Focus is key as Gary McCann targets safe passage into FA Cup final qualifying round for Hampton & Richmond

Hampton & Richmond manager Gary McCann has warned his players they must avoid a banana skin tomorrow if they are to keep their FA Cup first round dreams alive.

The National League South club face AFC Hornchurch, a division below them, on Saturday for a place in the final qualifying round of England’s biggest cup competition.

But McCann insisted his side are fully focused on ensuring they give themselves the best possible chance of progressing.

“As much as most people see us as the favourites we know we’ve got to be at our best to progress,” said McCann.

“The proverbial underdog tag in the FA Cup seems to come to the forefront so often. It’s a competition that serves up surprises and we’ve got to make sure we’re not on the end of one of those.”

Hampton and Richmond are fourth in the Vanarama National League South with just one defeat in nine, while AFC Hornchurch are unbeaten in their nine Isthmian Premier League games this season.

“It’s a tough game,” said McCann.

“We’ve watched them twice in the last week and we know there’s a real threat to their play.

“They’re unbeaten this season which shows you that they’re resilient and difficult to beat.

“They’ve got a real strong offensive threat so we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared and ready.

“And they also play a shape that’s going to challenge us so we’ve got to make sure we cope with that.”

With just two games between them and a potentially huge draw, it would be easy to dream of the big games, Sunderland being the stand out one as Hampton chairman Graham Wood has been a life-long fan.

But McCann ensured they are fully focused on Saturday and refused to engage in any way with discussion of what may come after.

“The chairman is from Sunderland, he’s still got a close relationship with them so that’s the dream draw for most,” he said.

“But that’s a long, long way off. It’s not even something that really needs to be spoken about.

“It would be disrespectful of Hornchurch and also, we’d have to have a kind tie in the fourth qualifier with all the conference national sides coming in.

“As much as that is the target, it feels a long way off at the moment.”

Last season, Hampton and Richmond broke a league record with an 18 draws over the season, while Hornchurch have drawn 66% of their league games so far this campaign.

With that in mind, don’t rule out the possibility of a replay.

Feature image of Gary McCann courtesy of Ben Harrison-Hyde, with thanks

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