BRAD Cooke has said that wins in significant matches this season have given Northwich Victoria’s players belief they can go further in the FA Vase.

Vics host Sholing at the quarter-finals stage on Saturday buoyed by knocking out fancied sides Newcastle Benfield and Histon in previous rounds since the turn of the year.

A derby success against 1874 Northwich, a first after seven previous failed attempts, has convinced them too.

“It removes doubt when you deliver in big games,” said Cooke, Vics’ captain since a transfer from Atherton Collieries last summer.

“We know we can play good football, and we’ve shown that, but it was fair to ask if we can dig in and fight for a result.

“I think we’ve answered that question as this run has gone on.

“The first-half at Newcastle was among the best 45 minutes I’ve been involved in – I can’t remember anything like it.

“But they tested us later and we had the strength of character to pass that exam.”

The 32-year-old, who helped Colls to two league titles during a six-year spell that saw him make more than 250 appearances, knows what it takes to prevail on one-off occasions.

He was the first player that manager Steve Wilkes approached following the end of last season when he decided to rebuild a side that had finished in 16th position in the North West Counties League’s Premier Division.

And he will be one the Vics boss counts on again when Sholing, FA Vase winners in 2014, arrive at Wincham Park this weekend.

Cooke said: “The gaffer knew what I would bring because we’ve worked together before.

“I don’t really get nervous; I’m experienced, and have played in a lot of big games over the years.

“Whoever settles best usually wins on these occasions.

“It’s important as well not to over-hype everybody, I find.

“I know people look at how many goals Sholing have scored this season and the bookies are probably swayed by the fact they’ve been to Wembley before.

“But we can’t be in awe of them; they play at the same level we do, and we shouldn’t forget that.”

Vics have grown used to being underdogs.

They were from the start, but sent packing Northern Counties East League outfit Maltby Main - another side given short odds to win the competition - in a qualifier.

Five more wins have followed, and in each of the past two rounds they were tipped beforehand to bow out against in-form hosts on the road.

“It’s in those ties I’ve seen a different side to the lads,” said Cooke.

“You get that sensation as a player that something has changed and that the guys around you back themselves to win.

“For me, sneaking through against Prestwich after a replay was a turning point.

“They hit the post with 10 minutes left and we went up the other end and Brian Matthews scored.

“It’s at moments like that you begin to wonder.”