Saunders treating Haywards Heath Town's Sussex Senior Cup trip to Crawley Town as a 'cup final'

Haywards Heath Town boss Shaun Saunders is treating Tuesday night's Sussex Senior Cup trip to League Two Crawley Town like a 'cup final' but was disappointed to draw such an illustrious opposition so early on in the tournament. Picture by Derek Martin.
Haywards Heath Town boss Shaun Saunders is treating Tuesday night's Sussex Senior Cup trip to League Two Crawley Town like a 'cup final' but was disappointed to draw such an illustrious opposition so early on in the tournament. Picture by Derek Martin.

Haywards Heath Town boss Shaun Saunders will approach Tuesday night's Sussex Senior Cup trip to League Two Crawley Town 'like a cup final' but was frustrated at drawing their Football League opponents so early on.

Heath fell to a late 1-0 home defeat to Bostik South East leaders Cray Wanderers on Saturday in a display where Saunders 'couldn't fault the players'.

The Red Devils recently appointed Italian manager Gabriele Cioffi after ex-Crawley boss Harry Kewell departed for League Two rivals Notts County and are currently 12th in the table.

Heath's Football League opponents fell to a 4-0 home loss to Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday and have failed to pick up three points since their 4-1 home victory over Newport County on Saturday, 20 October.

Despite Crawley's recent poor form, Saunders felt his side had 'a mountain to climb' but backed his players to put in a good performance.

He said: "We're under no sort of illusions. We've got a mountain to climb for us to go there and knock them out of it.

"We're going to approach it as our cup final and try to give a really good account of ourselves and not be disgraced and see what happens.

"We know that going to Crawley that we don't want to be disgraced by a bad scoreline. We're hoping to be robust.

"We've got a good squad of players together and if Crawley want to go through they'll have to work hard. If we give a performance anywhere near as good as we did on Saturday then we will make it tough for them."

Saunders does have history in the Sussex Senior Cup. As manager of Peacehaven & Telscombe he lifted the trophy after upsetting Bognor Regis Town 3-0 at the AMEX in the 2013/14 season.

The Blues boss called the cup win a career highlight but was disheartened that his side had drawn illustrious opposition so early in the tournament.

He added: "I know the cup. With my previous club we beat Bognor in the final and the build up to it and the occasion was fantastic. It's one of the highlights of my career so I know what it's like to go all the way in it.

"It's a fantastic cup to be involved in but it's a tough draw. You couldn't have hand picked a worse one I think because if you pick Brighton out they tend to reverse the fixture and come to you so you've got a bit of a chance.

"Crawley are a pro club and they're full time and it's not a great draw for us so early in the competition, especially being away as well.

"I said to the players OK, it's not the draw that we wanted but let's enjoy the occasion and see what happens."

Saunders will also stick with the same squad that battled hard against Cray on Saturday but revealed that there will a few absentees.

He said: "We haven't got the strength in depth to muck around and with respect to Crawley we have to put out as good a side that I can get.

"We've got a few carrying injuries. Melford Simpson is out injured, Sean Roddy is out, Luke Robinson is 50/50 so we've got a few out unfortunately.

"The squad is a good squad but not a big squad so we'll definitely be putting out the strongest side that I can get. It won't be far off Saturday's squad."

Kick off for Tuesday night's game at Crawley's Checkatrade.com Stadium is 7:45pm.