DAVE Diaper is praying the Sydenhams Wessex League will have a change of heart about handing Sholing a league fixture just four days ahead of their big FA Vase last-32 tie at home to Hullbridge Sports on Saturday week.
The Boatmen were not originally scheduled to play that midweek but, much to Diaper’s dismay, a Premier Division trip to Graham Rix’s AFC Portchester has been slotted in for next Tuesday (January 14).
Sholing secretary Greg Dickson has been in touch with the league in an attempt to get it changed and, should that fail, Diaper himself may be tempted to intervene.
“Greg’s requested a change but, as yet, we haven’t heard anything,” said Diaper yesterday.
“I’m really disappointed to be given a midweek fixture before the Vase game – especially as Alresford and Blackfield & Langley haven’t got one.
“I would have thought it was in everyone’s interest – particularly the Wessex League – to get all the Wessex clubs through in the Vase.”
A trip to Portchester is no easy proposition at the best of times with Rix’s men sitting seventh in the table.
But Diaper, whose side are quoted as 8/1 third favourites for the Vase by BetVictor, said: “It’s not the fact it’s Portchester away, it’s just the fact of having a midweek fixture before the Vase when we could pick up injuries.
“But if it weakens us for the Vase, then so be it. I’m certainly not going to go to Portchester with a weakened team.
“I’ve spoken to the players and they’re disappointed too. “We wouldn’t have minded earlier in the competition because sometimes a midweek game can be better than training. But you can practically smell the latter stages of the Vase now and, having come this far, we don’t want players put at risk.
“But we’re used to disappointments and sometimes we play better when we’re set all these trials and tribulations.”
Sholing, who have completed the signing of right-back TJ Cuthbertson from Blackfield, are due to host Conference South outfit Farnborough tonight in the Russell Cotes Cup quarter-finals.
But, given the wet conditions, the tie must be in some doubt.
“I’ve never known anything like it,” said Diaper. “I went up there at the weekend and practically the whole ground, not just the pitch, was under water. It’s so saturated, it’s just not draining.”
Sholing, meanwhile, have received a second notice of approach for player/coach James Taylor from Verwood Town following recent interest from Folland Sports.
Diaper said: “It’s an awkward one because James wants to play more. But he likes it at Sholing and he’s welcome to stay on the coaching side. “Things might change, but he’s with us for the foreseeable future and we’ll take it week by week.” Weather-permitting, AFC Totton are also in Russell Cotes Cup action at Portchester tonight, while Romsey travel to Fareham Town. The fourth quarter-final between Christchurch and Gosport Borough is scheduled for next Wednesday (January 15).
HOLDERS Alresford Town will go head to head with Premier Division title favourites Sholing in the semi-finals of the Sydenhams Wessex League Cup.
The mouthwatering showdown will take place at Winchester City’s Denplan City Ground on Tuesday, January 28.
The other semi-final, which pits sole Sydenhams One survivors Petersfield Town against Whitchurch United, takes place next Tuesday (January 14) at Alresford’s Arlebury Park.