AN FA Cup run is precious to any non-League football club, but in Winchester City’s case it was essential.

Win, lose or draw at former Football League outfit Torquay United on Saturday (3pm), the money already banked during the Citizens’ magnificent march to the fourth qualifying round has effectively saved their season.

Victories over Bournemouth Poppies, Frome, Merthyr Town and Cirencester have hoisted City’s FA Prize Fund winnings to an impressive £32,890.

And there is a whopping £25,000 up for grabs if they can upset the odds at Plainmoor as they look to reach the first round proper for the first time in their history.

There was a spell towards the end of the 2017/18 campaign when, with chairman Paul Murray and director of football Dave Malone intending to stand down, the Hillier Way outfit were seriously considering pulling the plug on Southern League football and dropping back into the Wessex Premier.

An April change of heart meant Malone and Murray would stay on – the latter in the role of treasurer – with a new chairman, Elliott Trodd, at the helm.

But it was made clear from the outset that team boss Craig Davis would have a reduced budget, meaning any funds earned from cup competition would be of paramount importance.

Trodd, a partner in Charters Estate Agents in the city, confirmed: “When I first got involved, the finances were so tight that Wessex football was one thing to consider. But, with the ambition we had at the club, we wanted to fight through.

“We knew a Cup run was key and it’s made all the difference.”

Praising the manager, Trodd added: “Craig’s been phenomenal.

“We had a situation at the start of the season where the budget was very tight but, as we saw against Cirencester (a 3-0 win), the togetherness of the squad Craig has put together is second to none. We have the right man going forward.

“Our tactics have been bang on and that’s credit to Craig and his coaching staff.”

Torquay, relegated from the National League last term, have climbed to eighth in the NL South under respected former Bristol City, Cheltenham and Yeovil boss Gary Johnson, who is unbeaten since his mid-September appointment.

“For some of our lads, this is the biggest game of their career – it’s certainly the biggest of my managerial career,” said Davis.

“If someone had said at the start of the season that I’d be managing against Gary Johnson in the FA Cup, I’d have ripped their arm off!”

City have an injury doubt over top scorer Tyrell Mitford, but fellow frontman Oli Bailey is fit again and scored in Tuesday’s 4-2 league loss at Cirencester.

They are without the cup-tied Matt Benham, while fellow midfielder Liam Gilbert is still getting match fit in the reserves.

But ex-Eastleigh midfielder Ollie Griggs, back on loan from Dorchester Town, is eligible to play for the Evo-Stik Division One South underdogs.

“Ollie’s had a tough summer. He cut his foot and got an infection that put him in hospital,” Davis explained. “He’s a good lad and it’s pleasing that he was so keen to come back to us.”

Torquay’s squad includes ex-Eastleigh striker Brett Williams, who played for Winchester back in Andy Leader’s days in charge.

He came off the bench in last week’s 4-2 win at Eastbourne Borough where Jamie Reid netted a hat-trick.

*The funeral of Winchester’s life vice-president Terry Bone takes place on Tuesday, October 23 (1.45pm) at Wessex Vale Crematorium, West End and afterwards at Bishopstoke Working Mens Club, 10 Spring Lane, Bishopstoke, Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50 6LS.

Please wear red and black or club colours as this was Terry's wish.

Immediate family flowers only, but donations can be made to Winchester Hospice Appeal. 

Cheques should be made payable to Winchester Hospitals Charity Fund 4656 c/o Richard Steele and Partners, City Road Winchester SO23 8AS.