Football: Why Ntamark needs to make mark

FA CUP COUNTDOWN: The first round of the FA Cup takes places this weekend. Paul Newman says the GM Vauxhall Conference leaders offer one of the best prospects of an upset
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The Independent Online
While most of his footballing compatriots will focus their attention on Wembley today, Charlie Ntamark will be concentrating - until five o'clock at least - on affairs at a less celebrated English football venue.

Ntamark, a former Cameroon international, played for Walsall for seven years but left at the end of last season to study law at Birmingham University. In his spare time he now plays for the GM Vauxhall Conference side, Hednesford Town, who visit Hull City this afternoon in the first round of the FA Cup.

"I will be looking out for the Cameroon result but I have got a game to play in as well, which is more important," he said. "This is going to be the first time I have played for a non-League side against a League team in a Cup game, so it will be interesting. I have been on the receiving end of a shock result before when Yeovil beat Walsall a few years ago and it wasn't a pleasant experience."

Hednesford have high hopes of victory over opponents who were recently celebrating their own giant-killing act. Mark Hateley's team knocked Crystal Palace out of the Coca-Cola Cup, but today they are in 22nd place in the Third Division.

Hednesford lead the Conference and their Cup exploits last season will give them particular encouragement: after victories over Blackpool and York City Hednesford gave Middlesbrough a scare or two before going down 3-2.

Hednesford offer one of the best giant-killing possibilities on a weekend when David and Goliath stories look hard to predict. Eight ties pit non- League clubs against one another, while 10 of the other 16 minnows have been drawn away from home.

However, four Conference teams with home advantage will fancy their chances. Hereford have the chance to earn revenge for their relegation by Brighton last season, Southport face York, Slough meet Cardiff, and Woking, the greatest giant-killers of recent years, take on Southend.

Woking are aiming to reach the second round for the ninth year in succession. Geoff Chapple, their long-serving manager, and Clive Walker, the former Chelsea winger, have both moved on, but John McGovern, the former Nottingham Forest midfielder, has taken over the reins and continues the good work.

Hendon (against Leyton Orient) and Margate (against Fulham) are the other non-League teams with home advantage against League opposition. While the downfall of Kevin Keegan's Fulham tomorrow would provide the bigger shock, Hendon appear to have the better chance of glory against opponents from the bottom half of the Third Division.

Blyth Spartans aim to add to their legend when they face one of the great names of Cup history, Blackpool, while last season's headline-makers, Chesterfield, will hope not to go into role reversal at home to Northwich Victoria.

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