Hemel Town will be hoping a few days extra rest will allow illness and knocks to have recovered sufficiently as they prepare to take on high-flying National League side Solihull Moors in the last-16 of the FA Trophy at Vauxhall Road tonight (Tuesday).
Despite the heroics of more than 60 Hemel fans on Saturday, the ice eventually won out to put paid to the club’s historic cup tie with Solihull, who are riding high in third place in the fifth tier of English football.
Weather permitting, the crucial clash at Vauxhall Road will take place tonight.
It is the furthest the Tudors have reached in the premier non-league cup competition, with just three wins required for a dream date at Wembley Stadium.
Meanwhile, the draw for the quarter-finals took place on Monday and the Tudors have been given a potentially winnable tie if they can pull off a miraculous victory tonight.
They would be at home against either Spennymoor Town of AFC Telford, the sides in third and fifth place in the comparable National League North, so Hemel have avoided a meeting with someone from the higher National League.
It was all hands on the icy deck on Saturday morning as more than 60 people, including Tudors’ first-team boss Joe Deeney, chairman Dave Boggins, Hemel MP Sir Mike Penning, committee members and supporters, all responding to the club’s plea for help to clear the pitch in an effort to get the game on.
But it was all in vain, sadly, as the referee who turned up to do a preliminary check found that the goalmouths were unsafe and, in his opinion, wouldn’t thaw enough in time for the 3pm kick-off.
It was frustrating for all concerned as the majority of the pitch had been protected from the frost by a thick layer of snow. The areas around the six-yard box, however, didn’t have quite as much grass covering them and succumbed to the freezing conditions overnight.
As many Tudors fans there pointed out, they would still be in the draw for the quarter-finals for the first time in the club’s history.
Deeney was absolutely chuffed with the turnout and was as frustrated as anyone that the game was called off.
He said: “It was great to see everyone there, I can’t thank them enough for their efforts.
“It was obviously disappointing in the end as we were expected a large crowd and the players were fully focused on the game and were looking forward to the tie. “On the plus side, we have had a few players suffering with illness this week and a couple had minor strains so a few more days’ recovery will help massively.”
Asked if he was getting concerned with the increasing fixture-list backlog, Deeney said: “It is becoming a slight concern, especially if we have more bad weather this month.
“At present, we will be playing Saturday/Tuesday all the way to the middle of March. It’s an old cliché, but we will take it one game at a time and will work to ensure we set up to win every game.
“After such a positive performance last weekend [beating Hungerford Town 3-0] we were really hoping to keep the momentum going but it wasn’t to be and we have three extra days to prepare.
“This month has some very interesting fixtures and we know it’s going to be very tough, but that’s why we are in the game.
“First things first, however, it’s Solihull this Tuesday night and we must ensure we are focused and ready for that game.”
The club issued a massive ‘thank you’ to all who turned up bright and early in freezing conditions on Saturday to help out.
It’s what local non-league football is all about.
Only three National League South games survived the weather on Saturday so Hemel remain in 14th place in the table, but with several games in hand on the teams around them.
*Admission prices for tonight’s game – Adults £14, concessions £9, under-18s unaccompanied £5, under-18s accompanied £1, under-12s accompanied free, adult season ticket-holders £9 , concession season ticket-holders £5.
The club said on their website: “After the tremendous turn out on Saturday morning to try to get the original game on, let us hope we can see as many of you come to this rearranged game and cheer the Tudors on to a famous victory tonight!”