Alex Pike has confirmed Gosport Borough will not be able to defend the Russell-Cotes Cup because of their fixture backlog.
FA Trophy finalists Borough host Basingstoke Town tonight at Privett Park (7.45pm) in the Hampshire Senior Cup as they chase a second cup final place.
But it will not be a hat-trick as Pike took the tough decision to pull out of their forthcoming quarter-final showdown with Christchurch.
That’s because they cannot fit the fixture into a schedule that is increasingly tough.
Pike, whose side lifted the trophy with a 2-1 win over Lymington Town last season, said: ‘We’ve withdrawn from the Russell-Cotes Cup.
‘They have various laws that prevent us from playing loan players, and I have so many games to fit in that it didn’t add up.
‘I’ve got half of the season to play in eight weeks.
‘We are the cup holders, it’s a charity-based competition and you do like to do your bit.
‘But if the Hampshire FA can’t help us, we can’t help them. It’s a shame.’
Pike, however, insists he did not consider a similar course of action for the Hampshire Senior Cup, even though his men face league games on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday next week.
He said: ‘We would love to get to the final at Fratton Park. It would be another good pay day for the club.’
Loan midfielders Josh Carmichael and Steve Ramsey are ineligible tonight.
But Tom Dunford and Lee Molyneaux could feature after injury and illness respectively.
Pike said: ‘I haven’t got much choice. I can’t play loan players in this competition and we haven’t got a massive squad.
‘So I have to keep asking the same players to do it again and again.’
The Borough boss, however, has agreed to extend Justin Bennett’s loan to Poole Town for a second month, although he does have a 24-hour recall, so the striker could yet feature in the FA Trophy final at Wembley.
Pike said: ‘The loan is due to expire on March 23, but we have a recall, if I need to call him back in the meantime.’