Puritans aiming for another FA Cup first-round appearance

Banbury United stand on the brink of one of the most remarkable achievements in the club’s recent history this weekend.
Andy Whing is hoping to lead Banbury United into the first round proper of the FA Cup for the third year in a rowAndy Whing is hoping to lead Banbury United into the first round proper of the FA Cup for the third year in a row
Andy Whing is hoping to lead Banbury United into the first round proper of the FA Cup for the third year in a row

The Puritans head to Bracknell Town on Saturday in the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.

And, should Andy Whing’s team emerge victorious, they will book themselves a place in the first round proper of the competition for a third year in a row.

Such a feat would only sum up the rise of the Puritans since Whing’s arrival as, along with two fine runs in the FA Cup, he masterminded their memorable title-winning campaign last season, which saw them promoted to the Vanarama National League North.

And Banbury have continued to look right at home at the higher level.

Last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Blyth Spartans maintained their impressive start to the season and ensured they remain in the top three of the table.

Their good form will make them favourites to advance on Saturday as they take on a Bracknell side who sit in 14th place in the Southern League Premier South.

And while Whing recognises the huge opportunity his players have in front of them this weekend, he knows they are in for a stern test.

“It’s a massive game for the football club,” the Banbury boss said.

“We have had really good experiences in the last couple of years but when I first joined and we managed to get into the first round proper for the first time in a long time, I said it couldn’t be a flash in a pan.

“As a club, we needed to make sure we did it more regularly and we are looking to do it for a third time in a row, which is unbelievable.

“I think the club had reached the first round twice in their history before we came in.

“So if we can do it three times in three years it just shows what an incredible achievement that would be and it would show how far we have progressed the club in two-and-a-half years.

“But I am not one to keep looking back. I want to keep progressing and moving forward.

“I want us to be better than we were before.

“The past is the past. We want to go and win a game of football on Saturday and then see where that takes us.

“We know it’s a massive test for us.

“Bracknell had a really good result last weekend so we know it’s going to be a tough test, especially away from home. But we’re very much looking forward to it.”

Whing admitted there has been a hint of frustration for his team after two draws in their last two league matches.

Having drawn 1-1 at home with Gloucester City, the Puritans had to settle for the same scoreline in the north-east last week.

Banbury fell behind to Blyth when Michael Richardson opened the scoring in the second half.

But they fought back to earn a share of the spoils with Giorgio Rasulo scoring from the penalty spot after Jack Stevens had been fouled in the area.

And Whing admitted his team will need to “have a look” at their form in front of goal.

“The players have been magnificent, they’ve not let us down once really,” the Puritans manager added.

“Even on Saturday, for half-an-hour we were outstanding and we created lots of chances.

“We’re just not scoring enough goals at the moment so we will have to look at that.

“We have got slight frustrations about the last two league games, we felt we should have won both of them.”