Pontefract plan to take game to Halifax as Rouse targets monumental FA Cup upset

Craig Rouse celebrating leading Pontefract Collieries to the brink of the FA Cup First Round proper after the defeat of Handsworth in the last round

Pontefract Collieries will adopt the fortunate favours the brave approach in a bid to cause a monumental FA Cup upset against National League giants FC Halifax Town.

That’s the message from Craig Rouse whose club are set to host the biggest game in their history as 1,500 people will squeeze into a sell-out Beechnut Lane for the fourth qualifying round showdown.

With Halifax sitting three leagues higher and riding high in third in the NL, the easy option would be to put ten men behind the ball but Rouse won’t deploy those tactics on the club’s biggest ever stage.

“It is certainly the biggest FA Cup game in the club’s history,” Rouse told Non League Yorkshire.

“As I have said previously to you I will it to other people to judge it is the club’s biggest day.

“I would certainly say it is the biggest day I have been involved in at the club when you look that it is probably going to be a sell-out attendance and a Yorkshire derby.

“It is fairytale stuff for the club so we want to enjoy it but we want to make sure we acquit ourselves well on the pitch.

“We need to have a plan that nullifies their threats whilst still being able to pose a threat ourselves.

“We’re not a side that is built to park the bus, we haven’t got the players to do that.

“We’ll try and get on the front-foot and take the game to them.

“It is a little bit of a free hit.

“If we get beat people will say we should get beat.

“If we win it’ll be the shock of the round. 

“We’ll definitely try and impose what we can do on the game.

“I wouldn’t want to abandon what we believe in because if you try and sit in and try and counter act what they do you can still get beat.

“But if you have a go and leave everything out on the pitch then at least you can reflect and say ‘at least we had a go and we went down fighting’.

“For me that’s the way to go and we’ll set up to try and give them a few things to think about.”

Craig Rouse’s association with Pontefract goes back to 2008 and he has served them as a player, assistant manager and now manager
Pontefract Collieries blew Handsworth away to move to within one win of the FA Cup First Round Proper
Ponte fans celebrate at the final whistle after the Handsworth game

Pontefract, who have had never gone beyond the second qualifying round until this season, are one of the lowest ranked teams in the competition.

Their league form has been sketchy to say the least and Halifax manager Pete Wild, himself a FA Cup upset expert having led Oldham Athletic to a defeat of Premier League Fulham in 2019, watched them slump to a 1-0 defeat to Stocksbridge Park Steels in midweek.

“It would probably be the shock of the round (if we can win) if you look at the form Halifax are in,” Rouse said.

“We have to give them respect with the form they are in.

“We went and watched them against Notts County and I saw their manager at our game on Tuesday night (against Stocksbridge Park Steels).

“He probably went away not too concerned.

“But the fact we are at home and it is a tight pitch we hope it is some sort of leveller.

“There’s no doubt that Halifax start as favourites and they’ll have to have an off-day and we’ll have to have a good one.

“But these things can happen in football.

“You only have to look at Marine last year with the run they went on to get to the third round.

“That’s beyond your wildest dreams but there is success stories.

“When we first started this run in the competition we did say to the players that we wanted to create the big days and be the side who got the exposure and the memories for the club.”

Tickets have been selling like hot-cakes or Pontefract cakes to coin a local delicacy.

It is expected the remaining tickets will be sold to ensure it is a 1,500 sell-out.

The ingredients are all there for a memorable and unforgettable afternoon and Rouse admits the tie has been fantastic for the club.

“I don’t know what kind of atmosphere to expect because it is unknown territory as we’ve never had a sell-out crowd,” he said.

“I think we had quite a big crowd for the play-offs semi-final and final (in 2019) but never to a sell-out capacity.

“I would imagine the full town are going to come out and get behind us.

“It is definitely a game that should capture the imagination.

“It is the magic of the FA Cup and we’re one round off the first round and you never know what could happen.

“Since I have been involved there’s never been a game which has had as much exposure.

“We’ve had TV coverage, radio coverage, interviews with Five Live, Calendar, Look North but it is good for the area and good for the club.

“One of the remits when we came back was that we wanted to give the town a club to be proud of and obviously if we can do that by representing well on Saturday then it benefits everyone.

“The game won’t be forgotten.

“You look at the support from the town.

“The majority of the players haven’t played in a game like this and I’ve never managed in a game like this.

“It will be a day that lives long in the memory but we have to try and do ourselves justice and make sure we don’t look back and think we have gone down with a whimper.”

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