Cammell Laird 1907 travel to Altrincham’s J. Davidson Stadium on Wednesday night to contest the Cheshire Senior Cup final against Nantwich Town.
The ‘old’ Lairds club won the competition in 2007, but in four previous attempts after reforming in 2014 they had progressed no further than the quarter-finals.
Lairds come into the game having lost 6-2 at Sandbach United and 4-1 against Vauxhall Motors in the A41 Derby over the Easter period, and manager Phil Burton accepts that those results were far from ideal and is looking for a response.
“I’m very much looking forward to it. It can’t come quick enough really. The build-up that we’ve had in terms of the league games just hasn’t gone to plan, so it will just be a case of regrouping and moving on, and to be fair if I’m looking for excuses which I am, I think it’s been in the back of the lads’ minds for the last two games and you can see it, so I’ll be glad to just get the monkey off our back and start planning and preparing for it.
“We’ll do our homework, we’ll do our preparation, but we’ve had two games there where we’ve done the preparation and the lads have let us down, so the onus is on the players now. I want them to enjoy it but if they bring anything like the mentality they’ve brought in the last two games it could be quite dangerous.”
This season’s run has seen the Cammells pull off an incredible 3-0 victory against a full-strength Hyde United side, who were 60 places above them in the pyramid, before overcoming Alsager Town (with ten men) and Stockport Town on penalties.
The semi-final saw Burton’s side perform superbly at Evo-Stik First Division West high-flyers Runcorn Linnets: they lost 2-1 on the night and pushed their hosts all the way, but were later handed a walkover when Linnets were found to have fielded an ineligible player.
As a result, Lairds will become the lowest ranked club in the competition’s illustrious history to contest the final, following on from fellow Hallmark Security League outfit Stockport Town’s appearance last season.
And the boss explained just how huge an achievement it would be for the club to lift the trophy.
“When I came in at the start of the season the aim was for a respectable league position and a good cup run. I thought we might have gone far in a competition, but I’d never have dreamed that we’d get to the final of the Cheshire Senior.
“To win it would be absolutely huge. For me it would do what I’m desperate to do which is put Cammell Laird back on the map, and it would do it in season one, which was only supposed to be a rebuilding season given that we started pre-season with next to no players.”
Lairds will be well backed on the night, with the club providing a coach for the squad and some fans to travel together. Burton says he is eager to provide the club with some silverware in his first year in charge.
“When I came in, I knew that the club were in a transition period on and off the field, and I think the comment that was said to me when we spoke about the job was ‘we haven’t got a lot, but what we have got we’ll give you’, and they haven’t let us down from that. The one thing I love about this is the ethos and the family connection. It’s a community club so it’s great that we’ll all be together.
“It’s got the makings of being a phenomenal night for us. One thing I don’t want to hear is ‘we did well to get here and it’s an occasion’. I can’t prepare for an occasion, I’m preparing to try and win this cup, and as I’ve said previously, I want to win it for the club and the fans mostly. The way I feel right now [immediately after the Vauxhalls defeat] I’m not interested in the players! I want to win it for the fans and the people behind the scenes who work really, really hard to try and get a glimpse of success, so that’s the motivation I’ve got at the minute.
“I can’t thank the fans enough for their support this season. I’ll always look back to the Maine Road away game in January when the weather was horrendous and our performance was even worse, and I looked over to the stand on the far side and saw how many people had come to support us brilliantly, and was devastated as I felt I’d let them all down.
“They’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, and if we could go on and win it for them, that would just be a lovely, perfect ending to what has been a tough season.”
Stockport were beaten 3-0 by Lairds’ opponents Nantwich last year, and this will be the Dabbers’ third consecutive appearance in the final.
They will finish 4th in the Evo-Stik Premier Division and be part of the play-offs, meaning that there is a gap of 74 places in the pyramid to bridge. Although they come into this one having lost 1-0 at home to Stafford Rangers on Easter Monday, they have knocked out three higher ranked opponents in Crewe Alexandra (2-1), Chester (1-0) and Stockport County (3-0) en route to Altrincham.
The game will see Nantwich striker Joe Malkin face a reunion with his former club, with the summer move to the Weaver Stadium proving a real success for the 20 year old as he recently claimed the Evo-Stik Premier Division Young Player of the Year award. Nantwich also notably have former Stoke City forward Ricardo Fuller among their ranks.
The final will be refereed by Anthony Taylor to add to the Premier League feel.
Burton is under no illusions as to the strength of the Nantwich side, but believes his side are capable of causing an upset.
“They’re a top side, they’ve reached the final three years in a row and they’re going really well in the league, so they’re no mugs and a very, very good outfit. We’ve had them watched and we know all about them, and they’re dangerous right across the pitch. Depending on what team they play they’ve got strength in depth so it’s never going to be easy. No final is easy, for them as well, but it’s one that we’re just looking forward to.
“We’re the lowest ranked club in there, but I can’t go into a final and prepare thinking that we haven’t got a chance. If the lads have been saving themselves for it then I’ll know on Wednesday. If the last two second half performances are anything to go by, hopefully they’ve kept a lot back for this final, so that’s the only thing I can take positively, but right now I’m still hurting from the league games so the final is a concern in that sense. We’ve definitely got to bring our game heads for it.”