LIAM O’Neill hopes his side’s “amazing journey” can continue when his Rugby Town side host League One Cheltenham Town in the third round proper of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night.
The Valley secured their place in the third round after a stunning 2-0 win over League One side Morecambe thanks to goals from Kasey Smith and Mason Platts.
And their reward for that victory was another tie against League One opposition in the form of Cheltenham – with Rugby one of just two clubs outside of the EFL remaining in the competition.
Boss O’Neill hopes his team can cause another upset at Butlin Road on Wednesday night and praised his players for reaching the third round stage.
O’Neill said: “It’s been an amazing journey so far, starting out at Rushall in the First Qualifying Round nearly three months ago.
“We’ve had five wins in the competition now – mainly against teams from clubs that are above us in the pyramid, and I cannot praise the attitude and the effort of the lads highly enough, and how they have bought into the way we have asked them to play.
“However from what we’ve seen, Cheltenham will provide an even tougher test for us than Morecambe did, they’ve got a really good academy manager there, and they can play in a number of different ways and have the potential to cause us trouble.
“However if we can raise our game again as we have before, and with the crowd behind us on our own pitch, it may well be a situation that their players aren’t that used to and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
And O’Neill is expecting the home crowd to get behind his players as he tries to mastermind a win against his former side – having previously played for the Robins youth team.
O’Neill added: “It should be another big Butlin Road crowd there on Wednesday to get behind us, so we’re all really looking forward to the game and we’ll be trying our hardest to cause another upset.
“We will have the lads working hard in training ahead of the game – as we always do, and we will have done our homework on how Cheltenham play, so there’s nothing to say we can’t do it again.
“I spent five years at the Robins as a youth teamer and a young pro, so it’s a hugely sentimental occasion for me in that respect.
“Whatever happens on the night I will be reminding my players beforehand of how immense an achievement this is for them individually and for the club too.
Rugby’s clash with Cheltenham takes place on Wednesday, December 8 with kick-off at 7pm at Butlin Road.
Admission is priced at just £4 for adults and £3 for concessions, with free entry for all Under 16’s.