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Lakenheath seeking to embrace underdog tag at Rugby Town in the FA Vase



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Manager Ben Cowling will tell his Lakenheath players to ensure they leave the pitch at Rugby Town with no regrets as they bid to reach the last 16 of the Buildbase FA Vase on Saturday (3pm).

It is only the village side’s third year in the famous national competition but they make the 97-mile trip to east Warwickshire for a fourth round proper tie just four wins from a Wembley final.

Unlike in the previous two rounds, manager Cowling believes they head into the latest biggest game in their history as the firm underdogs. But it is a challenge he hopes his players will relish.

Ben Cowling believes his Lakenheath side will be the underdogs on Saturday. Picture: Mark Westley
Ben Cowling believes his Lakenheath side will be the underdogs on Saturday. Picture: Mark Westley

Having watched Rugby just before the turn of the year, he said: “It is a game of football and of course we’ve got a chance.

“Rugby will undoubtedly be favourites – they’ve won eight of their last nine league games having lost on Saturday to the leaders.

“They have got some very dangerous and experienced footballers. And they are sitting fourth in a Step 5 division with us travelling a couple of hours up the road to play them.

Shaun Avis and his Lakenheath team-mates celebrate a goal during the previous round. Picture: Mark Westley
Shaun Avis and his Lakenheath team-mates celebrate a goal during the previous round. Picture: Mark Westley

“They will be firm favourites and we probably had that in our last games against Norwich CBS and Shefford (& Campton) and dealt with that. It will be up to us now to go and prove a point.

“We have had very good away performances this year but it is a great challenge.”

He added: “I think we’ve got a big travelling support coming with us and it is about going out there and making sure you do yourself justice in those games.

“There is no point shying away, you are there and you’ve got 90 minutes.

“You just don’t want to come off the pitch saying what if I had done this or I had done that.

“I am sure the players will give everything that they’ve got and that’s all that we can ask of them.”

Their opponents, known as ‘The Valley’ from two previous names, ply their trade in the equivalent level Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division South. Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to Hinckley LRFC was their first defeat in 10 games in all competitions.

Lakenheath have started 2022 with two victories without conceding with Saturday’s impressive 4-0 home win over Fakenham Town seeing them leapfrog their visitors into 11th position in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division.

A brace from defender Sam Peters, which was accompanied by a Shaun Avis penalty, put them firmly in control at the break before Casey Underwood added a fourth in the second half.

But attention now turns firmly back to the Vase where dreams of a Wembley appearance – with Lowestoft Town the last Suffolk side to make the final in 2007/08 – are still alive.

“Clearly we would love to get through, we really would and we will do everything in our power to do that,” said the Heath boss who thinks their work-rate will hold the key.

“At the minute we are four games from Wembley and it’s not often in football you get to say things like that! It just underlines the achievement in getting to where we’ve got to so far; four wins and a bye to be where we are so effectively it’s the fifth round we’ve had the potential to compete in.”

Nick Castellan (work commitments) is unavailable along with the cup-tied trio of Kane Manels, Ryan Yallop and the injured Jack Gould, with Euan Banks set to benefit.