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Hartley Wintney gear up for big FA Cup tie
HARTLEY Wintney FC have their sights set on a place in history as they prepare to take on Clevedon Town in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup.
The village side have never reached the fourth qualifying round of the competition before – and the odds are stacked against them on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) as they face higher level opposition in the form of Southern League outfit Clevedon Town.
However, with the backing of a partisan home crowd at their Green Lane ground, the Combined Counties League side are confident they can cause another upset, having dumped Ryman League team Eastbourne Town out in the last round.
Victory would put Hartley in the fourth qualifying round for the first time in their history, just one win away from a place in the first round proper, an incredible achievement for a club playing in the ninth tier of English football.
Hartley have already caused one major shock, beating Eastbourne Town 5-1 on their own patch in the previous round – but Clevedon are expected to pose a much tougher test.
However, the village side have three aces up their sleeve in the form of strikers Sam Argent, Ryan Stephens and Shane Hollomby.
Argent is a product of the famed Southampton FC youth system. Stephens made 50 appearances during two spells at Basingstoke Town and Hollomby has impressed for the village side in recent seasons, turning down the opportunity to play at a higher level in order to remain at Green Lane.
Manager Dillon said: “In Sam Argent, Ryan Stephens and Shane Hollomby we have got three very good strikers.
“All three have been there and done it all before. I don’t expect them to be fazed by the occasion and it will probably make them play even better.”
Clevedon may play their league football one level above Hartley but while the village side have made a stellar start to the season, the Somerset side have struggled, with only goal-difference keeping them off the foot of the table.
Dillon added: “It’s a similar situation to the game against Eastbourne Town. Clevedon are finding it tough in their league while we are flying and, on paper, there should not be much between the sides.
“Clevedon are in a higher league but we feel we can beat them. We feel that being at home and in the form we are in, we can get through and make history.
“It’s going to be a very, very tough game and it might come down to who wants the win more. I think there will be a big crowd and that will help us get up for the game even more.”
Hartley kept up their excellent form in the Combined Counties League Premier Division with a 2-0 win over Horley Town on Saturday, Carl Saunders and Stephens getting the goals.
They then put in a good performance against Conference South outfit Havant and Waterlooville on Tuesday night but were knocked out of the Hampshire Senior Cup with a 3-0 defeat.
The village side are due to return to league action on Tuesday night, hosting Westfield at Green Lane.
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