This weekend’s FA Vase tie at Chessington & Hook United is ‘potentially the biggest game’ of Eastbourne United’s season and manager Simon Rowland believes the competition could catapult the club back to former glories.
While the club currently ply their trade in the Sussex County Division Two, the manager says they are destined for bigger things and their impressive run in the Vase provides the perfect stage for them to enhance their growing reputation.
“The FA Vase is a great platform for clubs like us to be showcased on the bigger stage,” Rowland said.
“It will help people start to recognise Eastbourne United as a force again. We’re a big club and this helps put us back on the map.
“We used to be the biggest club in Eastbourne and we should be operating at a higher level than we are at the moment. This competition is a great way for us to prove that.”
Having enjoyed a superb start to their league season, United are currently top of Division Two and look on course for promotion which was the objective at the start of the season.
But it is, perhaps, their performances in the cup competitions that have been most encouraging.
Their exploits have already netted them more than £5,000 in prize money and they’ve have enjoyed a whole host of high-profile scalps in victories over Lordswood, Arundel, Herne Bay and most recently in their 5-4 win against much-fancied Phoenix Sports in the last round of the Vase.
If they win this weekend, not only will the prize money breach the £7,000 mark, they will potentially face another illustrious tie as the competition enters the national stage.
Rowland has been thorough in his preparation and watched Chessington’s last game, a 4-2 win away to Croydon. So the boss knows all about the weekend’s opponents.
And while they’re in a higher-ranked division, he thinks the gulf in class is minimal and feels a result is far from beyond them.
“I don’t think we can prepare for this in the same way we do for a league game. They’re a side who play in a higher league, they play differently and we will set up differently as well.
“Really we are a County (Division) One side though so, ability wise, we are quite similar,” he said.
Cheesington are currently 16th in the Combined Counties Premier Division but their league position might not tell the whole story.
After a torrid start to the season they have picked up in recent weeks and are currently on an unbeaten run that stretches back five games.
United will also have to be wary of the strike partnership of Daniel Harding and Tommy Harper who have 22 goals between them.
United have prolific goalscorers of their own. Jason Taylor is currently the second top-scorer in Division Two and has found the net 22 times in all competitions, while target-man Ryan McBride has 14 goals to his name.
They will, however, have to contend without commanding centre-back Shaun Loft who is suspended. There are also doubts over the fitness of Sean Ray, struggling with an ankle knock, Luke Denton and Scott Dartnall.
Chessington & Hook play at Chalky Lane, Chessington, and the game starts at 3pm. If the match is drawn there will be a replay.