FA CUP: Hitchin Town boss Mark Burke praises his ‘heroes’ and hails loyal fans as Canaries make history

PUBLISHED: 02:42 25 October 2018

A delighted Hitchin Town boss Mark Burke on the team bus after tasting victory in the FA Cup. CREDIT @laythy29

A delighted Hitchin Town boss Mark Burke on the team bus after tasting victory in the FA Cup. CREDIT @laythy29

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Victorious Hitchin Town boss Mark Burke has been speaking to CometSport after his side’s magnificent 2-1 extra time win over Leatherhead in a replay to reach the FA Cup first round for the first time in 23 years. Read on for the full transcript of what the popular ‘Burkey’ had to say to Layth Yousif after the match.

Mark Burke – you must be a proud man tonight

Absolutely. Every man put in a shift in against Leatherhead. We also played a bit of football. I think that’s the best we’ve played all season. It took the goal against us to kick-start us. We weren’t really in the game to start with but we grew into the game and started passing the ball around – once we did that I thought we looked quite a good side actually, They’re all heroes.

Michael Johnson’s penalty save just before half-time was a pivotal moment…

Yes, it certainly was. It was a massive moment. You’re thinking we could be 2-0 down at half-time. But what happened was that it became a massive negative moment for them because they missed it. So, while we were 1-0 down at half-time they go into the break deflated while all our fans are screaming and shouting. It’s like we’ve scored a goal. I told the lads during the break we’ve got to feed on their negativity and don’t let them off the hook. We came out fired up for the second half and I thought we put on a really good show. Over the 120 minutes I felt we deserved the win.

What were your feelings when Dan Webb pulled it back to 1-1?

I was elated. Webby’s been injured at the moment and we had him assessed again the other day. I said to him: ‘Have you got 30 minutes in you?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ With him coming on he gave us added height attacking-wise and defensively he was able to clear – so at both ends he was influential. It boosted us. It lifted us. Jack Green scored a great goal. I’m surprised Greeny didn’t head the ball into the net despite it being low. He heads everything else. I’m absolutely delighted for him and all the boys.

Keeper Michael Johnson was another hero. He showed real courage in continuing to play on despite what looked like a serious knock just before extra time…

We were getting messages saying it looked like MJ had dislocated his shoulder. I had one more sub to make at that time but fair play to MJ he wasn’t going off. He’s been up for this FA Cup run all the way through. He’s been absolutely outstanding for us. The penalty save was the spark for us and a blow for them…

His save epitomised the character and spirit of Hitchin…

Absolutely 100 per cent. This whole FA Cup run has been based on workrate and working for each other and team spirit. I’ve seen glimpses of us playing football as well. I’m a bit worried about Saturday’s FA Cup Trophy match against Hayes at Top Field as it may be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’. They’re a good side. We’ve got a lot of tired bodies out there. I think there will be a lot of changes. It’s not that I don’t want to do well in the Trophy it’s just that I’ve got a duty of care to the boys as there’s a lot of tired bodies in the dressing room. Fortunately I’ve got a couple in and it will be a chance for them to show what they’ve got and give us a bit of competition. The tie against Solihull is on November 10 which is a little way away yet. People can stake a claim for place – because everyone will want to play in that match.

It’s been a memorable few days for yourself, for the club and for the town of Hitchin...

What an incredible few days. Do you know what? We all really enjoyed Monday. The whole atmosphere was brilliant. It was fun, it was uplifting. Everyone was behind us. It was a brilliant night. We’ve got a sponsors dinner on Thursday. We’ll be busy knocking up the sponsors ahead of the first round proper! It’s good timing.

Just a word about the superb Hitchin Town fans who travelled to Leatherhead…

From minute one they were right behind us. There was loads of noise, loads of singing. It’s a memory for them too. It’s 23 years since we last reached the first round so it’s great for them too. I said to the boys: ‘Victories are always sweet in football, but away from home they’re always sweeter.’ And tonight was very sweet.

One last question. Every Hitchin fan I’ve talked to has had their superstitions during this cup run. From Roy Izzard saluting magpies on the motorway to jelly babies. I’ve even had my lucky socks on and I don’t even support Hitchin…

Yes. Roy said to me we’re going to be ok because I saw two magpies before the game. I must admit I had my lucky jacket. I wore it against Hastings in the second half and I had it against Leatherhead and I’ll have it against Solihull next month, definitely.

Follow Layth on Twitter @laythy29

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