Preview: Halesowen Town one step away from Wembley

Halesowen Town are within touching distance of their Wembley dream as manager Paul Smith insists the fans are spurring them on.

After months without a competitive fixture, the Yeltz will finally play their FA Trophy semi-final tomorrow, in a one-legged tie away at Concord Rangers.

The game will be behind closed doors but with some supporters permitted to attend the final, Smith says this is for them.

“We were desperate for our fans to be there, they’ve been magnificent through this campaign,” he said.

“You only have to look at the Halifax and Barnet games in particular and the crowds – 1,000 to one and 700 to the other.

“They’ve been our 12th man and it will be a huge blow to us not to have them there. That said, it’s spurring us on even more to get them this result.

“A limited number of fans are allowed to the final so we’re geared up to try to do this for them, they deserve it for what they have done for us this year.”

Meanwhile, Smith believes keeping the core group from last season will be key as they face the National League South side.

“I can’t speak highly enough of this group,” he added. “I’ve retained 18 of the 20 from last year, only two have moved on and signed full-time football deals.

“It shows where we’re going. It was so important for me, I didn’t want major changes as this group has been fantastic and it will grow again.

“They deserve this opportunity, after being on the cusp of promotion and having the league written off and then we weren’t sure if the Trophy was going ahead.

“Win, lose or draw, what they have done as a step four side to get this far has been nothing short of phenomenal.

“They can be very proud of what they’ve done, this is almost a free hit for us, and we’ll go down there as underdogs but with an inner belief that we can get a result.”

For Smith, that underdogs tag is one he is embracing, despite having the game announced with days to prepare.

“It’s been dropped on us at very short notice, with eight or nine days to prepare,” he added.

“We knew that could be the case, which is why I booked in a lot of friendlies early and had the lads training.

“We’re in good shape and have probably done more than most having played half a dozen friendlies and a dozen training sessions. The results in pre-season have been good – the performances have been decent.

“We’re all bitterly disappointed that it’s gone from a two-legged tie to a one-legged tie and that was compounded when we got drawn away.

“We’re going into the tie as underdogs anyway being step four and them step two, but now we’re huge underdogs going down there.

“It’s important to remember that we’ve gone to Barnet, Halifax and Maidenhead and won so we have form for it – it’s just about going down there now and executing the perfect game and hope Concord have a bit of an off day.”

Heading into the fixture, the club are only without striker Luke Yates as Smith battles with selection headaches.

“I’m confident in this group of players I’ve put together, they’re fantastic," he said.

“I’d be confident that if they play to their maximum then they’ll give anyone in non-league football a game.

“I have huge belief in them, so I’m as confident as I can be.

“That said, Concord will be thinking that we were the best draw out of the four sides, they have us at home, so my guess is they’ll be extremely confident too. They’ll be a lot of nerves on the day, it’ll be a humdinger of a game that’s for sure, but we’re going into it only missing Luke Yates, everyone else is available and fit.

“I have some selection headaches with 21 players to get down to 18 for the match day and 11 to choose.”

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