FORMER Magpie Simon Browne has lent a helping hand ahead of today’s FA Cup clash with Wootton Bassett Town (3pm).

Dorchester Town boss Phil Simkin travelled to Wiltshire on a scouting mission last week but returned home somewhat disappointed after this afternoon’s opponents fielded a weakened side in their Hellenic League Cup defeat at Shrivenham.

However, Browne, whose Ham-worthy United team were dumped out of the FA Cup by Bassett last month, has come to the rescue.

Simkin said: “I went to watch Wootton play last week but it wasn’t their strongest line-up so I didn’t learn too much about them.

“They did put Hamworthy out of the cup in a previous round and I have spoken to Simon. He has been very helpful and given me a complete run-down on them, for which I am very grateful.”

The Hellenic League Division One West outfit have been dealt a major blow in the build-up to this afternoon’s second qualifying round tie with the news that leading scorer Mark Barnes, who has netted 11 goals in all competitions, will miss out through injury.

And their manager Dave Turner admits his star striker will be a huge loss.

He said: “It’s frustrating for the lad because he’s been instrumental for us. I feel for him and it’s going to be a massive loss for us, but to be honest, I’d rather have him for the league games.”

Bassett may sit four tiers below the Blue Square Bet South Magpies but Turner insists they will “enjoy” today’s experience, whatever the outcome.

He added: “We know which way we’re going to play and it’s a case of getting in there and giving it the best we can and seeing what that brings.

“Anyone that thinks we’re going to do anything different is deluded.

“You can never say never, but the reality is we’re going up against a squad that is far superior to us. But that’s why we play football, we want a challenge and we’ve certainly got one here.

“The speed of thought and the speed of pass will be very different, but the players should enjoy it and learn from it.

“The message to the players is going to be to enjoy it and earn the respect of their players by the way we play.

“I scare myself looking at the players Dorchester have got and the ones they are signing. They play four divisions above and I couldn’t put a team out to have a go at them if I wanted to.

“People say there’s always a chance but if I stood in front of my players and said, ‘we’re going to have a go’, they’d think I was barking mad. I have to start from a realistic position. We’ve earned the right to be there by beating three teams in higher divisions so we can play a bit, and I just want my players not to freeze up and enjoy the experience.”

* Calvin Brooks and Danny Way have both penned contracts with the Magpies.

Delighted director Matt Lucas said: “I’m so pleased to see both of these lads sign as it confirms the work that goes on within the club from the academy through to the first team is beginning to show real progress.

“Both Calvin and Danny represented our under-18 South West Counties team before progressing into the reserves and will now pressing to achieve first-team status.”