Fourth qualifying round goalscorer Matt Axell has the described the feeling of reaching the first round proper as 'surreal' ahead of the draw later this evening.
Chi will learn their first round opponents when the draw is held live on BBC Two from 7pm this evening after Axell’s 16th minute penalty alongside Kaleem Haitham’s freak goal shortly after helped them beat Bowers & Pitsea to reach this stage of the competition for the first time since 1960.
The 35-year-old who’s only ever made it as far as the third qualifying round prior to this season nearly called time on his playing career in the summer.
“I thought the opportunity to reach the first round proper had passed me by in my career, to get there this season completely vindicates the decision to carry on playing”. “It’s potentially missing out on these sort of moments that makes it so hard to stop – that was by far my best day in football!”
“It’s a surreal feeling, I’m not sure when it’s fully going to sink in – probably after the draw”.
On the game the midfielder felt Chi were obviously afforded the rub of the green in how they went ahead but ultimately deserved the victory.
“You start to think it’s going to be your day when you get a penalty early on, then the second goal not long after in the manner we did but I don’t think with how the game played out anyone could argue we didn’t deserve that bit of luck”.
“We didn’t play particularly well, on the ball. I felt we could have controlled the game a bit better in possession in the second half but understandably nerves set in and we didn’t want to take too many risks which naturally invited them on to us”.
Despite this Axell was quick to praise the way his teammates defended their lead in the second half: “They were so direct, their only game plan all game was to launch balls into our box and we defended superbly, Mowy and the back four were immense, they’ve been the backbone of this run”.
On potential opponents in the next round Axell isn’t getting too wrapped up in who his side could face: “If you were able to pick of course you’d love the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich, Bolton, etc. Portsmouth home or away would be an amazing occasion but it’s completely out of your control so there’s no point getting carried away wishing for the dream draw because ultimately it’s such a big achievement to get this far and we shouldn’t lose sight of that no matter who we get”.
The players and staff will be watching the draw unfold at an invite-only event at Oaklands Park this evening. Check the website for reaction.