Hitman Hilton to put sentiment to one side

PUBLISHED: 09:30 26 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 10 September 2010

Paddy Davitt

Wroxham old boy Damian Hilton aims to put sentiment to one side when the Yachtsmen face current club Needham Market in tomorrow's FA Vase quarter-final.

Wroxham old boy Damian Hilton aims to put sentiment to one side when the Yachtsmen face current club Needham Market in tomorrow's FA Vase quarter-final.

Hilton won the Ridgeons Premier Division title, League Cup and Norfolk Senior Cup in a decade of service at Trafford Park as player and manager - but the 32-year-old is ruling out divided loyalties.

"I'm due to play a couple of the Wroxham lads at golf next week so whatever the result the banter will be flying then," he said. "Right now, it has gone a bit quiet because we both have a job to do and there is so much at stake. I have spoken to Kenny Cook the treasurer and I've a lot of good friends and happy memories. That was a great part of my career but by the same token if we manage to get through then of course I'll be over the moon."

Hilton was also part of the Wroxham side that reached the last eight in 2001 before losing 2-1 at Durham - a club record feat now matched by David Batch's outfit.

"To be honest we slightly underachieved in the FA Vase considering some of the sides we had during that time," he said. "When we beat Daventry and Wroxham got past Armthorpe on the same day I had a feeling we'd get each other. I spoke to a couple of the Wroxham lads and said the same thing to them. We were always pretty confident they would get past Royston when the draw was made as well. For me, there's a bit of mixed emotions because with my Wroxham connections it would have been nice to meet later in the competition and see both sides progress.

"By the same token it's also good to play against friends and people I have spent a lot of time with and obviously at this stage of the competition you can't avoid the good sides."

Wroxham drew 0-0 at Bloomfields in the Ridgeons Premier Division before Christmas and Hilton is predicting another nail-biter with a last four place on the line.

"It's hard to say how it will pan out because we had Kirkley two rounds ago who are another side from our division and everyone thought it would be a tight game but it was an eight goal thriller," he said. "There'll be a big crowd and of course the players will have nerves as well. We have a bit more experience because the club has been in and around this stage of the competition for the past three or four seasons and reached the semi finals. My own personal view is that it will be a tight game. Maybe both sides will take time to have a look at each other, put the feelers out and then the game should gradually open up."

Hilton has notched seven goals in 10 appearances since joining Needham - including strikes in each of the last three FA Vase rounds - and the Norwich-born striker knows the hosts are expected to progress.

"We are at home, we're in a higher position in the league and we've got the experience of being involved at this stage of the competition," he said. "But on the day all that goes out of the window and it is who performs and who gets that bit of luck. I might not have many more days like this in my career. I've done well to still be playing at this stage with all my injuries but the FA Vase has been good to me this season and it would be nice to continue that and score against my old side."

Last week's scheduled dress-rehearsal between the two sides in the Ridgeons League Cup was postponed because of a waterlogged playing surface. Tomorrow's game should go ahead as planned, with no plans for a precautionary pitch inspection even though more rain is forecast.

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