So what awaits Boro at Vale Park?

Port Vale fan and Hitchin resident Martin Burrows offers Boro supporters an insight into Saturday s opponents in the FA Cup First Round… One of the thrills of supporting a lower league football club is when the FA Cup draw comes around you hope and pray t

Port Vale fan and Hitchin resident Martin Burrows offers Boro supporters an insight into Saturday's opponents in the FA Cup First Round...

One of the thrills of supporting a lower league football club is when the FA Cup draw comes around you hope and pray that your team nets one of the big fish.

Even though it was only the first round, Stevenage Boro must have had their lines cast out for a big team down on their luck like Leeds United, Millwall or a local rival like Luton Town.

Imagine then a collective scratching of heads, not to mention a probable sigh of disappointment when the announcement was made that they had been paired up against League Two outfit Port Vale.

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As a long time (and long suffering) Port Vale fan, the draw certainly proved interesting for me. Settled in Hitchin for the past three years, I spent two years working in Stevenage amongst some diehard Boro fans and got to understand what it is like to support a team a non-league side. I followed the side's progress and have even been along to the odd game.

In a nutshell Port Vale are your bog standard lower league club, who have spent most of their history yo-yoing their way between the league's two bottom divisions.

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Life with Vale has been punctuated by the odd bit of success and glimmer of hope, though. These small nuggets include five seasons in the nineties spent in the Championship, two Autoglass trophy wins and a short period of time spent in the late nineties being top dog in the Potteries - Stoke City relegated to the third tier, Vale in the Championship.

The roles have pretty much been reversed now with Vale languishing on the bottom rung and bitter rivals Stoke cementing their place in the Premiership.

Also, one of the biggest questions that always surround Port Vale is where in the world are they? Being one of only six football teams in the league not named after a particular locale, the name always conjures up some pretty seaside resort when in reality it is situated in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.

Robbie Williams is our most famous supporter but the chances of him turning up this Saturday are pretty much zero.

Vale are no strangers to the art of giant killing. Their most famous victories came in 1954 when they reached the semi final of the cup, knocking out holders Blackpool along the way.

Since then though, the boot has been firmly on the other foot with defeats against non-league opposition Canvey Island, Scarborough and, worst of all, a humiliating second round defeat against British Gas Business Southern League Midland side Chasetown, a club so many leagues below Vale that it's a wonder they don't play at the Earth's core.

Having said that, Port Vale have shown green roots of recovery this season, under the stewardship of ex-top flight manager Mickey Adams.

They are unbeaten in the last six games and reached the third round of the Carling Cup knocking out Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United along the way.

Fans quipped that it was a shame that they ran out of Sheffield clubs, otherwise a trip to Wembley would have beckoned.

Players to watch out for are leading goalscorer Marc Richards, up and coming goalkeeper Chris Martin and midfielder Louis Dodds, who is unfortunate to have the same hairstyle as Heather from Eastenders.

As to the game itself, well I think that it is too close to call. With Stevenage riding high in the Blue Square Premier and Vale hovering around mid-table, observers have said that there is very little between the two sides and I have to agree. I'm hoping for a draw and a nice stroll down to the Broadhall Way to catch the replay.

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