Canterbury City boss Ben Smith remains confident despite seeing his preparations for Sunday’s FA Vase quarter-final severely hit by the loss of two defensive lynchpins.
Laurence Harvey and now Liam Quinn have both been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering head injuries in successive weekends.
Skipper Harvey sustained serious damage to his cheekbone and eye socket in the match at Glebe on February 9 and on Saturday Quinn – who had taken over the captain’s armband – sustained a small bleed on his brain after a collision in the draw with Tunbridge Wells.
Both will miss the home tie against Spartan South Midland Premier Division leaders Biggleswade, but while boss Smith admits their absence is a blow he believes the club can cope without them.
City are playing in the last eight for the first time in their history.
Smith said: “It’s devastating for us because we’ve lost two absolute leaders but they are such great characters that they’re not spreading doom and gloom about the situation.
“They know their Vase campaign is done, but they’re still right behind the team and the rest of the players want to do well for them.
“The first thing Laurence said to the boys on our group message was that he wants to be at Wembley to see them lift the trophy.”
Smith admits City – 12th in the Southern Counties East League – will start as big underdogs against Biggleswade, who have scored 80 goals in 25 league matches, only two of which they have lost.
However the 31-year-old is not betting against his side helping provide the perfect end to a memorable week for him which began when his wife Carmen gave birth to baby girl, Ciel.
Smith, who kept his laptop with him at the hospital so he could watch footage of Biggleswade, added: “They’re a formidable looking side, who play intricate football, but I don’t think people credit how strong a league the Southern Counties East is.
“We’ll have to do our homework and make sure we turn up on the day but I’ve got players who have played 200-plus Bostik League games so we won’t lack for experience.”
City brought in former Folkestone Invicta defender Phil Starkey on Monday and Smith did not rule out adding another new face before the weekend.
Should the scores be level at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday extra time will be played.
If the teams remain deadlocked the tie will go to a replay on Sunday, March 3.