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Rob Small | Bowers & Pitsea boss writing history with FA Cup giantkillers

Rob Small is keen to see his Bowers & Pitsea side continue writing their own history when they travel to take on League One outfit Lincoln City in this weekend’s FA Cup First Round clash.

Bowers & Pitsea Fans

Rob Small is hugged by a Bowers & Pitsea supporter - Credit: Nash Photography

By Amos Murphy

History makers out to cause upset against Lincoln

Popping up to net the winner with 10 minutes to play of their Fourth Qualifying Round tie against Aldershot Town, Quinten Monville secured his place in the Bowers & Pitsea history books.

Having led in the first half, the National League side struck back to cancel out Lewis Manor’s opener for Bowers & Pitsea, before Monville’s late strike sent the 500 or so home fans inside the Len Salmon Stadium into ecstasy.

Currently at the lower-end of the Isthmian Premier Division table, Bowers United – as they were originally known – had endured a bumpy ride since being formed in the mid-1940s, before a merger with Pitsea FC in 2004 led to the current version of the club.

A modest non-league side for much of their history, Bowers & Pitsea have enjoyed a meteoric rise through the divisions in recent years, with Rob Small at the heart of their progression as a club.

Small hoping to catch Lincoln napping

Appointed as manager in the summer of 2014, the much-loved Rob Small has overseen two promotions as Bowers & Pitsea boss in his seven years in charge, before most recently guiding them to the First Round of the FA Cup for the maiden time.

A monumental achievement for a club in step six of non-league as recently as 2016, but Small has not allowed the success sink in just yet:

“Time for reflection will come after we’ve been knocked out (of the FA Cup). We’ve still got a game to play and 19 times out of 20 Lincoln might beat us, but there’s still that one occasion where we get a result”.

Notorious for their giant killings themselves, drawing third-tier Lincoln in the cup has set up the biggest match since Bowers & Pitsea’s existence and Small has urged his players to continue writing their own history when they travel to Sincil Bank:

“We’re hoping not expecting, but the pressure is now on Lincoln to get a result because as the full-time team they should be swatting Bowers aside and making light work of us.

“As the game unfolds the psychology and the pressure may take its toll on Lincoln, but we’re cognizant if they blow us away within 20 minutes, we’ll just be taking part in a day out and not competing like we want to”.

Small changes leading to big advancements at Essex club

Their route to the FA Cup First Round began all the way back in early September, yet the journey to be in a position where Bowers & Pitsea can compete against the likes of Aldershot started much earlier.

Since taking charge seven years ago, Small has been keen to instil a humble attitude amongst his players and insists the values within his squad are of the utmost importance:

“We’ve got a very honest group of players, with all those sorts of traditional non-league values that a lot of supporters really miss in this day and age.

“We try and epitomise all of those, we’re very much a team for the working class. No thrills and spills, we’re not going to electrify everyone with free-flowing football, it’s going to be a dogged hard-working team.”

It’s exactly that mentality that has seen Small drag Bowers & Pitsea from the depth of non-league and into the spotlight, but there were some frustrations about not being selected as one of the First Round’s television picks.

Small frustrated that big day isn’t on the box

Of the six matches selected for television coverage across a bumper-weekend of First Round action, only one didn’t include a non-league side, and Small believes the allocations would’ve been much more beneficial to a side like Bowers & Pitsea:

“I half expected (not to be picked) when we were drawn away, but I was a little deflated when I saw some of the other ties that were selected”.

One of the matches Small references is the all-League One affair between Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield Wednesday – a clash that will most likely feature heavily rotated teams from two sides focused on pushing for promotion:

“Selecting Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth (Argyle) is just for ratings. I understand people have jobs to do, but it’s just a shame that those clubs have been here and done it, so First Round exposure isn’t exactly going to change their lives.

“£50,000 to Sheffield Wednesday is something I can’t really imagine they’ll notice hit the books, but that money for Bowers & Pitsea could’ve financially secured us for a number of years and the exposure may have brought new fans to the club who didn’t even know we existed on their doorstep”.

History awaits Small and Bowers & Pitsea

Nonetheless, Small ensured that the disappointment of not being selected for the box will not overshadow what is set to be a monumental day for Bowers & Pitsea:

“For me it’s the culmination of a lifetime dream and words don’t particularly do it justice. To think where we were seven or eight years ago, to walking out on Saturday in front of however many thousand people.

“It won’t financially change the club forever, but it will create a special bond between the players, management, volunteers, supporters that will last for a very long time. People will remember exactly where they were the day we played Lincoln and that's something I can be very proud of.

There is no doubt this cup run has created a legacy for the club to build on and whether or not they find a way to scrape past Lincoln remains to be seen, yet one thing is for sure, Bowers & Pitsea under Small continue to make giant strides towards success.

Keep up to date with the latest non-league news over on our Twitter, whilst you can follow Amos' latest work too.

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