Whaley relishing March Town United’s FA Cup moment in the limelight
MANAGER Brett Whaley is relishing March Town United’s moment in the limelight as his side look forward to an FA Cup Fen derby with Wisbech Town.
Whaley’s Hares set up the mouth-watering clash after beating premier division Kirkley & Pakefield 2-1 in Saturday’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.
They’ll now host Wisbech Town - who beat Halstead Town 4-0 on Saturday - in the preliminary round on September 3.
The March boss said: “It’s great for local football that we’ve both got through.
“March are a club that maybe sometimes slips under the radar a bit but we need fixtures like this to raise our profile. We had nothing to lose against Kirkley, we’ve got nothing to lose against Wisbech and the game is something for everyone around here to look forward to.
“People will think that because Wisbech have started so well they’ll come here and win comfortably especially as they’ve beaten the side (Halstead) who are top of our league convincingly.
“There’ll be no expectation on us which works for us. I think from our point of view it just allows this club to be in the limelight a little bit which it deserves to be.
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“It’s a great club and hopefully we’ll get a bit of increased support because we do have potential this year to do really well.”
Ridgeons First Division March - who like Wisbech are unbeaten in their three competitive games this season - were missing a host of players on Saturday including in-form frontman Stu Anderson.
Their task was made even harder when Kirkey left-back Joe Bell scored a 30-yard wonder goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead before half-time. Whaley admitted he was wary of how his side would react to the setback.
He said: “You can’t complain about the goal we conceded. It was just a great strike.
“When someone’s hitting it from 30 yards in the top corner sometimes you just have to take it. If they’re the goals that our going in against us then you can’t do a lot about it.
“If we’d have gone in 0-0 at half time it would have given us an even bigger boost that we were level. It left me with a little bit of a question mark about how the boys would react but it actually motivated them.
“After the break we looked a yard sharper, we played sensibly to feet and I’m extremely proud because it was what we asked them to do.”
March’s confidence grew after the break with Ash Brand spurning a golden opportunity and striking a post before he bagged both goals to send March through to the next round.
The pint-sized wideman caused problems with his pace after the break and the Hares boss admitted the best was yet to come from Saturday’s match-winner.
Whaley said of Brand: “To be fair, most of Ash’s work in the first half was tracking their most dangerous player - their left-back - who caused us problems.
“His defensive work was good in the first half and I think that affected his play going forward.
“In the second half we gave him a little bit more of a free reign to go forward and concentrate on what he’s good at. Ash is a confidence player and he is still no where near fit enough yet. He knows that he’s two or three yards off his full pace.
“But as I said to him in the week he’s scoring goals when he’s not fit - that’s three in three for him now which is pleasing.
“Ash gambled for his second goal but we talk to all of them about it. We’ve played in every game with one target man and the key to that working is runners off him.
“Wayte ran their centre-back under the ball and Ash gambled. If you gamble, particularly with the pace we’ve got going forward, then we will get joy.”
Whaley found time to praise his side’s defending with March soaking up the inevitable barrage of pressure in the final five minutes as a desperate Kirkley poured forward in search of an equaliser.
“We defended excellently and even though we made one change to our back four young Scott Davis came in at right back and did fantastically,” said Whaley.
“He added to us in terms of the way that we go forward and defensively he still looked to be part of that good unit.
“At the moment it’s all about the unit and not individuals. People like Lewis Cook can play anywhere we want him to across the back four and for all of the them the main aim is we get results - it doesn’t matter where they play as long as we win games.
“Adam Sutton is a better player than when I left here in 2009. He’s matured, I think he likes playing alongside Chris Lenton which helps too. He knows his limitations now and there’s areas he can improve on but at the minute I feel centrally we’re doing excellently.
“The first thing I said when I walked into the door for our first pre-season game was that nothing goes straight through the middle of us and them two have made sure that it hasn’t happened yet.”
As expectation continues to grow around the GER that this season could be a special one for the Hares, Whaley - who returned to the club in May after a two-year absence - believes his side will only get better as the season goes on.
He said: “We are not at our level yet and we still haven’t played the football we’re capable of.
“We have worked hard defensively and the football will come as the season goes on. We’re getting there but we play in patches at the moment. Once we get it right I think we’ll be a real handful.
“The Wisbech game has probably come a little bit too early for us to be at full steam but I honestly believe we’ll give everyone a game.
“A good cup run will lift everyone around the place. It all depends how the dressing room is really and thankfully I think our guys are pretty level headed. Hopefully they’ll take the confidence from the three good results that we’ve had rather than get complacent.”
March travel to Ipswich Wanderers on Saturday before hosting Godmanchester Rovers - who they beat 3-0 away in their second league game of the season - next Tuesday.
Whaley said: “We travel to Ipswich Wanderers, who haven’t started the best, and we should be going there to win.
“We must not go there and let ourselves down. Unfortunately though, if you look at this club’s history over the years since I’ve been around the place - three good results is often followed by a bad one.
“If we want this season to be a success we must not let that happen now.”