the season that it was a competition that we realistically had to look at winning,” he added, having previously reached the 2012 final with Newport County.
“We’re two games away from the final now. I’ve always said that for me, as a manager in the Conference, it’s been a good competition and one I’ve always enjoyed.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity not only as a player but for the fans and staff to go and be a part of a final at Wembley. It’s a big incentive to know what the prize is at the end of it. You’re involved in football for memories, to win things.”
Standing in their way is a Telford side thriving under rookie boss Gavin Cowan.
“He used to play for me at Grays,” revealed Edinburgh. “He’s taken the helm this season and done a fantastic job.
“I wasn’t overly surprised to see him go into management. He was a bit of a thinking player, he was always inquisitive and thoughtful. I could see it. He’s took to it very well.
“Being at home first we’ll look to take an advantage away. I guess Gavin will be saying to them ‘make sure to stay in the tie’.
“I think you have to be mindful that it’s not won or lost in the first leg.”
Gavin Cowan used to watch Leyton Orient as a schoolboy – now he’s planning their downfall with AFC Telford United.
The National League North side have reached the FA Trophy semi-finals the hard way and have begun preparations for their toughest test yet.
Cowan’s men have beaten higher-league Solihull Moors and Hartlepool United on route to the final four while navigating past Spennymoor Town and Darlington on the road, plus a 4-3 thriller with Northern Premier League high-flyers Farsley Celtic.
They travel to Brisbane Road this weekend unbeaten in four matches, with Cowan confident they can match the hosts.
“It’s a tie that, over two legs, we think we can cause them problems in,” he told The NLP. “We’ve had some long trips and most of it has been away from home. On our day if we do things right and prepare right we’re a tough task for anyone. We’ve got a brilliant group with a lot of togetherness.
“It’s a fantastic tie, I’m sure there will be an unbelievable crowd at Brisbane Road, a place I know well having been to watch them there as a boy.
“I lived down south and played for numerous London clubs growing up before I started my career as an apprentice.
“I used to watch them when they had Terry Howard and Steve Castle, and players like that. I’m really looking forward to going back.
“A Wembley final isn’t something that comes around in your lifetime very often. It adds to the anticipation of it all and gives both clubs even more motivation to win the tie.”