Liverpool? Let's see off Lincoln first – Mansfield Town's John Dempster
IT WAS not so long ago that John Dempster got close to getting out on the pitch to face a Premier League giant in the FA Cup.
But when he signed for Crawley Town in January 2011, from Kettering, he always knew he would be cup tied as his side headed to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the fourth round a month later.
He watched from the bench and loved the experience, as the then Blue Square Bet Premier side battled hard only to lose 1-0 in front of the television cameras.
And now he wants to make sure a similar story can be served up in north Nottinghamshire, only this time he wants to play an integral part.
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The Mansfield Town central defender knows victory against league rivals Lincoln in tonight's second round replay will set up a third round showdown against Liverpool at the One Call Stadium.
And with such a big prize in front of them, a chance to come up against the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, the 29-year-old is determined to make sure they take care of business tonight, after a 3-3 draw in the original tie at Sincil Bank.
"Some of my earliest memories are watching the FA Cup as a kid with my dad, some great matches and I have been fortunate to get some good draws as a player with Kettering and with Crawley last year, drawing Manchester United," he said.
"I was cup tied but it was a great experience and something you have to cherish because it was a great tie to be involved in for everybody.
"I knew I would be cup tied but I still travelled and sat on the bench so you got half the experience, if you like, but not quite the same as if you would have been running out at Old Trafford.
"Liverpool have won the FA Cup on many occasions and it is a target of theirs this year but they are going to have to get past Mansfield or Lincoln first. But all we can do is concentrate on Lincoln."
Dempster joined from Crawley in the summer after a loan spell with the Stags last season but after three games, went out on loan for a month to Tamworth to get some game time.
Since returning, he has captained the side and started to form a good partnership with Exodus Geohaghon at the heart of the back four.
He said: "As a group of players we started quite slowly, our form has improved but there is still room for improvement.
It is coincidental really because in my month at Tamworth, I came up against Lincoln so this will be my fourth time this season already. I have plenty of experience against them.
"This is a massive game in itself with two rivals battling it out with the carrot at the end of it being Liverpool. It does not really get much bigger.
"This is a massive opportunity for both clubs to make some big money out of it and that is something we have to take into consideration. It is important for the players, supporters and the club as well.
"Both clubs are going to be going at it and the reward is huge for who comes out on top and it should make for some interesting viewing."
The game will be shown live on ESPN and a sea of trucks dominated the One Call car park yesterday as they began to set up.
But with freezing temperatures today and yesterday, frost covers were put down on Monday to protect the pitch.
ESPN have also helped to bring in specialist heaters, with a tented cover being put on yesterday allowing hot air to be pumped under to keep the pitch soft right up until the covers come off, something that will be as late as possible.
It means the only problem should be if the temperature plummets so much that the pitch then freezes during the game once the covers have been lifted.
Everyone at the One Call are confident it will go ahead and one way or another, Liverpool's opponents in the next round will be decided this evening.
And Dempster says, as soon as they step out tonight, all focus will be on the job in front of them against Lincoln and not Liverpool.
He said: "We all watched the draw and when Liverpool came out, you can't help but get excited. You talk about it, dream about it and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"We got a last-minute goal to get the replay and it was a roller-coaster match. I'm sure there will be some ups and downs in this game but there is a lot to look forward to.
"But naturally when you run out on to that pitch all focus goes on Lincoln, as soon as you start playing. Nothing else – not Liverpool. Hopefully, at the end, we will be giving our fans plenty to cheer about."