Alex Pike believes he has assembled his strongest ever Gosport Borough squad – but accepts there will be consequences as he tries to keep everyone happy.
Borough host Maidenhead United at Privett Park in the FA Cup third qualifying round replay tonight (7.45pm).
The two sides battled out a 1-1 draw at the weekend.
But the draw has thrown up a tantalising extra incentive for both clubs to make it through, with a trip to Devon-based Western League outfit Willand Rovers on offer to the winners.
And while that certainly would not be a foregone conclusion to earn a place in the first round proper, it is a visit to a lower division side, rather than a clash against a Vanarama Conference National outfit.
While Pike is contemplating some changes to his team after a big physical effort on a heavy pitch on Saturday, he believes it will not weaken his side.
He said: ‘I made three changes for the Larkhall replay and that freshened us up. It’s an option and something I will look at.
‘It was a heavy pitch at the weekend but it would give us some fresh legs and give Maidenhead something different to think about.
‘This is absolutely the best squad I have ever had.
‘At our Hall of Fame, Pete Edgar – the longest-serving manager at Gosport – stood in front of the players and told them they were the best group of players this club has ever had.
‘He said some great things about how much these players are doing for the club and for the town of Gosport. It gave them a real lift.
‘But they have to understand that a very good squad means there is fierce competition for places.
‘When you bring in good players, there will be some fall out.
‘Some players will get despondent that they are not playing.’
Ashley Harris is pushing for a debut, while Adam Wilde, Tom Dunford and Lee Wort are in the frame.
But Pike is reluctant to make too many changes – particularly in midfield where Mike Carter and Steve Ramsey shone at the weekend.
Pike said: ‘For me, the best player on the park was Mike Carter.
‘He is a proper little midfield tiger.
‘When I signed him I knew he was a good player but I didn’t realise he was that good.
‘I thought Steve Ramsey was unplayable at times. He is a quality player.
‘He has got himself fit, he has worked very hard in our training sessions, but he is doing other things on his own as well.
‘To be fair, he had to do that and I think he realised.
‘He is only 24, but a few weeks ago I thought he was 64 the way he was running around out there.
‘Now, perhaps he has seen that competition for places but he also needed regular games.
‘I’m sure he will just get better and better.’
Pike added: ‘We had enough chances to win on Saturday. I think we will be confident but I think Maidenhead will still fancy their chances as well.
‘We can only concentrate on this game and then see where that takes us. You can’t look ahead to the next round. Football comes back and bites you on the backside time and time again.’
gosport (squad): Ashmore, Forbes, Pearce, Poate, Williams, Carter, Smith, Wooden, Ramsey, Bennett, Paterson, Harris, Dunford, Matthews, Saez, Wort, Wilde, Woodward.