GE Hamble co-manager Dave Lewis called for the FA Vase to be restructured after correctly predicting his club would be drawn with Blackfield & Langley.
Lewis’s fears were realised during the south-west section of the Wembley draw, which included just 12 of the last-64 – half of whom were Wessex clubs.
“I wouldn’t have been confident playing the lottery on Saturday, but I was sure we would be drawn with Blackfield!” he laughed. “Wessex clubs always seems to get drawn against each other at this stage of the Vase. It beggars belief and devalues the competition to already know two more Wessex sides will go out at this stage.
“The Wessex is a very good league, one of the strongest in the country at this level, and it’s a shame one of us has to go out before the competition goes national.
“We’re all very proud of the Wessex and having a maximum of four clubs in the last 32 is not a fair reflection of how good the league is.
“Maybe they should introduce seedings or stop regionalising the competition a couple of rounds earlier.”
You can understand Lewis’s frustration as the 52 clubs in the rest of the draw were divided evenly into north and south. “The idea is to make the earlier rounds cost effective for clubs so they’re not incurring financial losses through excessive travelling,” explained an FA spokesman.
Hamble rode their luck in their 1-0 second round win at Moneyfields, another Wessex club.
“Blackfield and Moneyfields are the best teams we’ve played this season,” said Lewis. “I have a lot of respect for what Blackfield are doing.
“We drew 1-1 at Gang Warily a couple of months ago, but it’s become a fortress for them so at least we’ve got them at home.”
Having reached the FA Cup’s fourth qualifying round, Blackfield are also enjoying their best season in the FA Vase. Now just five wins from Wembley, they ground out a 1-0 win at home to Wessex Premier rivals Bournemouth Poppies, who reached the last eight of last year’s competition.
The Watersiders expect another tough test at Follands Park on December 8.
Assistant manager Glenn Burnett said: “We came through a very bruising encounter to beat Poppies, who were bang up for it and gave us a heck of a game – but the draw could have been kinder! “I tipped Hamble to win the league after seeing them beat Sholing 4-0 in pre-season. They’re a top side and it will be even harder for us if they get Rory Williams and Jamie Musslewhite back fit.”
The other all-Wessex tie in the last 64 sees Horndean host Bemerton Heath Harlequins.
Newport IOW travel to Oxfordshire to take on Ardley United, who are third in the Hellenic Premier Division. Wessex leaders Downton are away to South-West Peninsula champions Bodmin Town.
FA Vase draw (south-west): Larkhall Athletic or Longwell Green Sports v Kidlington; St Blazey v Bitton; GE HAMBLE v BLACKFIELD & LANGLEY; Bodmin Town v DOWNTON; Ardley United v NEWPORT (IOW); HORNDEAN v BEMERTON HEATH HARLEQUINS.
More non-league in today's Daily Echo