Leiston are 90 minutes away from mixing it with Football League clubs in FA Cup
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Leiston are 90 minutes away from potentially mixing it with Football League big-boys such as Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield United or Portsmouth.
The Ryman Premier leaders travel to Westfields – the Midlands League Premier Division’s current top team – in the Fourth Qualifying Round today, one step away from the First Round Proper.
Manager Glenn Driver has labelled the clash at Westfields as the biggest game in his footballing career, while a win would see the Blues pocket £12,500 and the prestige that comes with mixing it with such famous names.
The Blues have reached the First Round Proper just once before in their history, in 2008 when they lost in a replay to then-Conference North side Fleetwood.
“It’s the second-biggest game in the club’s history (after the Fleetwood game), as promotions are won over 46 games,” said Driver.
“If we could get through and draw a Sheffield United or Bolton it could be a club-changing moment for ourselves, or Westfields for that matter.
“The likelihood is the game would be on TV and you would have the financial rewards that come with that coming to the club.”
He added: “Without a doubt this is the biggest game of my career, both as a player and a manager, I never played at this level and I did not think I would be managing at this level quite so quickly either.”
To ensure Leiston have the best chance of making Monday’s draw, Driver insisted no stone has been left unturned and the team coach left at 2pm yesterday for the long trip.
“We are doing everything properly, I asked the club if we could go down the day before and they allowed it. The club have been superb, we are staying in a hotel fit for a professional club,” he explained.
Driver welcomes back influential midfielder Leon Ottley-Gooch to the fold for today’s game, but is without injured goalkeeper Jacob Marsden, while the league’s top scorer Matt Blake is a doubt after breaking down in training on Thursday.
“We are missing Jacob Marsden in goal, while it is a blow that our leading scorer could be missing,” said Driver, who will field veteran goalkeeper Danny Potter between the sticks – just the former Chelsea youngster’s second appearance for the Victory Road club in three years.
“On the other hand I am excited to have Leon Ottley-Gooch back and raring to go, we have missed a bit of his quality.
“We will go there as underdogs but that suits us and we plan to hit them from the off. We have got plenty of match-winners in our squad who can go out and do some damage.
“Joe Francis is almost in double figures for the season, then there’s Gareth Heath and Christy Finch, while Westfields won’t have come up against a player like Byron Lawrence too many times.”
He added: “The players are champing at the bit.
“We will be going there for the win and don’t want a replay, although a midweek trip for Westfields would be tough for them.”