Fox sees financial support of cups as vital to move Rovers on
With Saturday’s FA Vase fixture bringing their run of consecutive cup matches up to five, Jemel Fox is not concerned about Haverhill Rovers falling behind in the league.
A 0-0 draw in Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup First Round Qualifying home tie with Long Melford extended the sequence by at least another game, ahead of last night’s replay at their divisional rivals (see website for report and pictures).
It means Marc Abbott’s side have now played more times in cup competitions this season than Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division matches, with some sides just one game shy (7) of having doubled Rovers’ four league matches in 2018/19.
But ahead of travelling to Southend Manor in the Buildbase FA Vase on Saturday (3pm), their reward for a come-from-behind home victory over Ilford, left-back Fox is not buying into a cup run being an unwanted distraction at this stage.
And he revealed the Vase holds a big appeal for him as a player, as it should for the rest of the squad.
“Let’s be honest, the FA Cup, realistically, is not a cup we can win,” he explained.
“The FA Vase is a cup we can do well in. The financial side to the FA Vase is not as good but any cup run helps us; whether that is getting to the quarter-finals or the preliminary rounds.
“We play Step 5 sides in the FA Vase whereas in the FA Cup we can draw anyone. The Vase, at Southend Manor this weekend, gives us an equal opportunity to progress.”
Asked if a cup run can work against a side, he said: “You have to have a winning mentality. There are some good excuses out there where an FA Cup run or FA Vase run can hinder, as it is an added game to your fixtures.
“But if you have a big enough squad who wants it, then I don’t see a problem. I believe our squad can cope.”
He added: “We do have to remember the league is our baby, but the financial support we get out of these cups is going to help build, and hopefully progress, the club.”
Saturday’s tie at the Essex Senior League side, who are currently in mid-table with two wins from five, is worth £725 to the winning side in prize money alone, while the loser will still pocket £250.
Aside from last night’s FA Cup replay, Rovers have been at home in all of their previous four cup matches this season. But the former AFC Sudbury full-back is looking forward to getting on the road, where the pressure could be lessened.
“I would like to be here of course. But sometimes it is nice to be away as you are not playing in front of a big (home) crowd and it allows us to play in our own way,” he said.
Saturday’s FA Cup tie, which saw Rovers’ summer signing Prince Mutswunguma sky a second-minute penalty, saw the crowd hit 206.
And Fox is hoping that, despite a game which he admitted was ‘a non-league game at its dullest at times’, the strength of support can be maintained as Rovers look to push on up the league table.
“It was nice to have a good crowd and that is one of the things that Haverhill Rovers needs to do; start bringing the fans back in,” he said. “Only the fans can help us to progress as a club.
“And when there are teams not playing locally and our reserves are not playing, there really is no excuse for them not to be here.”
Despite his glaring penalty miss, released Cambridge United scholar Mutswunguma looked Rovers’ most likely source of a goal. And Fox believes he has added a new dimension to the side.
“He was a lively source,” he said. “He missed a penalty but I think they denied him some good opportunities.
“He has not just added pace, he has added quality and, on another day, he can get at them. He is frightening when he gets the ball.”
Meanwhile in the Women’s Championship South of the Cambridgeshire Women’s and Girls County Football League, Haverhill Rovers Ladies beat St Ives Town Ladies Development 5-2 away on Sunday in their first ever competitive league game.
Hayley Turner scored a brace while Player of the Match Pavlina Beasley, Joely Kirby and Siobhan White took a goal each.
The Reserves team, however, saw their first game away at Walsham-le-Willows postponed in the Women’s Division of the Suffolk Girls and Women’s Football League.