Friday, February 16, 2007

Silsden geared up for cup thriller against FC United

Source: Keighley News

By Daryl Ames

All those associated with Silsden AFC are eagerly awaiting this weekend's cup clash with FC United, the first of two money-spinning home matches against the well-supported club from Manchester.

Silsden manager Paul Schofield said: "We have a home league match against FC United on Thursday, March 29. But this cup tie is an added bonus.

FC United have been taking about 1,000 fans to away games, so when the draw was made recently everyone at the club has had to pitch in to get ready for the eagerly anticipated fixture.

"There hasn't been very much time to organise," said Schofield. "Everyone, even those behind the scenes, have had to work hard to prepare for this."

Silsden chairman Sean McNulty said: "We're all on over-drive now. This is a totally new thing for us.

"We've had to have talks with the police because of the potential for the amount of people who will be there.

"We steward all of the other games ourselves, but for this one we need more stewards, a safety officer, a doctor, four first-aiders and four on security."

Silsden, who average about 100 fans per home game, are expecting 1,500 fans for this cup tie.

Tickets prices for the 3pm, Saturday kick-off, at Cougar Park, are £3 for children and concessions and £7 for adults.

While Schofield said that £5 was the normal price for a Silsden home match, teams across the league charged £7 for FC United fixtures.

McNulty anticipates gate receipts of at least £8,000. After figuring in expenses and a 10 per cent cut for the league, the two clubs will then split the difference as the match is a cup tie.

After all that, the amount of revenue which Silsden will still be able to generate was described by McNulty as a "massive bonus to the club."

"When we knew that we had advanced into the quarter-finals, I was praying for the draw."

However, it almost didn't happen for the Cobbydalers in the previous round.

Silsden were 4-1 and cruising to a win against Atherton LR when they let in two more goals and had to settle for a 4-3 victory that had the manager and chairman biting their nails.

In the end, McNulty got his wish and will now get to host the club that he praised as being very professional.

"When we played them at Gigg Lane early in the season, their professionalism was second to none. They are a well-run club. I would say they are Football League standard.

"We can only try to emulate them and run our club just as well."

When Silsden played FC United, at Gigg Lane, the Manchester club had their biggest gate of the season - 3,300.

In that match, Silsden acquitted themselves quite well losing 4-2 after going down to ten men early on when keeper Martin Foulger was sent off.

Ironically, Foulger will also miss Saturday's match as he serves the second of a three-game suspension for a recent sending off.

Schofield said that Foulger was just about the only player on the team who was disappointed to miss the match.

Two other youngsters who have figured for Silsden this season, Shaun Airey and Thomas Dibb, will also miss the match as they will represent the West Riding County FA U-18s in the semi-final of the FA County Youth Cup against Leicestershire, at Holmes Park, Leicester, on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).

Schofield said that Cougar Park would not be an easy place for FC United to come and play.

He also said that they were short of matches (having played three less than Silsden in the league) and hastily arranged a mid-week friendly with UniBond side Warrington to shake off any rustiness.

Schofield said that even though FC United lay second in the table (and Silsden in 12th), he and his chairman believed they were beatable.

"We fancy our chances," said McNulty. "There is an opportunity for a cup upset."

Schofield added: "Teams realise that they can beat these guys. It's a one-off cup match, so it's there for the taking.

"We've strengthened the squad and have had key players come back after injury. We've hit a non-losing streak of four games on the bounce."

Schofield said his players would be up for the occasion but he didn't expect them to have stars in their eyes.

"They really will take it as it comes. They'll get on with it," he said.

However, he said that the atmosphere generated by the game at Cougar Park would be exciting for fans.

"Local people should come out and test the water. This is our biggest advert of the season.

"The North West Counties League is a good standard. It would be nice to have a few more regulars to see us each week."

With seven games in hand on league leaders Salford City and only four points separating the two teams, Schofield expects FC United to win the league and even continue their promotion success up to the Conference and maybe even beyond.

"It will be interesting to see how far they can go. They've been a breath of fresh air for teams in our league."

Saturday's match between Silsden and FC United will kick off at 3pm, at Cougar Park.