FA Cup: Bartlett wants big reaction from his Wealdstone side against Dagenham & Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 14:36 14 October 2016 | UPDATED: 14:36 14 October 2016
Long-serving manager Gordon Bartlett has urged his players to rise to the occasion ahead of Wealdstone’s eagerly-awaited FA Cup fourth qualifying round encounter against Dagenham & Redbridge this weekend.
The Stones travel to the National League side on Saturday on the back of a heavy 4-1 defeat at Chelmsford City in the National League South.
John Still’s Daggers are aiming to make an immediate return to League Two after their relegation last season and have made a flying start to the campaign, sitting second behind Forest Green Rovers after taking 31 points from 15 games.
Wealdstone – who have enjoyed four promotions under Bartlett – have experienced mixed fortunes so far this term but the 60-year-old hopes his side can respond to Saturday’s setback in the perfect manner by booking their place in the first round proper of the cup.
“We’re going to need a big improvement,” he told the Times.
“We were bitterly disappointed with the result last weekend, and we’re certainly much better than we showed.
“We created plenty of chances and didn’t play badly but the poor goals that we conceded are a concern. We left ourselves with a mountain to climb after conceding two goals in the first eight minutes.
“It was sloppy and it was far too casual. We pulled ourselves back into it and we could have gone on and won.
“We ideally wanted a home tie against a side in a division lower down, but we’ve been handed one of the highest-ranked teams in the competition, away from home – it’s not ideal.
“The boys will have to rise to the occasion,” added Bartlett, who is a PE teacher at Alpha Preparatory School in Harrow.
“No-one expects us to win and we need to see it as an opportunity. We need to see the cup as an opportunity to do well.
“We’ve had two first-round appearances in recent years and just one game against a Football League side could set the club up for a fair time. Dagenham will be a huge obstacle but we’ll give it a good crack.”
Wealdstone are only 33 places below this weekend’s opponents in the national pyramid but they are nonetheless facing a high-flying side who were plying their trade in League One as recently as 2011.
Bartlett, who is remarkably in his 22nd year managing the Stones, wants his side to establish themselves as a National League South side, but he sees this weekend’s encounter as the perfect opportunity for his squad to prove their ability to compete at a higher level.
The Stones have beaten Histon and Banbury United in their two FA Cup ties so far this season, but Bartlett wants his side to iron out the mistakes that have cost them points in the league, especially after Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Chelmsford.
“We stood out on the pitch for a long time [after the game],” he said. “There were a few home truths from my point of view. It’s not their ability on the ball, it’s their attitude off it. A team of our quality should not be beaten three times already this season by four goals.
“That needs to be addressed immediately, but I’ll still back those players. I’ll take the criticism. We’ll be training hard this week. We need to now show those battling qualities if we’re going to be successful.
“I need to see that desire and hunger, because I’ve still got it. I don’t care who we’re playing – the boys need to show some character and we need to respond.”