CONCORD Rangers will bid to reach their first cup final in five years tonight when they host another in-form side in the shape of Grays Athletic.
The Beachboys are on an excellent run of just one defeat in 18, which has seen them move up to second in the Ryman Premier and into two cup semi-finals.
But there will be no inferiority complex from a Grays side with just one defeat in their last 13 games, and currently sitting second in Ryman One North.
And the respective managers — Concord’s Danny Cowley, and Grays’ Hakan Hayrettin — spoke of mutual respect going into tonight’s Essex Senior Cup semi-final at the Aspect Arena.
“Grays are a good side, they’ve got loads of good players and Hakan is an experienced manager, so we know it will be a really tough game for us,” said Cowley, who has just picked up the manager of the month award for January.
“But we will prepare properly. We’ve had them watched today (Grays drew 0-0 at Witham on Saturday), we’ll make sure we do our homework and we’ll set up to win the game.
“And if we can win then it will be the Essex Senior Cup final, which I think is the biggest county competition in the country, so it would be a great one to be in.”
Hayrettin, who won the competition as manager of Waltham Forest in 2006, said: “It’s going to be a great game, a big game. Obviously Concord are going well, but we don’t fear anybody.
“We’ll go there and play the way the game should be played. We’ll be up for it in every department. “I would like to get to the final again and see where that takes us.”
It could be a healthy crowd for the match with Grays’ fans still travelling in large numbers, despite a tumultuous few years which has seen them tumble down the non-league pyramid.
Some 124 fans went to see them play Witham on Saturday, and they have an impressive record in this competition having been crowned champions eight times.
And there will be plenty of firepower on the pitch tonight with Concord’s attack including Ryman Premier top scorer Tony Stokes, and Grays set to include Jeff Hammond, who has seven goals in seven appearances since his arrival from Harlow.
Hammond, who scored five in one game against Sudbury in January, will be back in the squad after serving a suspension on Saturday.
Concord’s last cup final appearance was a 2-0 defeat to Chelmsford City in the Essex Senior Cup in 2009.