AJAY Leitch-Smith admits to a feeling of relief after Port Vale booked their place in the FA Cup second round with a 3-1 win against Maidenhead United.
Having been held to a 1-1 draw in the original first round tie at Vale Park, the League One club had to come through a tense replay against Maidenhead last Thursday.
The Valiants eventually ran out 3-1 winners with Leitch-Smith scoring two second-half goals though the forward has praised the efforts of the non-league club.
He told the Observer: “I thought the boys dug in well but Maidenhead put quite a lot of pressure on us and made it a tough night in the end.
“We went one-nil up in the original tie and I thought we were going to see the game out, but Maidenhead scored with the last kick off the match. Fair play to them, they kept on coming and got the goal in the end.
“You could say that we were better prepared this time around but we knew how they were going to play. We didn’t deal with it well enough in the first game.
“We came here and they started off really well, but in the second-half I think we had a bit too much in the end.
“I think the fitness helps as well because Maidenhead only plays part-time. Professional teams play every day so I think that all played a part as well, but I thought Maidenhead did well from where they came from.”
The former Yeovil Town and Crewe Alexandra player added: “As a striker you’re always pleased to get any goals for your club but I got two and thankfully helped the team get through the next round.
“Obviously there’s a feeling of relief but the aim coming here was to get through and we’ve done that. We achieved what we came here to do.”
Looking ahead to Exeter next week, Leitch-Smith, 25, said: “Obviously you can’t look too far ahead but we do fancy ourselves going there.
“Exeter are obviously a league below us, but I know a few of the lads there and they’re a good team, so we won’t take them lightly.”