Bognor Regis Town now stand between Town and a trip to Wembley, as the two sides meet in the first leg of the FA Trophy semi-final on Saturday (3pm).
The winner of the tie will take on FC Halifax Town or Nantwich Town at Wembley on 22nd May, and with the competition now drawing to a close, both sides will be taking both games fully seriously.
The Mariners head to the club's Nyewood Lane ground in West Sussex at the weekend, and Town boss Paul Hurst will be hoping for a healthy lead to take back to Blundell Park for the second leg next Saturday.
Isthmian Premier League side Bognor are looking to visit the national stadium for the first time in their history and whilst they will go into the game as big underdogs, they have reached this stage of the competition on merit. The Rocks have spent the majority of their time in the seventh and eighth tiers of English football but do have a history in knockout cup competitions with several second round appearances in the FA Cup.
Jamie Howell's side dispatched of National League sides Altrincham and Torquay United on their way to the semi-finals and are currently fifth in their division, occupying one of the play-off positions. Whilst Town will expect to come away with a victory on paper, they will have to be wary of the fact that Bognor are unbeaten in league and cup since the turn of the New Year and have won 12 of their 15 league games at home this season, so they have a winning habit on their own patch.
Referee Mark Heywood
will officiate the the first leg, and to find out more about him, click hereTEAM NEWS
Town will definitely be without Andy Monkhouse after he was forced off early against Southport on Tuesday with a hamstring injury, whilst Evan Horwood and Jon Nolan are also doubts after missing training with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. Wigan loanee Ryan Jennings is cup tied after playing for Cheltenham earlier in the competition, but Town will be happy to welcome back Shaun Pearson after missing the Southport game through illness. Bognor will welcome back former loanee Chike Kandi after he rejoined the club from Brighton earlier in the week.
Former midfielder Jamie Howell
has been in charge at Bognor Regis since 2009, winning promotion from the Ishhmian Division One South in 2012 and guiding the team to the Ishmian League play-offs last season.
Originally joint manager at the Rocks alongside Darin Killpatrick, Howell's playing career saw him make over 400 appearances for Bognor in a ten year spell between 1997 and 2007, so he can be considered somewhat of a cult hero at the club and thus a perfect fit for their managerial position.
Howell spent two years as player-manager at Burgess Hill Town before taking the job, and will be hoping to guide the Rocks to the play-offs and a Wembley cup final this campaign.
The main man that Town will have to watch out for is striker Jason Prior
, who has hit 25 goals for the Rocks so far this season.
The 27-year-old has been a big part of Bognor's recent history, scoring 95 goals in 125 games in a first spell at the club beween 2009 and 2012, earning himself a trial at Newcastle United and later a move to the Football League with AFC Wimbledon.
Injuries halted Price's progress and he eventually found himself at Dartford and later Margate before rejoining Bognor on loan in 2014 and on a permanent basis the following season.
MANAGER QUOTESPaul Hurst:
''They've already knocked out a couple of sides in both FA competitions - six or seven teams that have been higher up in the pyramid than them so that tells me not to take them lightly and everyone I've spoken to has said they'd easily be a Conference South team if they come through that league.
''So, I'm under no illusions that it'll be a difficult game and we know they'll have a vocal backing and home advantage in the first leg that they'll be looking to take advantage of.
''Someone had said to me that we didn’t want to get Grimsby because they’re flying, but lo and behold that’s the case and I think the one thing we have at the present moment is we’ve done far better than we ever anticipated we’d do against sides from a higher division.
Watch the full pre-match preview below.
"That’s not normal for us as we usually go out at a much earlier stage, but that confidence breeds confidence with the players so yes, we know it’s going to be a very hard task but we’re there and we’re only two games away from Wembley so we’ll have a real go."