By Jon Couch
FA TROPHY minnows Hartley Wintney say the Football Association have robbed them of one of the biggest days in their history as a result of a last-minute fixture reshuffle.
The village club are furious to be forced to play their first-ever third round tie on a midweek night, while having to sit out a Saturday afternoon through no fault of their own.
Evo-Stik Southern South & West newcomers Hartley are drawn away to either Premier division rivals Banbury United or Farnborough in a tie which should have taken place this Saturday (25).
But they must now wait until Tuesday November 28 to play the game while their potential opponents battle it out in a rescheduled replay.
The initial replay, pencilled in for last Tuesday night, has to be postponed at 8.45pm after a serious accident on the M1 saw no fewer than six travelling Farnborough players stuck in traffic.
But with Southern League matches taking priority over the Trophy and both clubs in action at the weekend and tonight (Tuesday), the FA deemed there was no other time to replay the fixture than this Saturday, leaving Hartley in limbo.
At the same time, the FA decided to clear Farnborough of any blame for failing to fulfil the fixture, and now their Hampshire village neighbours believe they are the victims from a decision which has robbed the club of valuable revenue and their fans of a memorable day out.
“It’s a miscarriage of justice,” said frustrated joint-manager Anthony Millerick, whose side must now travel to Aylesbury United tomorrow night (Wednesday) in a league game brought forward.
“This is one of the biggest games in the club’s history. We had booked to take two coach loads of supporters, which for a village team is incredible, but now we can’t go to the game in the way we deserve. We have essentially been punished for doing things the right way.
“A Saturday game would have brought in much-needed revenue and given the people of this village a day out to remember, but being forced to make another trip around the M25 for a Tuesday night kick-off, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
“At the same time, we are delighted to be in the third round of the trophy and we’ll be up for whoever we have to play, whenever we have to play it. It’s still a massive game for the club and we’re thoroughly looking forward to it.”