Haverhill Borough and Haverhill Rovers prepare for historic FA Vase tie
At 8.05pm tomorrow many old friendships will be put to one side when Haverhill Borough and Haverhill Rovers meet in the FA Vase.
The tie has so many aspects of intrigue it is hard to know where to begin - not least that the FA Vase trophy will be on display at the ground.
It is the first time the two teams have met since Borough, initially called Haverhill Sports Association (HSA) for its first two seasons, was formed in 2011.
The game is also only the second senior match to be played on Borough’s new 3G ground at The New Croft - the first having been a 3-0 win for the hosts against Thurlow Nunn League First Division leaders Coggeshall Town just ten days earlier.
The likely squads for the Second Qualifying Round match contain 14 players who at some time have played for both teams.
Not only that, but Borough player/manager Martin Westcott and his Rovers counterpart Ben Cowling are both former Rovers players of some note, while Cowling was of course manager and chairman of Borough before switching to the red side of town in the summer.
Cowling’s side will be viewed as favourites by many to progress as they lie tenth in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division after eight games, while Borough sit fourth in the division below them.
But with so much interlinked history between the playing squads, the match has taken on added dimensions.
Cowling said: “I think the players are looking forward to it. Undoubtedly there’s still a few players from Haverhill in the Borough side and they all see each other down the pub and there’s a certain amount of banter that goes on.
“I think all the ones that have come across from Borough want to do well and players that have been at Rovers for a long time want to do well.
“It’s a unique game and it’s an interesting game.
“You don’t want to be sat down the pub or in the clubhouse having lost that game.”
Borough manager Westcott added: “I think it will be a close game. I think it will be very evenly matched. I think we both know how each other plays.
“The players get on really well too. They are all good mates still as well.”
Borough suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday when a team with seven changes from the one that beat Coggeshall went down 3-0 at a strong Holland FC.
But with the likes of Gareth Thomas, Tommy Hardwick, Errol Durell and Scott Lodge all definitely available again, Westcott, who recognises that most people at the game will expect Rovers to win, is confident of a good performance.
“We should be back to pretty much a full complement and I think when we have got our full complement we are a match for anyone, “ he said.
“We have a team certainly capable and if we turn up we have got a good chance of certainly scoring goals and causing an upset.
“I think we can go out and enjoy it. There’s no pressure on us. If we don’t win it doesn’t change how we play this season.
“If we don’t win we get back to the league action at Downham on Tuesday and try and win that.
“This is a nice showcase event. From a football point of view it might be our biggest game of the season but it’s not our most important.”
Whatever the result on the pitch, the match has a wider relevance for senior football in Haverhill, as Cowling explained: “For me the best thing about the game is that it has got people talking about football and Rovers and Borough.
“Hopefully it will be a good crowd and off the back of that if 20 new people want to come and watch the clubs on a regular basis that would be brilliant and that’s the positive thing about it.”
Having had no game since September 10, Cowling expects his squad to be at full strength for match he hopes will be the first of more in the FA Vase.
He said: “We are fully focused. We know the players we want to play. We know the Borough squad quite well, we watched them two out of their last three games now, but it’s all about performing on the day.
“Hopefully we will get a good result but if we don’t perform we will get turned over because Borough are a good team.”
If tomorrow’s match is level after 90 minutes, extra-time will be played. If no winner is found after 120 minutes the game goes to a replay at The New Croft on Tuesday (7.45pm), where extra-time and penalties will be used if required to find a winner.
Best League Finish;
Eastern Counties Champions 1978-79
Other senior trophies (above step seven);
Suffolk Senior Cup 1997
Eastern Counties League Cup 1965.
Eastern Counties Division One Knockout Cup 2001, 2004, 2007.
FA Vase Record:
First match in 1977-78, lost 1-0 in a replay to Stotfold.
Total ties; 77.
1986-87 Quarter-Final; Lost 3-1 at home to Warrington Town.
Not gone beyond Round 1 since 1993-94 (37 ties)
Founded; 2011 as Haverhill Sports Association (HSA) before changing its name to Haverhill Borough in 2013
Best League Finish;
4th in Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League First Division 2013/14.
Other senior trophies (above step seven):
Thurlow Nunn (Eastern Counties League) Division One Knockout Cup 2016.
FA Vase Record:
First match in 2012-13 as HSA. Won 1-0 at Norwich United.
Total ties; 8.
2012-13 Round 3; Lost 4-3 at home to Peacehaven & Telscombe.