Clough to test Harriers' credentials

By Rupert Metcalf
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The Independent Football

A familiar adversary stands in the way of Jan Molby's FA Cup ambitions.

A familiar adversary stands in the way of Jan Molby's FA Cup ambitions.

It may not, for the moment, be a step on the road to Wembley, but the FA Cup first round will still be the highlight of the season so far for some of the clubs involved in this weekend's ties. After all, Manchester United have graciously decided to enter the tournament this year, and a third-round trip to Old Trafford is a dream to excite even players or managers who have savoured such heights regularly.

Two such managers are on opposing sides today. Nigel Clough takes his Burton Albion side to Aggborough to take on Kidderminster Harriers, who won the Nationwide Conference last term under his former Liverpool team-mate Jan Molby.

While the burly Dane has hung up his boots, Clough is a key member of Burton's line-up. The Brewers are challenging for the Dr Martens League title and Molby's men will be taking nothing for granted.

Chester City, who lost their place in the Third Division to Kidderminster in the summer, entertain Plymouth at the Deva stadium. It will be the Nationwide Conference newcomers' first home FA Cup tie as a non-League club since 1927.

Argyle should provide sterner opposition than Lostock Gralam, who lost 10-1 at Chester that year, but City have retained a full-time playing staff and will be sure to give Plymouth's new manager, Paul Sturrock, a difficult introduction to English football.

Plymouth's only Cup defeat at the hands of a non-League club came in 1978 at Worcester City. Malcolm Allison was then in charge of the Devon club, and a member of his side that afternoon is planning to make a remarkable comeback today.

The 48-year-old Barry Silkman, who also played for Allison at Crystal Palace and Manchester City, is now an agent who represents the likes of Arsenal's Silvinho and Newcastle's Daniel Cordone. Today he will be on the substitutes' bench for Harrow Borough at Wycombe Wanderers, and he has apparently persuaded the Ryman League team's manager, Edwin Stein, to thrust him into the action late in the match in order for him to win some wagers with footballing friends.

Although Silkman, who played some pre-season friendlies for Harrow, was appearing at a lower level of the Ryman League in his mid-40s, he is not playing regularly now. However, he maintains that he runs around eight miles a day and that the only thing he has lost is his pace. "I can still think quickly, but it doesn't translate to my feet in time," he said.

A somewhat younger veteran, the new Barnet player-manager Tony Cottee, will be wary of an upset at Underhill, where the visitors are Hampton & Richmond Borough. "We must be on our guard and make sure we progress," the former West Ham striker said.

Hampton, who will be making their first-round debut, lost 2-1 at home to Barnet on their only appearance in the fourth qualifying round in 1977, when the opening goal for the victors was scored by Jimmy Greaves.

Brighton and Hove Albion will be grateful to avoid defeat at the Recreation Ground, a venue which once hosted League football and still sees crowds of over 2,000 as Aldershot Town press for the Ryman League championship. The Third Division side will be wary of the Shots' Gary Abbott, one of the most respected strikers in the non-League game.

For Abbott, Silkman and others like the 17-year-old trainee landscape gardener Lee Cobby, who will keep goal for Bracknell Town at Lincoln City, this weekend offers a chance to make headlines. As David Mihell, the Bracknell chairman, said: "What other competition do you go into knowing you haven't a price of winning it but wouldn't miss it for the world?"