Ashton United chase FA Cup history

Ashton United’s players have been urged to ‘etch their names into the history books’ as they attempt to guide the club into the FA Cup first round proper for the first time in 68 years.

The Robins head to National League strugglers Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday full of confidence following a strong start to the season which sees them sitting second in the Pitching In Northern Premier League Premier Division.

A place in the first round, which they have not troubled since 1955, is tantalisingly within reach and boss Steve Cunningham, who led Buxton to the second round two seasons ago, is relishing the challenge.

“I know people use this word every year but the FA Cup is magical,” he said.

“When you play football, it’s very short-lived. I’m 43 now and wish I could go back 15 years to enjoy these moments as a player.

“We give up our time, sacrifice time with our families and sometimes you think ‘what’s it for?’.

“You have to look at it and think ‘can we leave our mark on the football club?’.

“To be part of the first team to make the FA Cup first round, we’d be etching our names into the history books and I’d be very proud to be the manager to lead them there.”

Ashton have already overcome Dunston UTS, Atherton Collieries and Lancaster City to make it this far and kept their FA Trophy run on track with victory at the weekend.

Their hosts on Saturday became the first non-league team to make the fifth round in 1994 but Cunningham insists his side will not be intimidated by their cup pedigree.

“We have all the homework we need but when we turn up at Kidderminster and cross that white line, that goes out the window,” he said.

“It’s about us going there and enjoying it, and not putting too much pressure on the players. If we can execute our gameplan, I believe we can cause an upset. We will go there with no fear.

“It is exciting for everyone at the club – players, staff and volunteers. If we could get through to the first round proper, watch that draw on TV and pull out a big club from League One, it would be just reward for all the hours that go into it.”

In addition to their success on the pitch, United are indelibly linked to their community off it through their charity arm and are reaping rewards of projects backed by the Trident Community Foundation, established by Pitching In.

A skills and drills initiative has gone from strength to strength while they have recently partnered with journalist Gareth Walker to deliver Literacy Kicks sessions in local schools.

“We got some great results from it,” said vice-chairman Steve Hobson.

“Eighty-five per cent of children said they were enjoying writing more than previously and over 60% said they enjoyed reading more as a result of going on the programme.

“The schools are going mad for it and the pupils are due to come to us in November for a match reporting day at one of our games.

“We are really excited about the future of it and grateful for the support of the TCF grant.”

Find volunteering opportunities at your local club by visiting https://pitchinginvolunteers.co.uk/

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