Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
We’ve never faced North Ferriby before, but can go into the final knowing we’ve got a great deal more experience than them in cup competitions, and have enjoyed an impressive amount of success in them of late.
Being a Welsh club means we get more opportunities to play in cup finals than a team of our stature would expect. We’ve won the Welsh Cup more often than anyone else, and can go into Sunday’s match knowing that we’re on a good run of form in the finals of cup competitions.
Over the course of the last twenty years we’ve played in eleven cup finals, and come home with the trophy eight times! Our overall haul in that period is five Welsh Premier Cups, one Welsh Cup, one FA Trophy and one LDV Vans Trophy. Not bad considering the hard times we’ve endured in that time!
The Welsh Premier Cup was a tournament we dominated, and we followed up a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City in its inaugural season in 1998 by beating both them and Swansea again by the same score in the next three years.
We then went on to record a couple of emphatic victories in the competition, beating Newport County 6-1 in 2003 and going to Rhyl the following season and triumphing 4-1.
However, the other three cup wins were more memorable. Gary Bennett scored twice at Cardiff Arms Park in 1995 to earn a victory over Cardiff in the last Welsh Cup in which all the sides based in the English leagues competed, Juan Ugarte and Darren Ferguson earned a memorable victory in the LDV Vans Trophy at The Millennium Stadium in 2005 and of course Johnny Hunt’s penalty meant we defeated Grimsby Town on our first trip to Wembley two seasons ago.
The only three defeats we’ve suffered were all in the Welsh Premier Cup. We went down to a surprise home loss against Barry Town in 1999 and were beaten 2-1 by Swansea City in consecutive years, at home in 2006 and away in 2005 in the final match at The Vetch Field.
North Ferriby play in the division below us, of course, and so it’s pleasing to know that our record in the FA Trophy against lower division sides is impressive. We’re not completely shock-proof, but we can claim that the times when we’ve been subject to an upset have had extenuating circumstances.
We’ve been drawn against lower division opposition ten times in the competition and been knocked out by them twice. However, both those losses saw us field weakened teams. We went out 1-0 at Salisbury in 2011 but Dean Saunders put out a very experimental side, with Nat Knight-Percival playing his first game at centre back and Lee Fowler making his debut. The midfielder conceded the penalty that decided the match with a clumsy challenge.
The following season a similar fate befell us, when Hinckley Town came to The Racecourse and beat us 2-1, but this time Andy Morrell put out a second string side as he was looking to juggle a push for promotion and an upcoming FA Cup third round tie against Brighton.
Oddly enough, during our time in non-league football we’ve actually got a worse record in the other cup competitions against lower division sides, having won three and lost two such ties in the FA Cup and Setanta Shield. However, both losses came under Dean Saunders: the defeat to Hinckley was the last time we’ve been subjected to a shock.