Battle target national final

Action from Battle Baptists' quarter-final victory over Croydon-based Emmanuel Lightning
Action from Battle Baptists' quarter-final victory over Croydon-based Emmanuel Lightning

Battle Baptists are 90 minutes away from a place in the final of a prestigious national knockout competition.

The ADA East Sussex Football League Division Two outfit will travel to Christchurch Bromley in the semi-finals of the National Christian Trophy tomorrow (Saturday).

It’s easily the biggest game in the club’s nine-year history with the final likely to be played at a Football League ground some time next month. The Valley, home of npower Championship team Charlton Athletic, hosted the final in 2011 and 2012.

Baptists manager Gary Walsh said: “This is great for us. I’m just so glad that we’ve been able to get this far. Whatever happens on Saturday the club has been really blessed by the cup run.”

Battle’s opponents play in the same league as Emmanuel Lightning, the Croydon-based side which Baptists knocked out in the quarter-finals last month.

“I guess whoever you play at this stage in the competition they’re going to be a good team,” continued Walsh. “We’re going to have to be on our best performance to get there, but everyone is full of confidence and full of joy.

“We’ve played semi-finals in cup competitions before and I’ve sensed that we’ve been very nervous and edgy, whereas this time I just feel the atmosphere around the club at the moment is quite confident. The players are just so excited.”

Baptists have won three matches to get this far and Walsh said that the run has far exceeded expectations.

“This is the fourth season we’ve entered and we’ve never got past the second round before,” he added. “It was quite hard to get a team up for the first game in Chalfont St Peter. We travelled with a pretty weakened team thinking we’ll have a great day out and if we lose so be it. But we won that game and it’s grown from there.

“The church members have put together a 50-seater coach and I think most of the seats are taken. They’ve got banners and scarves, and are really getting behind us. It’s a really nice way to join the football club closer to the church.”

Battle will make the journey to South London in good form having beaten Hastings Rangers 5-1 on Saturday and Little Chelsea 3-1 on Wednesday evening thanks to an Adam Thompsett hat-trick.

They’ve also been boosted by the return of strikers Adam Gooch and Tom Frere-Smith from long-term injuries. The other last four tie, incidentally, is between Liverpool-based clubs Focus Quest and St Cuthberts.