Bitton manager Dan Langdon is not getting ahead of himself over Wembley hopes, after the Western League club earned their place in the FA Vase semi-finals last weekend, writes Andrew Clayton.
Four goals from Liam Bishop was more than enough as the Ton came away from Eastern Counties League side Wroxham with a 4-0 win, marking the furthest the club have ever reached in the competition.
Plymouth Parkway’s tragic exit at the hands of Hebburn Town, all the while, means that Bitton are the last club from the West Country involved.
The draw earlier this week revealed that the Ton will play either Consett from the Northern League or Atherstone Town from the Midland League over a two-leg semi-final, with the latter pair scheduled to compete in the deciding match yesterday.
While Langdon told The Independent that reaching the last eight was a ‘surreal’ feeling, last weekend he could only breathe a sigh of relief at the final whistle.
“It’s quite emotionally draining and overwhelming,” he said.
“We finished the game on Saturday and I didn’t really celebrate, neither did my assistant manager, Rob Sage. There had been so much build up to it.
“We went there with a game plan and Rob has got to take some plaudits for the sessions we put on prior to going up. The lads delivered it superbly and rose to the occasion fantastically.
“They weren’t fazed by the crowd either, playing in front of 1,000 when we usually get crowds of 100 to 150 top end.
“We’ve got some young players in the side and I had a little bit of doubt they might crumble under the pressure, but if anything it gave them that strength to go and put on a good show.
“The nicest thing for us is the fact that we are only a small village club, not a town or a city. I think we’ve punched above our weight massively and the support we’ve had has been really good. It’s a nice feeling.”
If the game survived the weather, today the South Gloucestershire outfit will know their opponents. Langdon revealed that he was intending to send a scout to watch the quarter final clash and possibly another game for the victors.
“Before Wroxham, we had a six-page report on them and we watched videos,” he added, shedding light on the preparation process.
“We didn’t just turn up and go, ‘All the best’; we came with a game plan and stopped their key players. We’ll do the same sort of process for the next round.”
Coming into the weekend in seventh place in the Premier Division, with games in hand on teams above, there is a good feeling around the Recreation Ground.
On Tuesday night, Bitton effectively ended Hallen’s title hopes with a thumping 3-0 home win, Matt Tanner, Karim Rendall and Harrison Kyte finding the net in their tense derby.
The semi-final also brings FA Vase football back to the Recreation Ground for the last time this year, when Bitton host their final four opponent in the first leg.
Langdon, however, is remaining pragmatic. He added: “Because we’ve come so far, you almost feel that if we were to lose in the semi final, there would be greater disappointment.
“I actually said to the players that if we lose in the semi, we might as well have lost in the first round because we’re so close now.
“We want to keep going and get to Wembley.
“We know how to play our pitch. It’s a bit of a quagmire at the moment, but we can play there really well, we know how to go up the slope in the second half and how to preserve our energy so it is a major advantage. From a club perspective, it’s nice for the financial benefit as well, of course.
“We’ve got to do as much damage as we can in that first leg. The result will depend on how we approach the second so we could give ourselves a little bit of a goal cushion, go up there and sit back to be hard to beat. But, you never know.”