Hucknall insist FA Vase pressure is all on AFC Mansfield

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson

Hucknall Town manager Andy Graves - Pic by James Williamson

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Hucknall Town boss Andy Graves insisted all the pressure was on visitors AFC Mansfield ahead of this weekend’s mouthwatering Buildbase FA Vase third round local derby showdown.

Northern Counties East League Premier Division AFC Mansfield reached the last 16 of the competition two years ago and in football’s pyramid are two steps ahead of Central Midlands League Hucknall – the last Step Seven club left in the competition.

But Hucknall have already seen off Eastwood Community, Ashby Ivanhoe, who play a level higher, and Rocester, who play two levels higher, and boss Graves said: “The excitement is slowly building but, to be honest, the lads have not been talking about it a great deal, just taking it in their stride.

“We haven’t gone overboard about it as that puts more pressure on you.

Click HERE to read AFC Mansfield manager Rudy Funk’s views on the game

“We are not getting carried away with it and we’ll just treat it as another game really.

“We will show them guarded respect and hopefully they will show us a bit of respect unlike the last two teams we’ve faced, and they paid the penalty for that.

“I know there could be an individual error or one of those bizarre decisions that goes against you. But, whoever beats us is going to be a heck of a team, whether it’s the league or cups. And if they do, then credit to them.

“We are not going to go into the game fearful, but likewise we won’t go into it thinking it’s a foregone conclusion unlike the two teams we’ve just played in the Vase.

“It will be an interesting game with two differing styles.”

AFC Mansfield were allowed to postpone their midweek league game and Graves said: “I read on their website their manager saying he was pleased the league and the clubs in their league had agreed to allow them to postpone a game in the build-up to an FA Vase game, which was very nice of them.

“With their game being called off I didn’t get the benefit of watching them on Tuesday but I do know what style they play. Whether they’ve looked at us or not and done their homework, that’s up to them. But we will be ready.”

Graves continued: “They’ve lost their last three and that could backfire on us as they might be like a wounded animal.

“They might have a few games in hand in the league but they’re not having a brilliant time in that at the moment, so this is a big game for them and a win would be a real confidence-booster for them.

“I did hear the Rocester manager let his squad miss both training sessions in the week before they played us. That is where the respect wasn’t shown and we made them pay for it; though if they’d trained every day of the week they still wouldn’t have beaten us that day.

“Both Rocester and AFC play two league steps higher than us, though I would imagine the league AFC play in is a much stronger league than Rocester’s to be perfectly honest.

“But there is no pressure on us. We will just enjoy it and if we get a result, we get a result.

“Our main priority is promotion and we had a good weekend, even though we didn’t play, as Selston lost and Sherwood dropped points. The Vase is a very nice distraction.”

Hucknall are hoping for a good crowd for the big game.

“Hopefully a few people who’ve not shown much interest of late will show their faces and, with no Mansfield Town game and Forest playing Friday night, we might get a bit of interest from people who normally watch those games,” said Graves.

“I don’t think AFC get as big a crowd as they did in their early days. I think we probably average more now. But, combined along with the neutrals, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get 200.

“We got about 170 for the last round against Rocester and they are not really well known and had to travel a bit.”

He added: “There is obviously Chris Timons (defender who has played for both) as a link between the clubs and when me and Phil (assistant boss Henry) started here they helped us out with pre-season friendlies.

“They were a decent side then, but my lads have now grown up a bit so it will be interesting.

Hucknall have been without a game since their extra-time League Cup win over local rivals Linby Colliery on Saturday, 19th November.

“Although we didn’t have a league game last weekend, one or two played in the reserves. Tonight we’ll do some work in the boxing gym and should go into Saturday with virtually a full strength side.

“Another bonus is that we will now have Joe Ashurst available. We thought he would miss it as he was going off travelling but he’s now not flying out until the 7th so we will have his pace down the left.”