Wembley is so close for Yeltz’s travelling army

Halesowen Town will kick-off their FA Trophy quarter-final just four miles from Wembley Stadium tomorrow – they could be just one game from playing there by the time the final whistle sounds.

Paul Smith
Paul Smith

Eight coach-loads and an estimated 7-800 Yeltz supporters will be making the journey south to face National League Premier Barnet, whose Hive Stadium is almost in the shadow of the home of English football.

To do so, Halesowen must overcome a third opponent from non-league’s top flight in a competition in which they have already surpassed all expectations of their supporters.

“We can’t thank the fans enough,” said boss Paul Smith. “They have been fantastic since we arrived (in the summer), but the 4-500 there at Halifax was something special.

“We all can’t wait – it was a magical day last time at Halifax and that in itself gives us a fighting chance.

“Barnet are mid-table (in the National Premier), but still below Halifax, who are fighting for promotion. If we can go to Halifax and get a clean sheet and win a game of football, there is no reason why we can’t do it against Barnet.”

Coming from the lowest rung of non-league football who can compete in the FA Trophy – step four – the Yeltz began their journey way back on September 28 in the extra preliminary round at Norfolk side Dereham Town.

They have survived replays in the preliminary round, first qualifying round, and first and second rounds proper – as well as knocking out Grantham Town from the league above, Gateshead and Bradford Park Avenue from two divisions higher, and Maidenhead United and Halifax Town from three higher in non-league’s top flight.

This will be their 13th match of this incredible journey. Unlucky for them?

“There is a belief we can go and cause another upset,” added Smith. “We have a great bunch of lads who have a desire to do well this year. They have surpassed even the levels I thought they would – I knew we would be strong and hungry, but it’s still surprising for a step four side to get to the quarter-finals.”

The Yeltz stopped over in Leeds for a celebration party after their triumph at Halifax – but there will be no such partying this time, with a Tuesday night trip to title rivals Berkhamsted following quickly on the heels of this tie.

Long-term injury absentees Reece Hewitt (hip operation) and George Forsyth (broken foot) will both miss the game, though both are closing in on returns to action.

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