Holders Battle relishing national cup return

Memories of last season's National Christian Cup triumph will come flooding back as Battle Baptist Football Club returns to the competition this coming Saturday.

Battle Baptists captain Ollie Jeffs lifts the National Christian Cup at The Valley last May. Picture by Simon Newstead
Battle Baptists captain Ollie Jeffs lifts the National Christian Cup at The Valley last May. Picture by Simon Newstead

The Macron East Sussex Football League leaders will travel to Hertfordshire to face St Albans Romans in round three of the prestigious national knockout competition.

Battle manager Gary Walsh said: “Everybody in the club is so looking forward to this game. We enjoyed it (winning the competition) so much last year and we can’t wait to get back into it.”

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The two teams met at the same stage last term when Battle ran out 5-0 winners and they went on to be crowned champions at The Valley, home of League One club Charlton Athletic, in May.

“I’m pretty sure that they’ve strengthened since then and they’ve had two good results in the last couple of weeks, but we’re confident,” continued Walsh, who will be without three influential players tomorrow in Ollie Jeffs, Glen Carrick and Adam Higgins-Gooch.

Battle will also be away from home in the quarter-finals and semi-finals if they get that far, and for that reason Walsh has said it will be an even bigger achievement if they lift the trophy again this year.

“Whatever will happen, we will have a great time trying,” he went on. “We’ll just do our best and try to get as far as we can, but we will be immensely disappointed if we don’t win on Saturday and fall at the first hurdle so to speak.”

A victory on Saturday, incidentally, would set up a last eight trip to Selhurst United (SE London) or FC Cornerstone (Stevenage) on Saturday February 24.

The regionalised part of the competition ends after the quarter-finals so if Battle were to make it to the semi-finals, they would potentially face a trip to Liverpool on March 24.

Battle have reached this stage without even kicking a ball. They were awarded a walkover after scheduled visitors Cleanslate, from Milton Keynes, were unable to raise a side in round two after receiving a first round bye.

Battle’s scheduled league fixture at home to Bexhill Town last weekend was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, like all but one of the other Premier Division matches.

The Baptists therefore remain five points clear of second-placed Hollington United having played two extra matches.

They’ve picked up two splendid wins and clean sheets since the turn of the year, triumphing 2-0 away to Sidley United and 4-0 away to third-placed Rye Town.

“I’m more than delighted with both games,” added Walsh. “The first game against Sidley was really tough. It was quite a level game until the last 20 minutes when we came through with two goals. Sidley had some good chances to score and didn’t.

“It was way over our expectations to beat Rye 4-0; a nice little 1-0 would’ve been brilliant. I’m really delighted with the way that we finished that game.

“What I’ve been particularly pleased with is the way we’ve defended against teams that have had their chances, but we’ve been so resolute and then at the end of each game we’ve dominated and looked strong in the last 15 or 20 minutes.

“As usual there’s a great spirit amongst the fellows. We’re on a good run at the moment and long may that continue.”