FARNBOROUGH Town chief Graham Westley has admitted he ‘lives in fear of defeat' as FA Cup fever sweeps through the town this Saturday.
Memories of West Ham, Torquay and Brentford have been relived in the town this week as Boro prepare to make their 14th appearance in the first round of the FA Cup.
Standing in the way of them and potential second and third round money-spinners are Harrogate Town from the Unibond premier division —and Westley is well aware that minds need to be focused 100 per cent if the dream of a giant-killing act is to be realised.
Disappointing home tie results against lower league opposition such as Carshalton and Oxford City spring to mind in recent Westley years — the same must not be allowed to happen this time around.
Westley said: "Our weakness is undoubtedly that we show complacency when we are ‘expected' to win. I said it last time out and I repeat it now; it would be embarrassing for any of us to be associated with a failure against lower league opposition.
"Whilst a defeat is a ‘win' for Harrogate, we fear defeat like you cannot believe. We would never live it down."
For Farnborough Town and Graham Westley, the FA Cup is far more than a welcome break from the league this season — its financial rewards are crucial, while the potential revenue and status earned by a plum televised tie, can completely turn around profile and public perception. If Westley's dream is to be realised, then a lengthy FA Cup run would work wonders.
The boss added: "The financial rewards of FA Cup progress must be a significant appeal to every club at our level and beneath. There is absolutely no question about that.
"I don't think that anybody can afford to class the Cup as anything less than high priority."
That said, Westley has still flicked through his little black book of northern contacts to get the low-down on this somewhat unknown quantity.
This is Harrogate's first ever foray in the FA Cup first round proper, and with neighbours Harrogate Railway also involved, this famous Yorkshire town is revelling in cup fever.
With the financial backing of former Leeds United chairman Bill Fotherby and the management of wily John Reed, Harrogate are slowly making their way up the Unibond premier table after a slow start, and represent a tough test.
Victory over Barrow on Tuesday night took their recent run to five wins and a draw from their last six league and cup games — the kind of form which has led boss Reed to making a bold prediction.
Quoted this week, he said: "We've done our homework on Farnborough and it's a winnable tie. We've been playing better away, and if we play to our potential, we'll go through."
Westley obviously sees things differently. He commented: "It will be important to get off to a strong start again. In the first 20 minutes, you can earn so much ground on the opposition if you do things professionally — especially in the fitness stakes.
"We saw Molesey fade after a bright opening because our extra strength and fitness came through. That only happened because we wore them out.
"Harrogate will be desperate to try to survive that first 20 minutes. We have to go for the knockout; go for the throats.
"We think we know their strengths; we think we know where we can get joy; but in the end, it will come down to us — if we play to the best of our capability then I can only see one result.
"But we can all remember York City knocking out Arsenal in the Cup can't we?! If you take any opponent lightly then you can get into trouble."
Westley's main problem at the moment is goals. Boro have failed to score in each of their last three Conference clashes and each member of Westley's five-pronged strike force, is struggling to find any kind of consistent goalscoring form.
"We have not scored as many goals as we would have liked," Westley went on. "Our biggest problem in the forward area has been inconsistency in selection which has been caused primarily by player availability. If there is inconsistency, players can't develop understandings and confidence can suffer.
"But once those things return, my lads will get goals; no doubt. Just look at their records and know that I'll have them hungrier than they've ever been before. It may happen on Saturday; maybe Saturday week; maybe after Christmas; but they'll get goals these boys — have confidence."
The good news for Boro is that skipper Steve Watson returns from a two-match suspension, and he is likely to step straight into the line-up.
Joff Vansittart is also in the reckoning for a return, but the main question mark at the moment surrounds defender Jim Rodwell, who has seemingly slipped out of the reckoning. Rumours pointing to a training ground bust-up with Westley have not been commented on, but Rodwell was still a surprise exclusion in the party which drew 0-0 at Gravesend & Northfleet on Saturday.
Commenting on the rumours, Westley simply said: "I didn't include Jim Rodwell in the travelling party on Saturday. Buncey [Nathan Bunce] and Barry Laker were excellent; so too was Dazza [Darren Annon] when he came on."
l The Farnborough Town clubhouse will open early on Saturday, at 12pm.
l FTFC would like to thank Dick Molden of World Wide Carpets for sponsoring the match.