By Jon Couch
DAVID will be looking to topple Goliath at Green Lane tonight when little Hartley Wintney look to claim the local bragging rights from Basingstoke Town in an eagerly-awaited FA Cup first qualifying round replay.
‘Little brother’ as joint manager Anthony Millerick described them, fought back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw against Terry Brown’s men on Saturday.
And in doing so, they set up a second showdown against the club ten miles down the A30 who have always traditionally ruled the roost in this area of North Hampshire.
After winning back-to-back Combined Counties League titles, Hartley are enjoying their first ever season at Step 4 level in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One East, winning three of their opening four league encounters.
Their opponents Basingstoke, managed by former Football League boss Terry Brown, are full-time in the league above and have recovered well from losing their opening three matches with 13 goals scored over the Bank Holiday weekend.
But as proved at The Camrose on Saturday, the gap between feeder club and big brother is as narrow as ever, and Millerick is backing his men to get the job done and pull off a famous victory.
“They’ve seen us, we’ve seen them, there will be no secrets tonight,” he said. “We think we’ve seen a few chinks in their armour that we can expose, although I’m sure Terry [Brown] and Jason [Bristow, Academy manager] will be saying the same.
“We finished the better on Saturday and that probably gives us a bit of momentum. Basingstoke are a very talented side, but they are also very young so perhaps there might be a bit of trepidation there tonight? Either we, we know we need to outwork them and show more desire if we are to come out on top.”
Hartley’s cup hopes looked all but over going into the final quarter of the match on Saturday when Marcus John-Schuster blasted Basingstoke into a 2-0 lead after Ben Wright had earlier fired an 11th-minute opener.
But battling Hartley didn’t give up hope of springing a cup shock and two goals in the space of five minutes late on from striker Paul Hodges completed an unlikely turnaround.
And the Row were only denied a famous victory by home goalkeeper Colm McAdden who brilliantly kept out an effort from Hartley captain Sam Argent in the dying seconds.
Argent, a former Basingstoke player, netted over 50 goals for the Row last season, but none will be more satisfying than one to knock out his old employers.