We’re entering the middle third of the season that can really make or break seasons at all levels of football.
Nonemoreso than for clubs in the Evo-Stik League, and especially Warrington Town.
The Yellows find themselves nicely positioned in second place in the league table, with games in hand on Scarborough Athletic above them, but their league progress will undoubtedly be stunted in the run up to Christmas due to cup commitments.
The biggest one of those comes this Saturday when FC Halifax Town come to Cantilever Park, the National League side the only thing that stands in the way of Warrington emulating the historic achievement of four years ago when they reached the FA Cup first round proper for the first time in the club’s history.
Due to the re-structuring of prize money, progress in the FA Cup is even more lucrative than it was before, so as well as the prestige and achievement of progressing, it provides obvious financial benefits too – possibly the difference between recruiting a quality player that can help achieve promotion.
It’s the magic of the FA Cup that makes it difficult to call it a distraction in the negative sense.
Crowds are always greater for FA Cup matches, and it is hoped anything up to 1,000 fans will pack in to Cantilever Park for Saturday’s cup tie.
It will likely be another sell-out should they manage to progress and land a home draw in the first round, as they did when they beat Exeter City in front of the BBC TV cameras back in November 2014.
But the draw backs of a cup run is the impact it can have on the league campaign – not just now, but during the run in at the end of the season when the toll of playing 60 games starts to show.
Warrington’s exciting run in the FA Trophy last season, not helped by replays in virtually every round, added considerably to their fixture list and meant that even when they moved within a point of league leaders Altrincham in March, they just didn’t have any energy left to kick on in the final 11 games, and the season was abruptly ended by a 3-0 play-off defeat at home to Grantham Town.
FA Cup progress is great, there is no doubt, but the long-term future of the club and its plans for moving forward rest on the club gaining promotion, and after falling disappointingly short last season, the start to this season suggests that progress this year is there for the taking for Paul Carden’s talented squad.
Last weekend’s defeat to Matlock Town ended a tremendous run of form in the league, and the cancellation of Tuesday night’s scheduled league game with Stafford Rangers probably came at the ideal time for Carden, who had struggled to find additional training time with his side owing to their cup commitments.
The performance against Matlock wasn’t too dissimilar to last Tuesday night’s one away at Whitby Town, where the Yellows pinched three points thanks to Jack Mackreth’s late goal.
The extra preparation to face a tough Halifax side will be a boost to the Yellows, and they will have to perform extremely well if they are to get a result.
The Yellows are one of four NPL teams in the FA Cup this weekend – Marine face Salford City and Witton Albion take on Solihull Moors, while Kidsgrove Athletic travel to Hartlepool United.
The prize at stake is a big one – the FA Cup first round proper, a potential TV appearance and perhaps even more mouth-watering, a trip to fallen big boys Sunderland.