FA Cup: Gray drawing on personal experience to inspire City to victory

James Gray and Graham Golds celebrate after City's FA Trophy penalty shootout win against Billericay

James Gray and Graham Golds celebrate after City's FA Trophy penalty shootout win against Billericay Town. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

St Albans City joint manager James Gray is drawing on his own experiences in the FA Cup first round proper to prepare his team for Saturday’s tie with Mansfield Town at Clarence Park.

Gray skippered Wealdstone against Rotherham in the first round proper of the 2009 competition. He was on the losing side that day but he is using the experience to help the team.

“There were about 2,500 fans on the day – we’re expecting 2,000 on Saturday – and it can be overawing, but when the whistle goes you have got to play the game,” he said.

“Graham [Golds] and I have got to get the boys focussed because they can’t play with nerves. Nerves lead to individual mistakes but if we can cut them out then we have a good chance to win the game.”

Confidence is obviously high in the camp, and so it should be after cup wins against Tonbridge Angels and Billericay Town. That confidence starts with Gray, who told the Herts Ad the players are “buzzing” ahead of the tie

“We’re ready and raring to go,” he said.

“We should be able to play without pressure because we’re the underdogs. It’s similar to us against Chatham; we were expected to win so we played with nerves. On Saturday the lads should go out without nerves, enjoy the occasion and hopefully we can get the result.

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“Our squad is good enough to cause Mansfield problems, especially the strike pair of John Frendo and Mark Nwokeji who are bang on form at the moment.”

He added: “We’re unbeaten in 11; it feels like a long time since we lost. This team has a will to win and a never say die attitude. We don’t want to have any ‘what ifs’ on Saturday, we want to leave everything on the pitch.”

While City will need all their confidence to reach the second round of the cup, there is no denying that Mansfield Town will be the toughest task of Gray and Golds’ young managerial career.

Gray watched Mansfield lose 3-0 to Southend United on Friday. Speaking of Saturday’s opponents he said: “It was difficult to gauge anything because they had a man sent off after 30 minutes but they’re a football league side so they will be a big, strong, physical side.

“On the day, though, in the FA Cup first round proper and with all the fans behind us we can raise our game and hopefully it’ll be a ding-dong tie.”

Saints will be without Ryan Wharton and Greg Ngoyi, both suspended, while James Kaloczi, who will appear on Soccer AM this weekend, is expected to keep his place in the heart of the defence.

Kick-off on Saturday is 3pm at Clarence Park.