Rouse issues war cry as Pontefract prepare for greatest battle

FA Cup 

Pontefract Collieries manager Craig Rouse

Craig Rouse says huge underdogs Pontefract Collieries have “nothing to lose” as he prepares to lead them into their greatest battle in the club’s history.

The Colls are all set for the ‘David versus Goliath’ FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay with National League giants FC Halifax Town at The Shay tonight.

The prize for the winner is a first round proper home tie against Maidenhead United.

Ponte pushed Pete Wild’s Halifax all the way in the goal-less draw on Saturday in front of a record-breaking crowd of 1429 at Beechnut Lane.

With Halifax enjoying home advantage, Ponte face a massive challenge but Rouse draws inspiration from a NPL Division One East rival as he bids to cause a major upset. 

“People from the outside have said ‘maybe that was the chance’ and sometimes when you get into these types of games you do only get one chance,” Rouse told Non League Yorkshire.

“But Marske showed us a good example a couple of weeks ago by drawing with Chester at home and then going away and winning 4-0.

“It is not unheard of.

“Is (Saturday a) chance missed? We’ll find out tonight.

“We have nothing to lose.

“We had nothing to lose on Saturday, there was no pressure on us.

“We had gone the furthest we have (in the FA Cup) and broke the record attendance.

“Everyone had written us off and that will be the same tonight.

“If we lose, we’re expected to and if we win, we’ve sprung the surprise of the round.

“If we don’t believe we can do it there’s no point turning up.

“I said at the start of the season that I believed these players would deliver big days for this club.

“They delivered one on Saturday and we have another opportunity tonight.

“The one thing you have as a player and a changing room is personal pride.

“Although we’re going there with a free hit, we want to make sure we go and do what we can do and we’ll see if it is enough.

“You want these tests. 

“You can go and give your best and it may still not be enough but we’ll leave no stone unturned trying to find out.”

Ponte fans celebrate holding FC Halifax Town to a goal-less draw on Saturday. Picture: The Dribbling Code

Ponte certainly gave Halifax a fright in the first tie as they had three big chances.

Their tight Beechnut Lane pitch also stifled Halifax’s possession game and prevented them opening Ponte up.

The visitors were restricted to only a ten minute period of pressure late in the second half.

But the boot is on the other foot for Pontefract tonight.

Halifax having home advantage increases the difficulty level, especially since Shaymen manager Wild has promised that his men will try to utilise the bigger pitch to “stretch” the Colls.

Rouse concedes the venue strengthens Halifax’s game.

“They’re surroundings, their pitch (make it tougher),” he said.

“I have been to watch them and it is a big wide open pitch and there’s a vocal support that will be behind them.

“We are going into the lion’s den so to speak but in those sorts of environments you should be revelling in that and these are the games you should be wanting to play in.

“They are the arenas you want to play in.

“We acquitted ourselves well in the first game and we have to make sure we do that again.

“I would expect them to (stretch us).

“I think they came and tried to do that on Saturday in terms of the rotations of the forwards and the rotations of the players in the middle.

“I would expect that again and maybe they will feel on their pitch they can do that more.

“Obviously I’m not going to give too much away but we have to make sure we come up with a plan to nullify that.

“They will commit more bodies forward on their pitch and we have to make sure we do the dirty side of the game in terms of tracking runners.

“But we also want to try and spring one-or-two surprises ourselves and hopefully when we can do that we can catch them by surprise.

“But there’s no doubting that they are a very good side which is spelt out by their league standing.

“We have to acquit ourselves well and in football bigger surprises have happened and you just never know.”

Pontefract Collieries captain Jack Greenhough caused FC Halifax Town some real problems on Saturday

The chief weapon in the Ponte armoury on Saturday was captain Jack Greenhough’s menacing long throw.

But will the pitch be too big for it to be effective?

“We’ll find out when we get the first one,” he said.

“We’ll see what area he can hit.

“Although he hits the front stick, he probably has a little more distance in him.

“We’ll do it again and see what we can do because when you have that sort of weapon it almost gives you a corner from 20 or 30 yards out.

“We have to rely on set-pieces against good teams like that.

“It is something we’ll definitely deploy and we’ll see if it works.”

Pontefract striker Eli Hey blasting over arguably the best chance of the game

Ponte lost Eli Hey, Jimmy Williams and Scott Smith to injury/cramp during the second half on Saturday.

But Rouse is not worried about fitness levels. 

“We will have to patch a few people up as we had a few with cramp,” he said.

“But we are conditioned to play Saturday-Tuesday, we do this all season.

“There’s nothing new in that respect.

“In terms of the players it is a game they are all desperate to play in so for us there’s no hiding place.

“The occasion and the adrenaline carries you through these scenarios.

“I know it wasn’t for a long period but when we went down to ten men (on Saturday) there were no signs of anyone losing focus, no signs of anyone downing tools.

“We have to make sure we go there and are nice and solid, nice and compact and the longer the game goes on, you never know.

“Anxiety can grow and hopefully we can grow into the game.”

Rouse is uninterested in the potential first round opponents as he believes it is not relevant ahead of a replay but he does admit that seeing Pontefract Collieries read out alongside the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and other huge Football League clubs was a special moment.

“I know people are saying ‘did you want this draw’,” he said.

“We’re not really in the round, we have to get past Halifax.

“For us just to have our name Pontefract Collieries coming up live on ITV alongside those names was surreal.

“I read on Twitter this morning that there hadn’t been another club with Collieries in the draw since 1980-something.

“I saw a tweet saying ‘are some of these teams made up, Marske United, Pontefract Collieries’. 

“It is our job to rise to the challenge now.

“We have had a taste of having days like Saturday and we want to make sure we are involved in more big games and the club is progressing and growing and the town is getting behind the club.

“It is all part of the long-term package that we want to deliver so it is a proud moment.”

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