Larkhall Athletic are preparing for the biggest game in their history on Saturday and two of their most committed fans cannot wait for the next step in a remarkable FA Trophy journey.

The Larks have never been this far in the competition before but are now preparing for a plum fourth-round tie at National League side Stockport County, who were in the second tier two decades ago.

Larkhall were a Division One outfit themselves at the time – albeit in the Western League – and club stalwart Jim McLay is among those pinching himself at the prospect of a trip to Edgeley Park.

McLay has an association with the club spanning decades, from playing against Larkhall for Bath YMCA as a youngster to returning to the area in 1977 and taking on roles from club secretary to ‘sponge man’ – before ultimately becoming chairman, a role he held for 14 years.

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“It will be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of and you’d have to say it’s the biggest game in our history,” said McLay, now the club’s development lead and company secretary.

“We’ve had some wonderful days in the Western League and the FA Vase in recent years but we’ve never played anyone of this level before.

“We want it to be a celebration and it’s all about enjoying ourselves.

“We’re going about it in as professional a way as we can and we want the players to enjoy it without being overawed.”

Paul Russell, chair of the club’s supporters’ group which he helped establish in 2019, is another who is relishing the trip north having become embedded in the club and the area since relocating from the Midlands.

“I’ve been following the club for 13 years and to be playing a club like Stockport is something I’d never have thought possible,” he said.

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“I grew up a Walsall fan and Edgeley Park is a ground I’ve always wanted to go to. I never had the chance to do it when both clubs were in the Championship so to be able to do it for this game is fantastic.

“The five Trophy games so far have been fantastic experiences – every single one has been dramatic in its own way – and it’s also given us a real opportunity to link with the community.

“That side of it, people getting together every week, is such an important part of life and we lost that for a while with Covid, which makes this all the sweeter.

“We had nearly 400 in for the previous round and in my time, we haven’t had that many before. The atmosphere was fantastic.”

Larkhall are one of more than 200 clubs across the Trident League supported by Pitching In, a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme established by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain.

In addition to financial support, the initiative places a focus on volunteering and the community aspect of non-league football and around 150 Larkhall fans are expected to make the trip – more than the club’s average home crowd (134) this season.

“It will feel quite different – we’ll be together under a stand rather than scattered around – and we’re all so excited,” Russell said.

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“I’m proud and privileged to be a part of this club and days like this are for the fans and volunteers – people like Jim, who have given up so much time over the years and stepped up when needed.”

And while McLay will be watching on proudly whatever the result, he believes the Larks have the ability to spring a surprise.

“We never go into any game without thinking we’ve got a chance,” he said.

“We’re going there to win.”

PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR – Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: