So Gainsborough Trinity stand between us and a first trip to Wembley. A side from a lower level of football, and we’ve got the added insurance of playing the tie over two legs in case we suffer a wobble. We should be alright. But I bet that’s what Porto thought when they drew us in 1984.
Trinity will be fierce foes. They’re going well in the Conference North and won’t lack confidence or adrenaline as they tear into us in an attempt to reach Wembley for the first time themselves.
Like us they’re enjoyed consistent form over the last couple of years: also like us, the upturn in their fortunes has basically coincided with the departure of Brian Little! A glance at their squad reveals a few familiar names: the sides from the Conference North and South we’ve faced so far in this cup run won’t have prepared us for what we’ll come against in the semi-final. A tie against Barrow might have been more straightforward than this step into the unknown.
For a more contemporary example of how two-legged ties can turn the accepted order upside-down we need only to look back to the Bradford City-Aston Villa tie. I’m not sure Andy Morrell would thank me for comparing his side to Paul Lambert’s though. Villa were ripe for the picking, an inexperienced flaky side which cracked under pressure in the first leg and couldn’t overcome a deficit in the second.
Morrell’s side is much more battled-hardened, and has developed the good habit of becoming difficult to beat. I’m inclined to go against the received wisdom and hope that playing the first leg at home will play into our hands: rather than go for broke and hope to win the tie in the first game, if we can establish any sort of advantage our strong away form ought to give us confidence that we can finish the job off in the second leg.
Just nobody mention Porto.