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Hythe Town looking to upset the FA Cup odds

Hythe Town FC
Hythe Town line up for the cameras

By Matt Davison
BBC Radio Kent

When Hythe Town ran out to play Bookham on 14 August they could not have imagined for one minute what this season's FA Cup would bring.

That was in the extra preliminary round, they won the game 4-0, and five FA Cup wins later they find themselves the first Kent League club for more than 50 years to reach the first round.

Up next for Hythe, who have beaten Ryman League outfit Concord Rangers and Blue Square Bet South side Staines Town en route to round one, are a side themselves familiar with giant killing.

In 1972 Hereford United, then a Southern League club, knocked out the mighty Newcastle United. Thirty nine seasons later it is Hereford who play the role of the side looking to avoid the upset.

Ninety eight league places separate Hereford from Hythe, currently sixth in the Kent League. Hythe would have to win promotion five times to play Hereford in a league game, assuming the Bulls stayed where they are.

But that is not stopping Hythe from having a slight degree of confidence ahead of the biggest game in their 100-year history.

Manager Scott Porter, one of the youngest managers in the FA Cup first round at just 31, acknowledges they have little to lose.

One player is struggling to get the day off work, but most of their employers have been supportive.

Club secretary Martin Giles

"Let's hope we can cause an upset again," he told BBC Radio Kent. "They haven't had a good run of form at home, whereas we are full of confidence

"The FA Cup is full of shocks, let's hope we can have another one. It would be unbelievable. To beat a League club would be out of this world.

"I've got every faith in our players in what they have achieved so far, let's hope the dream continues.

"We've got every confidence, we'll have a lot of support, a good weekend up there, and enjoy the occasion."

Martin Giles has been secretary of the club for 22 years. In that time their biggest days have been trips to the FA Vase semi-final and final, and a Cup giant-killing win over neighbours Dover Athletic.

He says the club are already seeing people returning for the current Cup run from those days of success in the Vase.

"There's been a lot of interest from media and supporters. We've seen faces we haven't seen for a very long time. Will they remember and come back? Hopefully they will," said Giles.

"We have to hope some of these supporters turn into regulars. At our level 20 more makes a difference. That would be a substantial amount on our average gate of 170 or 180."

Hythe's players are being treated to a two-night stay for the Hereford match as their entire squad have succeeded in getting leave on Friday.

It will be a new experience for the majority as the most experienced member of the Hythe side at Edgar Street on Saturday will be Lee Shearer, a 33-year-old central defender who played 18 league games for Leyton Orient in the late 1990s before spells in Conference football with Dover, Margate and Gravesend and Northfleet.

Giles said: "They're all taking it in their stride. We have people coming in from Bromley Green, in Ashford. We're not freezing at moments like this as we have in the past.

Dave Cook and Lee Shearer (Hythe Town FC)
Captain Dave Cook (left) scored in their win over Staines

"We've got plumbers, electricians, roofers, teachers, sports trainers. Scott [Porter] is in the building trade but I think he's become a full-time football manager these last few weeks."

Hereford will understandably start as overwhelming favourites, but Hythe have already started planning for a potential replay.

Their tiny Reachfields ground holds just 3,000, and could come as something of a shock should Hereford need a replay.

Giles insists those plans that are being formulated are not a case being cocky, but are a necessity.

"We have no choice, in fact we are instructed to by the FA," he said. "Hereford have the right to object to the lighting or the pitch, but in reality I don't think they will. We don't go as far as printing the tickets, or even selling them.

"Let's give us time to let the hangover go and let's prepare for the replay."

The key to Hythe's success, though, could lie in chairman Paul Markland's razor.

He vowed not to shave for two weeks before the match against Staines in the fourth qualifying round, and has continued with the pact.

"The razor's well and truly in the cupboard, don't worry about that," he said.

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