08:00AM, Saturday 01 May 2021
Windsor FC have progressed to the knockout stages of the Hellenic League Challenge Cup competition with one game to spare after producing what boss Mark Cooper called ‘their best display for some time’ to beat Holyport 2-0 on Tuesday evening.
The victory over Port, combined with Virginia Water’s surprise 2-1 defeat against Wokingham & Emmbrook means Cooper can afford to rest some of his weary players for the visit of the Sumas to Stag Meadow on Saturday.
Billy Montague grabbed both of the hosts goals in an impressive first half display against Holyport, who are likely to be league rivals to Windsor next season should a scheduled restructure of non-league go ahead as planned this summer.
Windsor don’t yet know who they’ll face in the first of their knockout games, or even which group that side will come from, but Cooper insists they have no one to fear.
“Yeah, we’re top of the group because Virginia Water lost to Wokingham last night (Tuesday) and that’s put us top,” he said. “We had two tough games against Virginia Water, the first we lost 1-0 and the second finished 0-0 after we had a man sent off in the first half.
“Funnily enough, we looked more likely to win the second game with 10 men than we did the first one. They’re a difficult team to break down and we didn’t manage to do it, but last night’s performance against Holyport was the best we’ve played, not just in this tournament, but for some time.
“We were much better last night than we were when we beat them 6-2 10 days ago.”
Playing two matches a week for the past month after going so long without football has taken its toll on the players, but Cooper says most of his squad have now shaken off any injury niggles or fitness concerns. With Binfield and Flackwell Heath not involved due to their continued participation in the FA Vase Cooper doesn’t see why the Royalists can’t go all the way.
“To play two games a week after three and a half months of no football is difficult,” he said. “It’s been difficult to keep the squad fit because we picked up so many niggles, which is inevitable when you haven’t played for so long.
“We’re now through that stage but have one or two who are still struggling a bit. Hopefully, we can rest a few on Saturday now that we’ve progressed through the group. Wokingham are a side that tend to fare better at home than they do away, and we’ll try and get the ball down and express ourselves on Saturday. Some of the football we played on Tuesday, particularly in the first half, was the best we’ve played in a long, long time.”
He added: “We don’t yet know who we’ll play in the knockout games or even if they’ll begin on Tuesday or go to being weekly now.
“We’ve got no one to fear in this competition, but I’m not going to talk about us being one of the favourites. We’re well used to competing in this league and there’s no one we can’t beat. Binfield and Flackwell Heath are still in the FA Vase so there’s no reason why we can’t go far in the competition.
“We want football to continue for as long as possible, having gone so long without it, and we don’t want this competition to end for us.”
Cooper plans to give the squad a little over a month off before bringing them back in for pre-season at the end of June. He says he’s building a nice little team and, with the addition of two or three quality players, he believes they’ll be well placed to compete next season.”
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