Banbury United’s Kelvin Langmead believes they have all the tools in place to pull off a shock FA Cup win against League Two Barrow on Saturday evening.
By Steven Oldham
Banbury ready for a giant-killing
The Southern League Premier Central side are in the first round proper for a second consecutive year. Victory would take them into the second round for the first time ever.
The Puritans could not be in much better form heading into their big game, and are still unbeaten this season in all competitions.
Langmead - who joined the club last year - knows people want to see an upset in front of the TV cameras. The game has been moved to 5.15pm for a primetime kick-off on ITV4.
As the club look to bridge a three league gap to their opponents, confidence is high in the dressing room.
He said: “The lads are confident. We go into every game believing we can win it. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be an incredibly tough game. All the lads are enjoying their football and are really excited for the game.
“The club have done the research - we’re working out what their strengths and weaknesses might be. They are full of good, energetic players. They are of a higher quality than what we’re used to playing. The old cliche is that in a cup game, form goes out of the window so we are just looking at it as a game we can win.”
Big crowd can play their part
A crowd of over 2,000 will be packed into the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium to watch the game.
Having made it to this stage last year with no fans in grounds due to Covid restrictions, Langmead is relishing playing the game in front of a full crowd.
The added attention brought by the presence of the TV cameras further builds pressure on their more senior opponents.
A handsome £50,000 broadcast fee is an added bonus for a club who have already knocked out four teams to get to this stage.
“It’s huge for everyone at the club that the game is at home. Getting to the first round is a massive achievement for us in the first place. It’s a massive boost for everyone that the fans are allowed in. Being on TV gives us a chance to show everyone what we’re all about - it’s a great occasion for the whole football club,” he said.
Experienced defender leading the way
The 36-year-old has, in his own words, never been on such a successful run in his near 20 year career.
Having started out at Preston North End, he made his name at Shrewsbury Town where he made over 200 appearances.
Spells at Peterborough United and Northampton Town followed, before moving into non-league. Manager Andy Whing picked up a vastly experienced player when he signed Langmead ahead of the abandoned 2020-21 season.
He also knows what it feels like to be in Barrow’s shoes, having suffered FA Cup embarrassment at the hands of Blyth Spartans and Staines Town while at Shrewsbury.
“I try and use my experience when I can. I’m not a massive ranter and raver, but I try to talk to the lads separately and lead by example. I can hopefully help some of the younger ones out there, but I don’t think anyone is fazed by the occasion at all.
“You don’t get given anything in football, especially playing a team three leagues above you. It’s about how you approach the game. The longer we can stay in the game, our confidence will grow. They might get more nervous and start to think they’re in a game.
“We’ve won 17 out of 19 games. It’s incredible to go that amount of games without a defeat. We’ve earned it, and we’re enjoying it.
“I’ve done this sort of game the other way around - going away to a non-league team. You have to be on it, which I’m sure they will be. It’s difficult. I lost a few of them at Shrewsbury. They are banana skins. It’s probably the reason we’re on the TV - Banbury are in great form at home to a League club. The game’s sold out and there’s the potential for an upset,” he said.
Ambitious Banbury looking to the future
Following promotion from the old Division One South & West in 2016, Banbury have been steady members of Step 3 ever since.
Langmead believes there’s desire for more, with manager Whing having a clear plan in place for progression since joining the club last May.
An unbeaten start to this season is a good way to go about fighting for promotion, with Banbury third in the table with games in hand.
All in all, it’s a good time to be at the club.
“The mentality within the club has drastically shifted from this time last year. The gaffer has told me he really wants to bring the club forwards. So many things are going on in and around the club that are progressive. There’s a lot of talk within the club about getting a Step 2 mentality around the place, and that’s happening.
"We have huge ambition and the gaffer has brought in young, hungry lads who have had tastes of League clubs and not quite made it. They still have that desire to go on and play higher. No-one at the football club is happy to stay at this level - they want to progress. When you get that in the changing room and everyone is pushing in the same direction, it snowballs.
“The results have allowed that to happen and you ride that wave. It’s a great place to be at the moment,” he said.