Hawks hoping to boost FA Cup upset chances with overnight stay in the English Riviera
Paul Doswell is hoping an overnight trip to the English Riviera can help Hawks claim a higher division FA Cup scalp for the first time in 11 years.
The Hawks squad are training tomorrow morning ahead of a 150-mile coach trip down to Devon and an overnight stay in a Torquay hotel.
From there, it is a short journey to Plainmoor and a fourth qualifying round tie with the higher division Gulls the following afternoon.
‘We don’t often get the chance to travel on a coach with an overnight stay,’ said Doswell.
‘Stuart (Munro, CEO) and Derek (Pope, chairman) said straight away we’ll stay overnight - there wasn’t even a debate about it.
‘You have to do it to give yourself the best chance. Otherwise, you’re looking at leaving at 8am (on the day) and a four-hour coach journey.
‘It will be good to have the chance of a relaxing, social get-together - good for what they call ‘team bonding.’
The cost will come out of Hawks’ FA Cup winnings - already up to £9,000 after victories against Beaconsfield and Billericay and with a cheque for £9,375 (if they beat Torquay) or £3,125 (if they lose) coming up.
Hawks stayed in Bristol ahead of their FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at Bath City last season, and Doswell said it was a huge help with bonding a new squad together. The same applies now with another new squad and a longer trip.
The Torquay tie is the first time Hawks have been drawn against higher division opposition in the FA Cup during Doswell’s time in charge. Last season, on a run to the second round proper, they were drawn against lower tier sides in four of the five rounds.
‘I didn’t think it was a good draw for us,’ said the manager. ‘I would much rather play a lower division team at home because it gives you a better chance of progressing.
‘This is one of the hardest draws we could have had. I thought they were the best side in their division last season and but for injuries would have won it.
‘We’re obviously going there to win but I recognise we’re not the favourites - if we go out it won’t be a big surprise to people.
‘I’m looking at it as a little measure to see how far we’ve come as a new group. Even a positive performance in a losing cause would give us confidence.’
Doswell will select from a fully-fit squad with the exception of ex-Torquay loanee Paul Rooney (tendonitis) and has been greatly heartened by recent displays.
Hawks have beaten Billericay 3-2 (FA Cup) and Concord 5-2 (National League South) in their last two home games.
‘I just feel a sense that the players are beginning to buy into the system and what we’re asking them to do,’ said Doswell.
‘It wouldn’t be harsh to say we could have been 8-1 up at half-time against Concord. We were really, really good.’
Hawks are bidding for their first higher division FA Cup scalp since they knocked out National League outfit Histon in the fourth qualifying round in 2010/11.
That was the fifth higher tier scalp – the others being York City, Notts County and Swansea (all 2007/08) and Crawley Town (2008/09).
Doswell, meanwhile, is protecting two 100 per cent records this weekend.
Firstly, he has triumphed on his previous two visits to Plainmoor - Sutton winning 3-2 in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.
There was drama on each occasion - in the first game keeper Ross Worner had to go off injured after just 16 minutes and was replaced by defender Simon Downer. And in the second, Jamie Collins - like Worner, part of this weekend’s Hawks squad - converted a last-minute penalty.
Secondly, Doswell will be putting his managerial wits against Gulls boss Gary Johnson for only the second time. The first occasion was also in the FA Cup, when Sutton beat Johnson’s Cheltenham in the first round in 2016/17 - Roarie Deacon bagging a late winner.
That was the season Sutton ended up playing Arsenal in the fifth round, summing up the eternal magic of the world’s greatest cup tournament.
Victory in Devon would send Hawks through to the first round proper for the ninth time in their 23-year history. On two occasions – in 2007/08 (fourth round) and last season (second round) have they progressed even further.
*For the best coverage of Torquay v Hawks in the FA Cup, don’t miss next Monday’s edition of The News and go online at portsmouth.co.uk