‘It’s a massive game for us’

Just three players were signed-on for Eastbourne United when Simon Rowland took over as manager at the start of the season.

In the months that followed, they have surged to the top the of the County League Two table, made giant strides in the Sussex Senior Cup - including an incredible victory against Crawley Town - and banked more than £4,000 after a decent run in the FA Cup.

Eastbourne United

Eastbourne United

In the Vase they despatched Combined Counties league-leaders South Park and have progressed to enter the last 32.

If they can beat another Combined Counties side Hanworth Villa tomorrow (Saturday) at the Rectory Meadow Ground, it will be the furthest United have ever advanced in this non-league competition.

It will also earn the club another £2,000 and place them a mere three matches away from a Wembley final.

Rowland said, “It’s a massive game for the club. It’s the furthest we have been in this competition since the early 80s.

“We have a really good opportunity to progress to the Monday draw.

“We have watched them play. Unfortunately they are everything we hate about a side.

“They get in your face and cover the pitch well.

“We will go there very positive, play the way we have all season which is very positive and attacking. We have not let many goals in so we will give it a real go.”

Rowland took over a side that narrowly missed out on promotion to division one under the management of Paul Daubeney.

Rowland took on the role mistakenly believed a few minor tweaks were required to return to the top tier of the Sussex County League football.

Rowland added, “We started the season with just three players. The lads have developed brilliantly throughout the season and we are getting stronger and stronger.

“It’s been a really good season and I think we are the lowest ranked side still in the Vase so it’s a fantastic opportunity to go one step further.

“Financially it will be fantastic for the club. We have a really good project at the club and one of the reasons why I came here.

“The money is going to help develop off the pitch which the club have been spending a lot of time and effort on.”

Hanworth Villa are 11th in their league and progressed to the last 32 courtesy of a 1-0 victory at last year’s losing finalists Tunbridge Wells.

The Rectory Meadow surface is expected to be heavy going under foot as their last two home games were postponed due to a waterlogged pitch - including their scheduled Tuesday night match against Hartley Wintney.

Rowland added, “Because of the recent postponements, we could have done with extra minutes for some of the players but it’s exactly the same for Hanworth. They have had postponements and in terms of fitness we are probably 90 minutes ahead of them.”

Shaun Loft returns from suspension and Rowland is hoping Sean Ray, who led Hastings’ to their fantastic FA Cup run last season, will be available. Ryan McBride is expected to return to the line-up having missed the 2-0 victory against Seaford on Tuesday.