Accrington Stanley’s Joe Pritchard insisted the Lancashire team cannot underestimate the gravity of being one game away from the Papa Johns Trophy Final.
Stanley beat Lincoln City on penalties yesterday evening to progress to the Semi-Final of the competition, now touching distance from Wembley.
“It’s massive for the Club,” he explained. “The sights of Wembley were set way before last night and I got to play a part in the games before.
“They were good celebrations to watch with all the boys bundling together. I was really impressed by our new signing [Harvey Rodgers] who got his two goals and I thought he was really good so I’m glad that’ll do him the world of good getting a bit of confidence to take it into league form as well.”
The midfielder won the Player of the Round award for the Round of 16, as Accrington saw off Burton Albion 4-2 to reach the Quarter-Final of the competition.
“It’s the first individual award I’ve won outside of Club awards,” he said. “I’ve won Player of the Month and Goal of the Month at Accrington, but I’ve never won anything in a tournament, so it was good to be the first one.”
Pritchard got himself on the score-sheet with a stunning set-piece and it was a free-kick straight off the training ground.
He recalled: “When we stepped up to the ball, it was me and Tommy Leigh who stepped up to take it. We were both looking at the wall and where was best to line up and move the ball across to the right slightly to look at a better angle. When I felt like it was in the right spot to open up, I just struck it like you would in practice and luckily it went in.”
The 26-year-old had a hand in all four goals, registering an assist for Tommy Leigh’s 45th minute header.
“I was taking set-pieces during the game, so I was a pretty big part of crossing a lot of balls in and direct assists and setting up chances,” he continued.
“There were a few chances in the game that didn’t quite make it to someone’s foot in the box, so I was glad that one was too hard for the defenders to sort but easy enough for Tommy to put it in at the back post.”
Unfortunately, Pritchard will be side-lined for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign after suffering a torn Achilles in Stanley’s Sky Bet League One clash with Morecambe later in December.
Nonetheless, he kept a close eye on Accrington’s victory on Tuesday night.
“This one, I couldn’t play in and unfortunately, I won’t play a part in any of the remaining games this year, so I’ll have to wait for next season,” he said.
“It’s very strange. It’s different because it’s on TV and a lot of the time when I’m injured, I still go to the games and watch them live but watching them on TV is a bit of a different game which was interesting from that perspective – I felt more like a fan watching it on TV than as a player in person.”
Now, surrounded by his family and friends, he’s looking ahead to the future and getting stuck in with rehab.
He said: “I was waiting for about a week and a half for the operation and I had that on Monday, and it all went to plan, then I’ve got check-ups in the coming weeks. It’s a long injury; it’ll be six to nine months. It gives me time to sort out other problems and make an effort into being fit for a longer period of time when I come back.
“I was loving it this season. I had a really good month in December just before I had the injury, and I was really looking forward to how things were going so it’s just a shame.
“I wish the boys all the best in the Semi-Final and hopefully they can make it to Wembley.”