Ampthill mob set to provide severe Vase test

Matt Maclean
Matt Maclean
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Eastbourne United are gearing up for what is, once again, their biggest game of the season in the FA Vase quarter-final.

They welcome Befordshire outfit Ampthill to the Oval on Saturday and while manager Simon Rowland said his side are raring to go, their preparations were hindered by a feisty affair with Westfield on Tuesday night.

The visiting Westfield side racked up a total of seven bookings and one red card, leaving Rowland fuming at the treatment of his players.

“I’d have felt better about the game if we hadn’t played a bunch of thugs on Tuesday,” he said.

“They came for one purpose and that was to injure as many players as they could for Saturday.

“That was their only objective, it was really embarrassing and they are an absolute disgrace.”

Matt Maclean was left to count the cost of Westfield’s rough treatment after being carried off with an ankle injury and now faces a race to be fit for Saturday.

Nonetheless they’ll have a strong squad to choose from, with defensive stalwart, Sean Ray, available once again

And having come through Tuesday’s tough test as 6-1 winners, Rowland believes if they can replicate that performance, his side have every chance of making the two-legged Vase semi-final.

The football world would seem to agree with the boss, with their recent form not going unnoticed.

Bookmakers make United odds on favourites for the clash, the first time they’ve been favourites at any point during the competition.

But Ampthill will be no pushovers.

They’re currently sitting pretty at the summit of the Spartans South Midlands league and Rowland refuses to read too much in to what other people think.

“That’s irrelevant” he added.

It’s only because we racked up a lot of goals last time. The biggest thing for me is that we’re at home.”

If his side reach the next round they won’t have the luxury of a home tie in the semi-final which is played over two legs.

And with DTS Dunston, Newcastle Benfield and West Auckland Town still left in the competition, they face the prospect of a gruelling trip in the next round.

Rowland, however, doesn’t care who they get in the next round and continued, “I would walk to Newcastle if it meant we reach the semi-final.”

United are now just three games away from what would be a historic Wembley final.

With promotion from Sussex Division Two all but nailed on, the Vase is the focus of their attention.

However, when asked if he had thought about playing under the Wembley arches, he said, “Absolutely not. It’s all about the next game, it’s one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever get to do.”