Paul Doswell outlines his Hawks FA Cup aims ahead of third round qualifying tie with National League South rivals Billericay

Paul Doswell is setting his sights on another memorable Hawks FA Cup run.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 10:20 am
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 2:45 pm
Benny Read could feature in a Hawks squad for the first time this season on Saturday. Picture: Dave Haines

Hawks are currently two wins away from reaching the first round proper for the ninth time in their 23-year history and welcome National League South rivals Billericay in a third round qualifying tie on Saturday.

Last term, boss Doswell guided his team to the second round where they were stunned by eighth-tier Merseyside minnows Marine - missing out on a glamour tie with Premier League Tottenham.

But Hawks have still enjoyed some memorable FA Cup moments down the years, chiefly facing Liverpool at Anfield in a fourth round tie in 2008, while they have also taken on Premier League Brentford and Football League clubs Preston, Millwall and Swansea in the famous competition.

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Doswell says his opening aim is always to try to get to the first round proper - and Hawks will be bidding to take another step towards that goal when they host Billericay.

The Hawks boss said: ‘The target always for the club, for the benefit of the club, would be to get to the first round proper. I think that’s the one you always aim for at our level.

‘It’s not necessarily easy to get to do it, you’ve got to win three games to get there, we did it last year - in fact we won four last year.

‘That’s the aim within the camp, can we get to the first round proper. Some of that is dependent on the fourth qualifying round draw – if you get through.

‘You target the first round because you want to try to get a Sunderland or a Portsmouth in the same way a Metropolitan Police or someone two or three divisions lower is targeting you.’

Hawks defeated division lower Southern League Premier South side Beaconsfield in the previous round to set up a meeting with Billericay.

But Doswell admitted he would much rather face a team at an equivalent level or higher as opposed to coming up against opposition from lower down the pyramid.

The Essex side head to Westleigh Park sitting bottom of the National League South without a win in six league games this season, although they did beat league rivals Braintree in the previous round.

Billericay have only picked up one point out of 18 so far, and that was courtesy of an 89th minute leveller in a 2-2 draw against Braintree on August Bank Holiday Monday.

Last weekend they lost 3-2 at home to a Hemel Hempstead side who had only picked up a single point from six games previously. Ex-Southend pro Norman Wabo, the hosts’ top scorer, struck his fourth goal of the season as a consolation.

Yet Doswell is predicting a tough tie and is adamant Billericay will not be languishing near the bottom of the division come the end of the season.

He added: ‘They’re not going to be at the bottom for long. If you look at their side, they’ve got seven or eight new signings since the start of the season - two recently - good signings as well. Their depth of squad is good so they’ll be okay. Apart from the FA Cup, they’ve not had the start they wanted.

‘We’ve looked at them, every game they’ve lost is tight, it’s not as though they’re losing heavily and the end of the day we’ve lost three out of six so we’re not sat there crowing, that’s for sure.’

Full-back Benny Read met with a surgeon yesterday to see if he can feature in a Hawks squad for the first time this season after shoulder surgery.

But both midfielder Paul Rooney (Achilles) and striker Tommy Wright (knee) face a race against time to face Billericay.

Meanwhile, player-coach Jamie Collins is in contention having recovered from his hamstring injury and was on the bench in last weekend's 1-0 NLS defeat at St Albans.

Hawks have hosted Billericay once before in the FA Cup, winning 3-1 in a fourth qualifying round tie in 2002/03 with first-half goals from James Taylor, Warren Haughton and Dean Blake.