By Matt Badcock
Gary Forrest hopes his change of approach to FA Vase games will continue paying off for West Auckland Town when they take on Chertsey Town.
Forrest has enjoyed plenty of success in the Northern League and took Shildon to Vase quarters before, in 2013, reaching the semi-final where they lost to Tunbridge Wells.
Saturday’s tie will be his third experience of this stage of the competition and he’s believes the winner will be whoever makes the best decisions on the day.
But he acknowledged just why the Vase is so special.
“For Step 5, you get a trip to Wembley,” Forrest said. “I think Non-League Finals Day is a brilliant idea because it gets a real crowd in there, there’s a buzz and it’s a proper occasion.
“I’ll be honest, in previous years I’ve always targeted the league as my priority. Because in the Vase you have one bad day and you’re out, you get a bad draw you go out. You can’t really target your season around a cup competition.
“You might still get a bad draw but let’s make sure we do intensive homework on the opposition and go in with specific gameplans per game.
“That’s something I’ve never really done before myself. I’ve gone into it treating it as a normal game and this year we’ve probably gone a little bit further in our preparations.”
West progressed by beating division rivals Hebburn Town last weekend on the same day Combined Counties League high-flyers Chertsey saw off Irlam.
Former Wimbledon, Hendon and Harrow boss Dave Anderson says his players will relish the opportunity against the competition’s new favourites.
“Tough, really tough,” Anderson said. “No matter who won, they knew they had the equivalent of Man City away really.
“It’s really tough but when you get games like this it’s something to embrace. I always think managers and staff are more wary of it than players. Players love it – and so they should, go and embrace these big games. Look at their record in the FA Vase – it’s decent!
“Everyone at this stage of the competition will respect each other, but we won’t fear it.”
VERDICT: West Auckland are the favourites to lift the trophy but don’t discount any Dave Anderson side.