Frank Wilson wants Tooting & Mitcham United to put their cup mistakes behind them and concentrate on gatecrashing the play-offs.
The Terrors were forced to withdraw from the Surrey Senior Cup on Tuesday – just hours before they were due to meet Whyteleafe in the quarter-final – after admitting fielding an ineligible player in the third round earlier this month.
It is the second time this season they have pulled out of a cup having been kicked out of the Isthmian League Cup in December after playing a cup-tied loanee against Corinthian Casuals.
But Wilson insists his players have put their cup disappointment behind them and are ready to focus on the league once again.
“It’s not difficult to pick players’ energy levels up,” Wilson said.
“I can’t deny that people will have been disappointed – I was disappointed – but, in terms of how that will affect their preparation for the weekend, to answer that simply it won’t.
“I think it will just make everyone a little bit hungrier and a little bit more eager.”
Tooting released their statement just before 2pm on Tuesday, revealing their own investigations had led to them having to pull out.
“We acknowledge that this is the second occasion that this happened this season and what we believed previously to be a ‘one off’ occurrence clearly was not,” the statement read.
“Under the circumstances we are now undertaking an urgent review of our player registration processes to ensure that this cannot happen again.”
Tooting go to Hastings United this Saturday in 15th place in Ryman League Division One South, on the back of a run that has seen them lose only three of their previous 15 games.
“We’re so full of confidence at the moment that we feel like we can go out and beat anyone,” added Wilson.
“I think that where we lie in the league and how well we’ve been performing is going to be a benefit towards the end of the season because, if we can keep everybody fit, we’re playing brilliant football.
“Everybody comments on it, all the teams that we play against at the moment, they have nothing but nice things to say.
“Only recently we played Herne Bay – and they’re doing exceptionally well – and they said we were the best team they’d played all season.”
On-loan Staines Town midfielder Chace O’Neill has been a big factor in Tooting’s good form and Wilson heaped praise on the former Tottenham Hotspur academy player.
“He’s been instrumental to our change of form and our success since we rang a lot of changes halfway through October last year,” Wilson said.
“We appointed a new first-team coach [Mark Hams], we brought several players in and, since then, our form has picked up dramatically, especially in the last month or so.
“Chace has been pivotal in that, he’s a very, very talented football player.
“It was great to get him to commit to us until the end of the season, because it just gave us the stability that we needed.
“It eased everybody else’s mind, the fans, the players, to know that he was going to be staying as a Tooting player.”
Despite the upturn in fortunes, the Terrors are still 15 points off the play-offs but Wilson is adamant they can make the top-five.
“They’re in sight and, until a time, either mathematically or realistically, that we know that we’re not going to be within touching distance of it, we’re still going to try and maximise our points,” Wilson said.
“Finishing in the top ten, that’d be an excellent achievement – but you still only have to do a little bit better than that to get in and around seventh or eighth.
“That’s what we’re going to be aiming for and we’re going to try and get as close to it as we can.”
Feature image courtesy of CK Kent, via Youtube, with thanks