Felixstowe & Walton United welcome AFC Telford United to Dellwood Avenue today - in what has been described as the biggest game in the club’s history.
By Steven Oldham
FA Trophy run massive for the club
Stuart Boardley’s side are in FA Trophy second round action, as the National League North strugglers come to town.
The Isthmian North side have already knocked out Maldon & Tiptree, Hastings United and Peterborough Sports to reach this stage.
Ex-Leiston manager Boardley is relishing the opportunity to both provide an upset and boost his side’s faltering league form. The Seasiders have lost five of their last six Step 4 games.
“It’s a massive game for us. It’s a privilege to be at the helm for this game, and it’s fantastic for everyone at the club.
“The players have been looking forward to it for a couple of weeks now. I think that’s probably evident in our performances over the last couple of weeks if I’m honest!
“Our eyes have inevitably been drawn to this game against Telford, which maybe they shouldn’t have done, but you find that happens in football. I’m not too concerned about the recent form,” he said.
Felixstowe stepping into the unknown
The Bucks hired Warrington Town manager Paul Carden as their new boss earlier this week with the club bottom of the National League North.
The change in management has thrown a spanner in the works for Boardley, having scouted the team under interim boss Dennis Greene.
However, Carden may have the same problem - as Boardley has been struggling with an injury-hit squad in recent weeks.
“There will be a change in ideas and under a new manager. It’s clear that they were struggling, so their previous philosophy wasn’t working. They have appointed a new manager this week who will have had two training sessions with the team.
“It’s a cup game where anything can happen. We’ve had a lot of change in personnel over the last few weeks, so research on both sides is probably irrelevant now. It should be an interesting game.
“We’re a bit short, there’s a few out injured who would usually stake a claim for a starting place. We have a few coming back from injury too. We have a strong squad and I’m relatively happy where we’re at,” he said.
Let’s use Trophy run to boost Isthmian North campaign
The side’s league form heading into this fixture hasn’t been great. Three straight defeats, including a 5-0 loss last weekend at Aveley, are hardly ideal preparation.
Boardley is honest enough to admit his players may have taken their eyes off the ball, but wasn’t helped by injuries to three centre backs ahead of the game. Their replacements were both stretchered off the pitch 20 minutes into the match.
“We came up against a very good Aveley side last week. They were better than us and deserved the victory.
“Our players play better when they are underdogs against better sides. It’s probably a mindset thing when they don’t perform as well against teams they are expected to beat. We have to put that right in our league form and stamp our authority on games.
“We were able to rest quite a few players in the county cup game who will be playing Saturday, and suffered no new injuries which is a bonus.
“I’m hoping that a Trophy run can breed a bit of positivity and confidence to take into the league games. We know that a team at our level won’t go on and win the FA Trophy, but it can really kickstart a league run for us,” he said.
Covid shouldn’t threaten season this year
We all know that the pandemic hasn't been kind to clubs at Step 4, and Boardley is yet to complete a full season as Felixstowe manager since taking over in 2019.
The 36-year-old admits it’s been hard to keep his players motivated through two stop-start abandoned seasons, but is more hopeful of completing the campaign this time around.
He led the club to the same stage last season, bringing in vital prize money as other income streams such as gate receipts dried up.
“I’m relatively young in my managerial career, and it’s been tough over the past couple of seasons. As a country we seem to be a lot further forward than other countries at this stage, so hopefully that will enable us to continue the season.
“I think attending football matches outside is certainly safer than a lot of other things that are going on at the moment.
“The money from Trophy runs is massive for the club. It’s a real lifesaver for some teams at our level. We’re a relatively financially stable club, but the Trophy brings more than just money. The interest in the competition brings new faces to the club that you hope will transfer to league games too,” he said.