Unlike most of Fleetwood Town’s current crop, skipper Nathan Pond is heading to familiar territory tonight for a trip down memory lane as he bids to erase some FA Cup nightmares.
Fleetwood lost out to Championship club Bristol City in a third-round replay last season, and as Town embark on another FA Cup quest at Victory Park, Pond is looking to make some happier memories than their 5-1 defeat to Blackpool in 2012.
Ahead of tonight’s final first-round tie, the defender said: “My cup memories are more of a nightmare if I’m honest.
“We played them from down the road in the third round, when they were Championship and we were Conference. We got the runaround that day.”
Pond missed Town’s last two games, with Baily Cargill preferred in the back three for the win over Oxford and the draw at Blackburn Rovers.
Pond, eldest in the squad at 32, accepts that is part of football and says the Cod Army can look forward to seeing a lot of young talent flourish.
However, they will not see the Fleetwood players on loan at Chorley, Nick Haughton and keeper Matty Urwin, because they are ineligible for tonight’s tie, while Town’s own loan stars Cargill (Bournemouth), Jordy Hiwula ((Huddersfield), Aiden O’Neill (Burnley) and Lewie Coyle (Leeds) may not be granted permission to play.
Pond said: “It is more than 11 players these days – it is a squad game. Obviously you are disappointed not to play but you just have to pass your experience on and wish them good luck.
“We have a lot of young talent and some young players on loan from some bigger clubs.
“Fleetwood fans can see a lot of young talent at the club.Billy Crellin has just won the World Cup and he has not even made his first-team debut, so there is a lot of talent.”
It is a break from League One action for Town, who are eighth but only out the play-off places on goal difference.
And Pond wants to keep that momentum going at Chorley this evening (7.45pm).
He said: “We are doing well. We’ve had good results against good footballing sides in our last two games and we came out of them with our heads held high.
“I think we are ahead of where we were at this stage last season and the last two games have been more consistent.
“We have lost one in seven, which is good consistency, and we just need to keep it going.”
A crowd of around 4,000 is expected at Victory Park tonight. The intimidating non-league atmosphere will be new to many Fleetwood players but familiar to club captain Nathan Pond.
He said: “I’ve played them a couple of times. It is always a tough game and they are a decent side. You have got to adapt and good player do that.
“I’m looking forward to it – the old stadium, floodlights, pitch, changing rooms. That is how I grew up playing.
“It will be interesting for our academy lads to see the other side of the game. If you keep working hard you get your rewards, and if not you will be playing non-league football.”
Pond is also looking forward to coming up against Chorley captain Andy Teague, his former school-mate in Preston.
He said: “I keep in touch with him every now and then. Our dads drink in the same local pub and we went to primary school together.
“Andy had a nasty injury when he went Macclesfield, which set him back a little bit , but he’s a good player, a good character and he leads Chorley well.
“He’s done well. He’s managed two promotions there and they were unlucky in the play-offs last season.
“I went to watch them against Kidderminster (in the semi-final) and they played some good football. They were unlucky in the final at Halifax but we are going there to win. It is going to be a tough game but if we manage it well we will do OK.”
Both sides will know the rewards for victory by the time they kick-off this evening as the draw for the second round will be made from Victory Park immediately before the match.