Leigh move Millwall FA Cup tie to New Den

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The Independent Online

Leigh Rmi have reluctantly taken the decision to switch their glamorous FA Cup first-round tie against Millwall from their Hilton Park home to the New Den.

Leigh Rmi have reluctantly taken the decision to switch their glamorous FA Cup first-round tie against Millwall from their Hilton Park home to the New Den.

After having had the pleasure of watching their team entertain Kevin Keegan's Fulham at the same stage of the tournament two years ago, the fans of the Nationwide Conference newcomers were looking forward to another day to remember. Instead, they will have to make a long and difficult journey to south London on Sunday week.

After a brave 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage in 1998, Leigh went down 2-0 to Fulham in the replay, which was watched by a near-capacity crowd of 7,125 at Hilton Park, also the home of Leigh Centurions rugby league club. Last season's UniBond League champions felt, however, unable to extend the same sort of welcome to Millwall and their notorious fans.

"It was a considered decision by the club," Alan Robinson, Leigh's secretary, explained yesterday. "For reasons of security and safety, we felt that the organisation of the game would be beyond us and that it would be better to go to Millwall.

"There was a lot of deliberation and heartache involved, but in the end we felt it would have been irresponsible to inflict such a tie on our community." Not surprisingly, the decision to switch the match has proved unpopular with some Leigh fans. "The reaction has been mixed," Robinson added. "We've had both flak - some hard-core supporters are not happy - and approval."

Leigh, formerly Horwich RMI, have surpassed expectations in their first season in the Conference, in which they lie in ninth place after 17 games. An extended FA Cup run would further boost morale and finances, but that now seems less likely. "Our best chance of winning has gone," Robinson admitted, "but going there doesn't mean we've no chance."

Leigh reached the first round with a 4-3 win in the fourth qualifying round at Scarborough, who have put their entire first-team squad up for sale because of financial problems.

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