Excitement has grown ahead of Hartley Wintney FC's "biggest home game"
Hartley Wintney FC chairman Luke Mullen is calling on the entire village to unite and embrace the biggest football match in the club’s 116-year history on Saturday (October 12).
The Row are preparing to face Somerset club Clevedon Town in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup – only the second time ever they have reached this stage of the competition and the first time at their Memorial Ground home.
Under player-boss Ben Dillon, the club have enjoyed a storming start to the new season having lost just once in the league so far and with their FA Vase hopes still in tact.
The highlight, however, was undoubtedly the 5-1 away victory in the last round against Eastbourne Town.
Similarly to them, Clevedon only have one league victory to their name from their tier above, although they impressed with a 3-0 victory just four miles down the road at Fleet Town in the FA Trophy at the weekend.
Somewhat surprisingly, Hartley resisted the temptation to run the rule over their cup opponents at Calthorpe Park over the weekend, but chairman Mullen has revealed the two sets of players did come face-to-face in a brief exchange after their respective matches.
“We were watching the Sunderland versus Manchester United game on the telly and we saw them [Clevedon] peering through the window checking the place out. We were more than happy to show them round and asked them in for a drink but they said they had to get off.
“We’re really looking forward to Saturday, it’s a massive game for the club – probably the biggest home game in its history – and we’d love to see as many people as down there as possible the cheer the lads on.
“Already we’ve had a lot of well-wishers and there has been interest in the village and on the club website so hopefully we'll get a good turnout.”
Mullen wouldn’t have to go back far to remember Hartley's last appearance in this round – two years ago when they went down 4-0 to neighbours Basingstoke Town.
But even though the likes of Aldershot Town and the rest of the Conference Premier await for a potential money-spinning tie in the next round, Mullen insists the club will not get too carried away.
“We’ll just go and play our game and see where it takes us, it's all we can do,” he added after a 3-0 Hampshire Senior Cup defeat to Havant & Waterlooville on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a level-headed bunch of lads here who prepare for every game the same. At the same time though we’ve been absolutely fantastic this season and I know we’re capable of making history.”