United’s Emirates FA Cup second-round meeting with Doncaster Rovers on Sunday is a televised affair, with the mid-table League One outfit looking to come to Brunton Park to build on their first-round demolition of FC United of Manchester.
Speaking ahead of the game, boss Chris Beech said: “I’m looking forward to playing against a very good opponent in Doncaster Rovers.
“They really do dictate possession in their League One games so they’ll be coming up here to look to do the same and get through to round three.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing against them because I understand how good they are, and I’ll be sharing that with the players ahead of the game. We want to do our best to get through, and last season was a good example of what it can mean.
“It’s a year ago since I got the job and my first game was in this competition against Forest Green. We eventually got past them, and to play Cardiff twice in the next round, and take them all the way, was a great experience for our players. Our aim is to achieve that again, but Doncaster are an excellent team, so it won’t be easy.”
“The lads are in good spirits,” he added. “The FA Cup is a rest from the league, as such, and it presents different opportunities. It’s very exciting for everybody and we all want to do well.
“The players will know what to expect and they’ll be looking to pick up from Tuesday. We’ve had an extra day to recover so hopefully we’ll be right back at it for Sunday’s game.
“I know some people say these games are a distraction but we have a massive focus on it because it’s another game we can try to win. We’re the underdog in this one, so we can go into it having nothing to fear.
“They’re expected to win and we have to upset that. It’s part of the journey and growth our new group of players are enjoying together, and we’ll see where we end up. It’s a game we can look forward to in a different way, but it’s definitely one we want to win.”
On what we can expect to see from our opponents, he commented: “They’re very, very good at possession-based football, with individuals within that who have game-changing moments in them.
“If you’re looking at them, they’re very dangerous. They generally dominate their opponents. They keep going. I watched their game against Blackpool on DVD and to get back to a winning position from where they were was great team spirit.
“They’ve got a bit of everything. The lads have to understand how difficult our opponents are, but we are Hayes & Yeading in this tie, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, we are the team that Doncaster shouldn’t lose to, but we’ve got that challenge in front of us that we understand they’re very good.
“In terms of an FA Cup second-round opponent they’re probably the best. We’ve got to be right at it to try and get in the hat for the next round.”
“We’ll be trying our best to give it a right go, that’s for sure,” he continued. “There’s no guarantees of anything. We found ourselves two up at Cardiff and scored three at home and got beat. To score five goals against a team trying to get in the Premier League was quite ridiculous not to be able to say you’re in Round Four.
“It was a great occasion for me and the players, and for the club – and for our supporters. We could share it with them at that point. It’s a shame we can’t this weekend, but we can try and stay in the hat and hopefully share that next experience with them. I think the actual challenge of taking on Doncaster is as big as trying to play against Cardiff.”
Having dug deep at Hayes to turn round a difficult situation, he confirmed that it will need the same kind of fighting spirit in a game that will pose other problems.
“We’ll need that same kind of never-say-die approach on Sunday,” he agreed. “Doncaster will come and expect to win, so it’s everything to gain and nothing to lose for us this time.
“Cup runs aren’t easy, you get twists and turns in every round, but if you do keep it going you end up playing one of the big clubs, and that’s what it’s all about at our level. But, make no bones about it, Doncaster are a pretty big fish at this stage.”
One player who everybody knows about in the opposition ranks is the evergreen James Coppinger, who has rattled up over 600 appearances for his club and, at the age of 39, is still going strong.
“He’s so good, so professional, such a good person,” he told us. “I don’t know him personally, but I know people that do know him, and I do know that he still affects games, massively so.
“For anybody to look after themselves as well as he does, and to keep playing at the levels he plays at, is commendable.
“They’ve got big Andy Butler as well in there, who’s again getting on a little bit, but he’s been an excellent servant to football and to Doncaster. There are people like that in their changing room, along with some young zest and energy, and some high technical players.
“I know a few Championship clubs are looking at a couple of their midfield players. They’re all really at it so we’ve got a massive challenge on our hands.”
And without putting a hex on the result, progression to round three brings obvious financial rewards.
“David Holdsworth has done a very good job to make sure we’ve got good business practices in place, but any cash that isn’t expected is a bonus whenever it comes in,” he said. “I am very mindful of that as I do my job, because as soon as we gain anything it allows me to knock on the door and ask for something.
“A cup run might help as we look at January, so it’s important that we try to get through, if we can. For our fans, it would be a great Christmas present for the fans, wouldn’t it.
“We’ll do our work and try our best to get there, and it’s exciting that it’s a possibility.”