Lane aims to take Wingate & Finchley into uncharted territory in FA Cup

Wingate & Finchley manager Simon Lane will attempt to lead the Blues into uncharted territory in the FA Cup at the first attempt on Saturday as they host Conference South outfit Weston-super-Mare in the third qualifying round.

Lane only took charge during the summer but, after overseeing a 4-0 victory at Long Buckby AFC and then a dramatic 2-1 home win over Concord Rangers – who play in the division above – Wingate have already equalled their best ever run in the competition.

They have been handed another home draw for Saturday’s tie and are now gearing up to face a Weston-super-Mare side who lie second from bottom in the Conference South, six places below Concord.

Another victory would give the Blues the chance to take on Conference Premier Division sides such as Tranmere and Wrexham in the final qualifying round, while securing another £7,500 in prize money on top of the £7,500 they have already earned.

Lane is keen to extend the adventure, having enjoyed a memorable FA Cup escapade when he was the first-team coach at Maidenhead in the Conference South in 2011, along with his players Martel Powell and Leon Solomon, who have followed him to Wingate.

“We were in the draw for the second round proper,” Lane told Ham&High Sport. “We played Aldershot in the first round, and they were a League Two club then.

“We were 12 minutes away from beating them at home on the Saturday and then the draw came out the following day and it would have been Sheffield Wednesday away in the next round.

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“They were the biggest team in the competition at that point, so it was all there for the winner of the replay on the Tuesday night, but we didn’t quite get there – we lost 2-0.

“Sheffield Wednesday went on to play West Ham as well, and West Ham are my team so that would have been great – but we had a great run that year, we won lots of games to get to that point.

“Saturday will be special as well, we’re looking forward to it. If we can possibly win it’s the furthest the club’s ever gone in the FA Cup so that would be special if we could do that.

“But it will be a tough game because Weston-super-Mare have come into a bit of form now and they’re in the division above so they’ve got every right to come and try to turn us over on our own pitch.”

Wingate have cause for optimism as they host a Weston-super-Mare side that lost eight of their opening 11 league games this season. However, they secured a 2-0 win at Margate on Saturday and Lane is under no illusions about the difficulty of the challenge ahead.

“I’m from the west country originally, from Gloucester, so I’ve got my spies, who may or may not be family members,” he said.

“I’ve got a report on them as well. I always do my research anyway, whoever we’re playing, and I haven’t faced them in the last two years, since leaving Maidenhead.

“They’re huge, they try to play and they’re very energetic. They’re very young but there are a lot of ex-pros there and it will be a good challenge for us.

“They’ve not had a great year so far, they’re languishing down near the bottom of the league, but it will be a tough game. It will be a tough ask because they got a great result away at Margate so they’ll be full of confidence.

“We’ll give it a good go – we’ll be fully prepared and we’ll do our best against them. We’ll need calm heads to execute the plan.”

With no Premier League or Championship fixtures this weekend due to the international break, Saturday has been designated Non-League Day across the country – and Lane is urging north London football fans to bolster the support for his side.

“Hopefully there’ll be quite a few people through the door on Saturday,” he said. “We’re playing a decent brand of football and I think it will be a decent game to watch from the neutral’s perspective, let alone the people supporting Wingate & Finchley.

“Weston-super-Mare play a nice brand of football as well. There will be a lot of kids in there too, a lot of Under-16s, so it should be a good atmosphere. “It’s amazing what even an extra 10 or 20 people will do. A lot of the lads are very local – even when their families are there it means a lot and it does raise them.

“These guys are proud to play for Wingate & Finchley, including the new ones. You can see with every game they’re getting more and more proud to be part of the whole club, so that’s something to build on, and the more people there the merrier.

“I think when people come they’re enjoying themselves, that’s certainly the feedback I get when I speak to supporters afterwards, so why not give it a go and maybe they’ll come and see us again.”

The preparation for this weekend’s crunch tie could have been better, with Wingate going into the match having played three away games in the space of five days.

They won 1-0 at Burgess Hill Town in the Ryman League Premier Division on Saturday before a 4-3 victory at Waltham Abbey in the League Cup on Tuesday night.

The Blues were then in action again last night (Wednesday), after the Ham&High went to press, visiting Broadfields United in the Middlesex Cup.

“Playing on Tuesday and Wednesday on the week of an FA Cup tie isn’t ideal but there’s nothing we can do,” said Lane. “The squad’s looking stronger though.”