Vase semi-final is ‘Roy of the Rovers stuff’ for United

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Eastbourne United boss Simon Rowland said he and his coaching staff have left no stone unturned in order to give his side the best possible chance of reaching the FA Vase final at Wembley.

On Saturday, his men travel to a free-scoring Sholing FC side for an FA Vase semi-final first-leg clash.

Rowland’s men warmed up for the game in emphatic style thanks to thumping 9-0 victory against County League Two side Steyning at the Oval on Tuesday night.

The midweek win keeps United top of the league while last week’s triumph against Uckfield saw them progress to the semi-final of the league cup - whisper it around the Oval but the treble is certainly on for United.

Rowland accepts their latest victories served as a morale booster but described the Vase as a ‘different animal altogether’.

Sholing are flying in their league too. They are six points off the top but have five games in hand. They have played 51 games in all competitions this season and have scored a staggering 161 goals.

Striker Lee Wort offers their main goal threat with 44 goals, while fellow front runner Ash Jarvis and attacking midfield brothers Barry and Byron Mason also contribute their fair share.

Rowland said, “There is no doubting their qualities. They have experience in key areas but we don’t want to get too wrapped up in what they have.

“We know what we can do as a team and we know that we will be as prepared as possible for this game.

“We have reached the semi-final on merit. All through the competition we have beaten teams who are a higher level than us. We have played our best football of the season against the better teams.”

United have a few experienced campaigners in their ranks. Wes Tate reached the semi-final with Whitehawk four years ago while the likes of Sean Ray, Shaun Loft, Ryan McBride and Ashley Robinson have gained plenty of non-league football knowledge throughout their careers.

But with a Wembley final at stake, Rowland admits managing the nerves will be a crucial factor, especially in the away leg. Sholing are expecting a large crowd of more than 1,000 at the Silverlake Arena with United set to take three coach loads. “Nerves will play a big part and we will have to deal with it on the day. These players are honest, they have worked hard to get to this stage. We deserve to be here and I’m sure once the game gets underway the lads will focus on the job.”

On the incredible Vase run Rowland added, “It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff to honest. Nobody expected us to be here. Only three Sussex sides have ever reached the semi-final and I’m sure a team from County Two has never got this far.

“We are determined to take it one step further. We have a game plan and if we can get them back to Oval in good shape then what an occasion that will be.”