No pressure on Harrow Borough in Pompey cup clash, says boss

Harrow Borough manager Steve Baker says his players will travel to Portsmouth feeling no pressure ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup first-round clash with the two-time winners.

Baker’s Southern Premier League side sit 79 places below Pompey on the football pyramid, but go into the biggest match in the club’s 88-year history in red-hot form having won 13 of their last 15 matches.

Despite this, Baker is under no illusions as the size of the task his part-time squad face in what will be largest crowd most of them will have played in front of, with a crowd of 17,000 expected at Fratton Park.

“I think away to Portsmouth, a team that was in the Premier League 11 years ago and won the FA Cup 13 years ago, I don’t think we could have got a bigger game,” Baker said.

“We play a good, attacking style of football, the boys play on the front foot and we have a real go.

“But there has to be an element of realism as to who you are playing because the gap between the teams is worlds apart. I love my lads to bits but Portsmouth have an advantage on everything.

“Ability, pace, power, fitness, mental capacity, you name it they are above us.”

Baker’s side saw off Ramsgate, Welling, Marlow before shocking National League south side Chelmsford City 4-2 at Earlsmead to earn their spot in the first-round proper for just the fifth time in the club’s history.

In 2016 the Reds faced Northampton at a similar stage and were beaten 6-0 at Sixfields after going down 2-0 within the first 10 minutes and Baker said he hopes he can use that experience to avoid a similar result.

“You have to look at the game in periods and you want to stay in the game for as long as you can,” he said.

“But you are never going to get out of your own half if you just put 11 men behind the ball so we’ll try and play and be brave on the ball, but it will be a lot harder.

“There is not one bit of pressure on us going down there, it will be a brilliant experience regardless of the outcome.

“But I also don’t think there is any pressure on them because of the gap between the two teams.

“I am not expecting them to be struggling for sleep worrying about us.”

Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley and his assistant, brother Nicky, are the poster boys for Non-League managers having gone from Essex Senior League side Concord Rangers to Fratton Park, via Brentwood, Lincoln City and Huddersfield in just 13 years and Baker said he can’t wait to lock horns with them on Saturday.

“Everyone you speak to in Non-League can’t speak highly enough of them,” he said.

“They lifted Non-League with what they have done. All managers at this level want to get on, but at the higher levels it is a bit of a closed shop.

“But they’ve helped change that mindset.

“If anything, it makes our task even harder because they have come from Non-League and they won’t go into that game treating it lightly because they have delivered upsets and know what the mindset will be of the players.”