Newton Aycliffe are ready to battle for a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Vase, insists manager Peter Dixon.
The Newtonians set off on their 550-mile round trip to Camberley Town in Surrey today (Friday), ahead of their fifth round tie at Krooner Park on Saturday.
Aycliffe, currently enjoying their best-ever campaign in the Northern League, have beaten Barnoldswick Town, Chester-Le-Street, Colne, Atherton Collieries and league champions Marske United to reach the last 16 of the competition.
Camberley are currently fourth in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, which is equivalent to the Northern League first division.
Dixon told Aycliffe Today: “There are 16 teams left now out of 572, so everyone left in the competition at this stage is going to be a good side.
“We’re going to have to be somewhere at our best, or about 98% and beyond, to get through.
“In an ideal world I’d have liked a bit longer than a week to prepare for it. They’ve known they’ve had a home tie in this round for a couple of weeks – against either us or Marske – and we’ve only had five days.
“But we’re going there in buoyant mood. The preparation has been first class with the travel and the hotel the club has arranged.
“We’ll give a good account of ourselves, of the town and of the Northern League. I’ll be happy if we can be somewhere near our best.”
Dixon, known for his meticulous pre-match planning, had hoped to run the rule over Camberley on Tuesday night, but was forced to turn back half-way through his 280-mile journey after their game at Cove was postponed hours before kick-off.
“I’m quite analytical about our opposition in every game,” said Dixon, pictured (above) in the club’s official team coach for the weekend.
“So I’ll always go and watch them play, wherever they are in the country. I feel that’s my strong point.
“So it was a little disappointing I couldn’t get to see Camberley play on Tuesday night, but we had this situation earlier in the competition when Burnley side Colne had a game postponed and I couldn’t get to see them.
“Luckily I’ve got a good network of contacts nationwide and I’ve been able to tap into that this week, so I’m not going into the game completely blind.”
Aycliffe would only be two wins away from Wembley if they can triumph in Surrey tomorrow.
The Blues are also in the last eight of the Durham Challenge Cup – they play Washington away in the quarter-finals on Tuesday night – and they could go top of the Northern League first division if they win their games in hand.
While Dixon is keen to play down talk of an assault on the title or another dream Wembley trip – he’s previously taken West Auckland there twice – he wants to see more Aycliffe fans get behind the club as they aspire to win something for the first time since their second division title win five years ago.
“We’re fighting on three fronts,” said Dixon.
“We have a tiny squad and we’re not a big club, so we need all the help we can get.
“We’ve been a little disappointed with the level of support so far, but all we can do is keep winning football matches.
“No matter how many people come to watch us we’ll go about our business and continue to work hard, but it would be nice to see a few more faces at home games.
“We’re keeping to our side of the bargain in terms of performances and results.”