FC STRATFORD will be aiming to erase the huge disappointment of being denied a final date at Walsall FC when they kick off this season’s quest in the Les James Challenge Cup tomorrow (Saturday).
Stratford booked a date in the showpiece final at the Banks’s Stadium last term after defeating Redditch Borough in the sem-finals, only to discover they had unwittingly fielded an ineligible player. As a result they were thrown out of the Midland League’s knockout competition.
The start their 2017-18 challenge tomorrow when they visit Black Country side Pelsall Villa in a first-round tie.
Pelsall lie a league above Stratford but manager Dave Poulson says his side will be determined to upset the odds.
“After what happened last year, it has given us even more determination to do well this season,” said Poulson.
“We went from euphoria after winning the semi-final to then huge disappointment. We were all thinking we have got the chance to go and play at a League One ground in what would have been one of the biggest nights in the club’s history. But then due to the rules we couldn’t. There was jubilation one moment and then a feeling of devastation.”
Stratford had played James Robbins, the then club captain who had joined from Studley, in their giant-killing run beating three Division Two sides but the rules said that although he was allowed to play in the early rounds he was barred from the semi-finals because he had played for higher-league Studley.
“It was a genuine mistake. The rule was there but we just didn’t realise it and that James couldn’t play.
“Ironically, the rule was being scrapped at the end of the season.”
Stratford head to Pelsall in good form after four wins in a row, while Poulson will have a near full-strength squad available. Central midfielder Nick Cox is unavailable.
Elsewhere, Alcester are also in Les James Challenge Cup action when they travel Earlswood Town.
Shipston Excelsior look to build on their first home win of the season last week when they entertain Division Three newcomers Birmingham Tigers to London Road.