MARK BOWER has had his fair share of cup woe and believes it is high time that changed.
As a player and now a manager, the romance of the FA Cup has barely offered the Guiseley boss so much as a peck on the cheek and feels he is overdue a welcome change of luck.
The Lions start their cup adventure with a nasty-looking trip across the Pennines to Evo-Stik North high-fliers Droylsden tomorrow, with Bower urging his troops to heed the warnings of recent years in terms of cup shocks at the hands of lower-division rivals.
Bower was in the Guiseley side who bowed out at Ashington in the third qualifying round in 2011-12 and was also involved in the shock FA Trophy exit at Skelmersdale in 2012-13.
Anxious to avoid a hat-trick of cup shocks on the road, he said: “I have been at the club when we have lost to the likes of Ashington and Skelmersdale in cup competitions.
“And I will not be taking Saturday’s tie lightly.
“It’s a massive, massive game and we must make sure we approach it properly.
“You can guarantee there will be teams from our league who go out to teams from lower leagues. It will happen.
“We have got to make sure we apply ourselves properly and give ourselves every chance that it is not us.
“Things can go against you on the day, but if we do things properly, then we should be able to have the quality to progress.
“But it is all about attitude, desire and work-rate to get the job done.
“I played in the Ashington defeat where we went behind early on and even though we didn’t play particularly well, we missed a few chances. Ashington rode their luck a bit, but we were not as good as we should have been and it was the classic cup shock ingredient where a higher division team is below par and the lower division one play above themselves.
“We have to make sure we don’t do that again.”
On his lamentable association with the cup, the 34-year-old added: “I have barely got anywhere in it and the best result I ever had was at York when we beat Reading away in a replay and we won 3-1. Maybe I am saving it up for one big run.
While league business may be Bower’s priority, he admits a strong cup run comes a close second.
He is conscious of the financial merits and amount of kudos which can be generated by getting to the first round proper.
And one suspects it won’t have escaped his attentions that the likes of former clubs Bradford City and York City, alongside Sheffield United and could represent potential mouth-watering opponents in the first round.
Bower, still without Alex Johnson, and Danny Hall still a couple of months away from a return, said: “It is absolutely massive for a club at our level to get through a few rounds of the FA Cup because of the prize money it brings, which is really useful these days and it makes it very worthwhile.
“Obviously, if we can get to that first round proper, there will be some big, big clubs in there who are plying their trade in League One and Two.
“We are all striving to get in the first round proper, but we can’t look at that before looking at the tie now and we must do the business on Saturday.”
Elsewhere in the second qualifying round, Harrogate Town and Bradford Park Avenue host Stockport and AFC Fylde in two all-Vanarama North contests.
NEIL PARSLEY is banking on the underdog card proving a trump card for Farsley AFC, who travel to Gainsborough Trinity in an FA Cup second-qualifying round clash tomorrow.
Parsley’s side knocked out higher-division opponents in the previous round, when they were good value for a derby victory over Frickley, but tomorrow’s clash represents a step-up in calibre again for the Throstle Nest outfit.
They will also face hosts with a point to prove, with Trinity kicked out of last season’s competition for fielding an ineligible player.
Gainsborough chairman Nick Tinker says that the club “owes one to the fans” ahead of tomorrow’s clash with the Lincolnshire outfit seeking to make amends with their loyal fanbase.
For his part, Parsley is solely concerned with satisfying his own supporters, which he is confident his side will do if they measure up to the standards that he has set them this term.
They did that in midweek with a redeeming 2-0 win at fellow high-fliers Droylsden, through goals from Aiden Savory and Marcus Edwards.
It helped get back in Parsley’s good books after he witnessed a calamitous late capitulation in Saturday’s 4-3 Evo-Stik North home loss to Mossley, when the hosts led 3-2 going into stoppage-time.
On tomorrow’s tie, Parsley said: “We go there as massive underdogs, we know that. But we are fine having that title.
“We know a little bit about one or two of their players and we had a decent match report about them from Saturday, but we go there with no fear and we will roll our sleeves up and do our utmost to get through.
“If it is not to be, it is not to be. But it won’t be through the lack of trying or belief and we believe we have the players and squad to go to Gainsborough and give a good account of themselves.
“We have standards and pressure to live up to our standards. If we perform to those standards, we won’t be far away.
“Our target in the FA Cup comes down and down each year because in the last two years, we have had difficult draws and not progressed. But this year, we have managed to do that.
“This year is not a friendly draw to us either, but it is what it is and we will do our best.”
Elsewhere, Harrogate Railway Athletic make the cup trip to Colwyn Bay, while Scarborough Athletic visit Curzon Ashton.
In the Evo-Stik Premier, Frickley welcome Ramsbottom and in the First Division North, Ossett Town host Darlington 1883.
Ossett Albion make the trip to Radcliffe Borough.
JOINT manager Duncan Bray is emphatic about Pontefract Collieries’ rise towards the top of NCEL Division One – labelling it as a ‘miracle.’
Third-placed Ponte are on the crest of a wave heading into tomorrow’s derby trip to Yorkshire Amateur, having won their last four league matches and five of their last six outings in the division.
All this has been achieved despite considerable tinkering and disruption to the side’s line-up, with the winds of change having served the Beechnut Lane outfit well so far in 2015-16.
Bray, who shares dug-out duties with Nicky Handley, said: “It has a miracle getting to the top, considering the amount of players we have had to sign due to injuries.
“I think we have signed more players in the last six weeks more than we did in last season entirely as in the last four or five games, we have struggled to field a full squad of players.
“It has been an achievement to get to where we are, to be honest. We have signed three new players a week for the last four weeks as we were losing three or four players per game to injury.
“It was a bit of a freak and last Saturday and the midweek before, we listed 11 players who were unfit
“They were all 11 quality players who were good to get into any team in the league.”
On the positive dynamic being generated, he added: “We have signed some young faces, but also made use of those in our under-19s, who have been absolutely superb. We have some really strong players coming back in and there will be some real competition for places when they do.
“Last season, we had a nightmare start and from October onwards, we had a 17-game unbeaten run, but still weren’t in the top three.
“This year, we started well, with some good players to come back and hopefully we will be around to top three or four at Christmas and that’s the aim to definitely finish there.”
Elsewhere, leaders AFC Emley welcome Penistone Church and Knaresborough head to second-placed Clipstone.
Hemsworth and Eccleshill head to Louth and Teversal. Selby welcome Shirebrook.
Two derbies in the Premier see Tadcaster host Liversedge and Thackley welcome Garforth.
Rock-bottom Nostell head to Bridlington and a battle of two strugglers sees Glashoughton entertain Armthorpe.