With the two clubs due to lock horns once again in an intriguing Emirates FA Cup first round replay, the managers of both Bromley FC and Bristol Rovers will be desperate to make it through to face Plymouth Argyle in the next round. Though, will they both be content to add extra fixtures to an already hectic league schedule if a cup run was to blossom?
Eyes on a potential promotion push
A home win tonight would see Neil Smith's side progress to round two of the prestigious FA Cup for the first time since the 1938-39 season. No doubt this would be a triumph The Ravens' fans wouldn't forget in a hurry. However, the management at Hayes Lane this season have certainly got their eyes on a potential promotion push.
Before travelling to The Memorial Ground to face Rovers in the first round, Smith's side topped the National League and showcased the calibre of football that got them to the top of the tree, arguably the hardest tree to climb in English football. This is something tonight's opposing fans know all too well, with Bristol Rovers being the first team to bounce straight back into the Football League since 2005, following their National League promotion in the 2014-15 season.
Since that first encounter with The Gas, a thrilling 3-3 draw with Harrogate Town has seen Bromley slip to second place in the league standings, despite recovering from a three-goal deficit. In addition to this, just three points separate them from fellow promotion chasers, Torquay United in sixth position. This is just a subtle reminder of how tight things can get in the fifth tier, and all before the dreaded Christmas period.
Coughlan demanded a positive response
Focussing on the away side's dugout for this evening, Graham Coughlan demanded a positive response from his men following a sub-par performance in the first round affair. A tidy 1-0 victory over Swindon Town in the EFL Trophy followed the Irishman's comments, putting them in good stead for the FA Cup replay.
Gasheads haven't seen the second round in England's blue-ribbon cup competition since their 2-1 defeat to Barrow in the 2016-17 season, but they'll be optimistic tonight given their League One status. The Tote End boys have to think back to the 2007-8 season for their best run in football's oldest cup competition when they reached the Quarter-Finals and a strong West Bromich Albion side, who eventually defeated them 5-1.
Coughlan took over from Darrell Clarke who left the Bristol outfit in December 2018 after six years which are generally seen as being successful. The newly appointed head coach was able to pull The Pirates from the relegation zone and into a respectable 15th place finish. He's since built upon this initial success with a strong start to his first full league campaign at The Memorial Ground. As it stands, the BS7 team fill the 10th slow in the League One pecking order, though another three points could catapult them into the play-offs and fourth place.
It may still be early doors as far as a promotion bid is concerned, but have no doubt that Graham Coughlan will be aiming for such a bid. Therefore, added fixtures to a schedule consisting of 44 league games, already cut down from 46 due to Bury FC's expulsion, plus EFL Trophy clashes will only hinder the opportunity for Bristol Rovers to reach The Championship for the first time since it's not been called the old 'second division'.
Can either team afford a cup run?
This begs the question, can either team afford a cup run? The benefits of third promotion in four years for Bristol Rovers surely outweigh those of a potential cup run, with even the most loyal of Gashead's finding it hard to imagine an actual cup win! With this in mind, perhaps defeat to Bromley should not be seen as the worst result ever. With much bigger potential on the horizon, the sun is yet to set on The Mem.
On the other side of the pitch, Bromley FC won't have the financial firepower of a League One club and this might influence the decision when weighing up whether a cup run beats promotion to League Two.
The FA states the winners of any First Round Proper fixtures will receive £36,000, whereas the National League isn't renowned for its prize fund. Moreover, if Smith's side were able to defeat Plymouth in the next round, they'd bag a further £54,000, with £135,000 being the prize for the winners in the third round after that. This amount of money could literally save clubs in the National League and most likely means that, in financial terms, a run in the prestigious FA Cup may be better than promotion for Bromley FC this season.
No matter who wins in the replay, rest assure both sets of fans will want success on every front this season from their beloved clubs.