More than a game for Collison

Jack Collison may have come up short this week in a one-off tie against Hartlepool United in full glare of the TV spotlight but he expects to do better in the real thing.

The 20-year-old midfielder took part in a special online FA Cup challenge against the League One outfit's Gary Liddle, organised by EA Sports to promote their new FIFA 09 video game. Liddle's men took the lead in the virtual contest before Jack struck back to force the game into extra time - not an option in Saturday lunchtime's fourth-round date - before coming up short on spot-kicks.

"It was a bit of a tight game," said Collison, as he reflected on the pain of defeat captured by the ITV cameras. "In the end of it I lost on penalties. Mark Noble popped up with a little header right at the end to take it to penalties but Scotty Parker's missed for me in the shoot-out. I am a little bit disappointed to lose but at the end of the day it is what happens on Saturday that counts."

That is certainly true although Collison is expecting an equally tough encounter at Victoria Park with the cameras turning up again in the hope of seeing the League One side push the Premier League visitors all the way. Collison is up for the cup, though. "We have been playing really well lately. There is a lot of confidence in the camp and we want to have a good cup run. Obviously we have got to win on Satrday and progress.

"We have been gearing up for it all week. The FA Cup is a great competition and one that every club would love to win. We have had some really good form and good results and we are going to look to do the job there on Saturday.

"Over the last few weeks there has been consistency in the team and not a lot of changes. It has really benefitted the boys. We have been getting to know one and other's game and that has been reflected in the performances. It has been really good." In particular, Carlton Cole has deserved special praise for his scoring streak and Collison has been impressed by the work ethic.

"Carlton Cole is on fire. Evertyhing he is touching has been going in at the moment which is a credit to him. He has been working really hard on the training pitch, and doing a lot of extra shooting sessions. It is really paying off for him." The whole team is reaping the rewards and the Welsh international added that manager Gianfranco Zola - twice an FA Cup winner as a player - is urging them to dream of Wembley.

"The manager has been saying all week that if we win we are only three games from Wembley [fifth round, sixth round and quarter-finals]. Growing up as a kid it is the dream to play at Wembley in the FA Cup for your team. I was there when we got to the final in 2006. I travelled with the team for the experience. I was there in the changing room before the game. It was a great day and, although we lost, it was a great experience. It is a massive competition."