From hunters to the hunted – the FA Cup is about to come full circle for last season’s giant-killers Shortwood United.
Nearly a year on from their remarkable run through to the first round proper that saw a heroic win at Conference club Aldershot, and a televised first round tie with League One club Port Vale, the dream stars again.
Five games stand between Wood and a repeat performance and joint boss Alex Sykes admits that last season’s show act as both a help and a hindrance to his side.
A trip to Hellenic League side Shrivenham marks the first step on their road to glory and Sykes knows that, for once, his side are taking the roles of giants.
“We have to use last season as a motivation for Saturday’s game because there will be teams out to have a pop at us because of what we achieved last season,” Sykes said.
“Shrivenham have a decent side and their manager Sam Collier used to play at Cirencester so will know quite a lot about our side and we must be prepared for what will be a tough game.
“In every Cup run – and ours last season was no different – you have games that you have to scrap and battle your way through and Saturday’s game will be no different.”
Wood are a much-changed side from the one that recorded a 2-1 win at Aldershot in October last season and faced Port Vale in front of the BT Sport cameras two weeks later.
Only goalkeeper Tom King, defensive stalwart Matt Bennett and midfielder Tim Haddock are likely to play at Shrivenham after a year of upheaval and a season so far blighted by injury.
Gone are defenders Sam Avery and Mark Pritchett, midfield anchor James Baldwin has moved to Sweden for professional football with Ostersunds FK while Jake Parrott moved to London.
Aldershot goal hero Adam Mann returned to Gloucester City later in the season while Nick Hancock, James Coates and prolific striker Duncan Culley are all on the injury or absent list.
Wood have made a disjointed start to the season with a 2-0 loss at Southern League new boys Larkhall Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday leaving Sykes with plenty to ponder.
“We’ve had to build a new squad and when that happens you can struggle for a bit of consistency and that has been our problem so far,” he said.
“We have five or six players who are new to the club since last season and it will take time for them to bed in and get used to how we play and their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.
“For that reason we can’t really use what happened last year as a massive motivation because half of the squad weren’t here and didn’t experience what we went through.
“A few lads will be able to hark back to what happened, but we know that to have any chance of getting to where we did last year, we have to overcome a tough test at Shrivenham.”
Wood have been dealt one bonus in the lead-up to the Preliminary Round tie with dual registered Gloucester City striker Will Morford being cleared to play by Tigers boss Tim Harris.
Morford missed the Larkhall loss with a slight knock but will return for the Shrivenham game but Culley, Coates, Hancock and defenders Phil Veale and Jon Cant are all missing.