DEFENDER Brian Carey doesn't have the fondest memories of Wrexham's Carling Cup clash with Crewe Alexandra last August, but reckons an action replay by his team-mates against Cardiff City tonight could open the door to the BBC-FAW Premier Cup final.
Welsh pride and the carrot of the tournament's £100,000 prize pot is on the line at the Racecourse and the big Irishman, who was sent off in the dying minutes of that Gresty Road game, believes the Dragons can not only rise to the challenge, but also use victory as a springboard to success in their Second Division play-off quest.
"Our cup form has not been very good this season, to state the obvious," said Carey yesterday. "But we played really well at Crewe and we were very unlucky to lose the game.
"It's the type of performance we'll be looking for against Cardiff and gives us an opportunity to test ourselves again in terms of whether we can cope with the standard of football in the First Division.
"Cardiff have fallen away in terms of their promotion hopes but they still have some quality players and decent strength in depth. They have done well in recent years to get where they are and they beat us at the same stage of this competition a couple of years ago.
"We're certainly a better team than we were then and the game will give us an opportunity to see just how far we have come."
And Carey insisted Wrexham were desperately keen to retain their hold on the trophy they now regard as their own, following their unparalleled record in the competition.
"The prize-money at stake is obviously an important consideration for the club, especially at the moment," he added. "But from a playing point of view, it's about reaching and winning the final.
"Sure it's a Welsh derby, with club pride at stake and as players we shouldn't need any more motivation.
"But beating a First Division side can only be good for our confidence ahead of our Second Division match at Plymouth on Saturday.
"If the result is right, we'll take some momentum into that game, our confidence will be high and you find your-self on a bit of a run.
"If we're in with a shout of the play-offs with three games left, who can say what might happen."
Racecourse manager Denis Smith is forced into at least one change from Saturday's starting line-up against Swindon Town, with midfielder Jim Whitley sidelined by a hamstring strain.
The likely replacement is Wales under-21 international Matt Crowell who has impressed in his recent outings.
"Matt's had a really good spell," said the Dragons boss. "He seems to play better in the first team than he does in the reserves and, with the exception of the game at Peterborough, he has not looked out of his depth."
With one eye fixed on Saturday's trip to Home Park, Smith would have preferred a Tuesday match against the Bluebirds, but he said: "We play Cardiff tomorrow and Plymouth at the weekend so there's a bit of pressure on the lads.
"But you'd rather have that than not have it. Even if we picked up a couple of injuries tomorrow, which is not ideal ahead of facing the team at the top of the table."
Strikers Chris Armstrong and Chris Llewellyn have scored eight goals in the last 11 matches and the Racecourse boss added: "I'm happy with our recent home form. We've scored three goals in each of our last two games here and, with my three first-choice defenders at the back, I believe we can cope with most sides."
Cardiff boss Lennie Lawrence has several players missing through injury and is unlikely to start Welsh internationals Danny Gabbidon and Rob Earnshaw.
But he said: "It's not right to play a team of kids because that would be showing the competition no dignity or respect."
* WREXHAM Official Supporters Association has stepped in with a donation to meet the cost of hotel bills for on-loan goalkeeper Mike Ingham, following a vote by WINS group members to withhold their funds, pending clarification by chairman Mark Guterman of the club's financial position.
Tickets go on sale today for Wrexham's home match against Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, April 3 (kick-off noon). On police advice, no cash will be taken at the turnstiles on the day of the game and the Racecourse ticket office will be open before and after tonight's match, in addition to normal office hours during the week.