Dereham Town not feeling the pressure ahead of FA Vase tie
DEREHAM Town assistant manager Neal Simmons insists his side can handle the pressure of being labelled favourites for this Saturday's FA Vase second round tie at Haverhill Sports Association.
The Magpies – who returned to winning form in the league on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Godmanchester – play two levels higher in the non-league pyramid than their Suffolk opponents. That brings an extra burden of expectation on them to bag the �1,200 prize money by progressing to the third round, but Simmons said: 'We are going to be in that position – we've only lost once in the league and twice in the cup so we're going to be favourites for most games we play.
'I think we've got a good enough squad now to handle that and we're looking forward to the game.'
Haverhill, who have already beaten Dereham's Thurlow Nunn Premier Division rivals Norwich United in the Vase, are currently fourth in the Essex and Suffolk Border League Premier Division. They warmed up for their big Vase date with a 5-1 victory at Earls Colne on Saturday.
Simmons added: 'We haven't had a chance to have a look at them because we have been busy with our fixtures and they don't have any Tuesday night games, so we haven't had the chance to see them. They are linked to Haverhill Rovers who play in our division and they are a feeder club as such, with players crossing between the two teams.
'We don't really know what we're up against, although we know that most of the Haverhill first team will be cup tied having played in the competition earlier in the season and we know they've got a useful young player who played for Suffolk Under-18s against Norfolk last weekend.'
Simmons is confident that Dereham – currently third in the table – can maintain a challenge in both the league and the Vase this season: 'I don't think you can prioritize,' he said. 'Vase games are only once a month at this stage, whereas the FA Cup came every couple of weeks and it can take over a bit. The Vase doesn't do that. If we get to the last 32 it will get interesting, but what has changed is that there are fewer league games now. When Lowestoft got to the final I think they played 42 league games – we have 38 and that is a big difference.'
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Dereham are expected to be at near full strength for Saturday's game, with only the suspended Luke Hannant unavailable.
Luke Tuttle scored Dereham's winner on Saturday and Simmons is delighted with his form and that of fellow frontmen Shaun Bammant and Scott Sutherland-Gray: 'Luke is in double figures, Scott has eight and Shaun has six, so we're over the moon with that,' he said. 'It's something we've lacked in the last couple of seasons.'
n Match report – Page 63