Eastbourne United won’t be walking out at Wembley as their FA Vase hopes were dashed by Sholing on Saturday.
A slow start, which saw them concede three first half goals, meant they were always facing an uphill struggle and despite a spirited second-half fightback, they gave themselves too much to do and were made to pay by a ruthless visiting Sholing side.
With the tie perfectly poised at 2-2 from the first leg, nearly 1500 supporters descended on the Oval and they were treated to a first-half goal blitz, albeit from the wrong side.
Wes Tate put through his own net to open the scoring, while Mike Carter and Barry Mason looked to have put the tie to bed before the interval.
Manager Simon Rowland clearly demanded a reaction from his players and he got it through goals from Matt Maclean and Jamie Crellin. But Nick Watts scored on the break to end any hopes of an unlikely comeback
Carter set the tone for the afternoon early on when he shot just over Grant Young’s goal early on.
The visiting Boatmen flew out of the blocks and their relentless attacking intent forced two corners in quick succession.
The second was whipped in invitingly by Tyrone Bowers and, under pressure from Marc Diaper, the unlucky Tate was forced to head in to his own net.
Without the suspended Ryan McBride leading the attack they lacked ideas going forward as well.
Instead it was down to the imperious Carter to heap on more misery.
Shimmying on the edge of the area, he fooled the United defence before rifling low past Young.
For his part, Young will be disappointed not to have kept it out - not to mention Sholing’s third, which came through Barry Mason’s tame effort from the corner of the box.
The half-time whistle was a welcome relief to Rowland and he shuffled the pack, introducing Jason Taylor in place of Scott Dartnall.
Suddenly they were playing with purpose and just ten minutes after the restart, Tate sent a cross to the far post, Jack Divall headed across goal and Maclean powered a header in from close range.
Two strong-looking penalty shouts were waved away and when Gavin Ward awarded United a free-kick it was met with ironic cheers and applause.
Robinson fired in to the wall and Tate’s follow up was blocked but Jamie Crellin bundled in from a yard out.
United continued to push but were always going to be vulnerable on the break, and Watts broke United hearts and booked his side’s place at Wembley as he slammed home.
UNITED: Young, Divall, Dartnall (Taylor), Ray, Loft, Tate, Franklin (Denton), Crellin, Dryer, Maclean, Robinson
Not Used: Featherstone, Saunders, Szafrawski
Sholing: Brown, Bowers, Diaper, Castle, Bright, Carter, Barry Mason, Sawyer (Fennimore), Wort, Byron Mason, Maclean (Watts)
MOM: Mike Carter
Ref: Gavin Ward