SHOLING boss Dave Diaper has had the rundown on tomorrow’s FA Vase last-32 opponents Hullbridge Sports from a player he once tried to sign.

Former Christchurch, Brockenhurst and Wimborne striker Tom Jeffes plays for Hullbridge’s Essex Senior League rivals Clapton having moved to area to work as commercial manager for League One outfit Leyton Orient.

“Tom’s a great goalscorer and I did try to sign him, but he was going off to uni at the time,” said Diaper, below.

“We’ve stayed in touch and he rang me as soon as the Vase draw was made.

“I’ve also heard from one of our old players, Paul Preston, who’s London-based now, and also plays in that league.

“Hullbridge have got a lad on the left (Liam Nash) that West Ham have been looking at. They’re not a big team like us. Whereas we’ve got five players over 6ft 2in, they’ve got one over 6ft, so set pieces will come into it. “Hullbridge beat the team at the top of their league (Great Wakering Rovers) 1-0 away to reach this round, and any team who gets this far in the Vase has got to be useful and hard-working.

“If I were them looking at our goalscoring record (Sholing have netted 75 goals in 21 league games) I’d probably try and overload midfield, make it difficult for us and try and get a draw and we’ve been working on ways round that.”

The postponement of Tuesday’s Sydenhams Premier game at AFC Portchester meant Diaper was unable to assess midfielder Lewis Fennemore, who has just returned from a long-term back problem.

“I’ve spoken to the physio who treated him, but I can’t afford to carry anyone,” stressed the boss. “For such a key game, even the lads on the bench must be 100 per cent fit. I can’t let sentimentality come into it.”

Centre-back Dan Miller is also back from a broken wrist, leaving the Silverlake Arena pitch as Diaper’s main concern.

If more rain falls today, it could be touch and go.

“We’re working hard, putting covers down and trying to protect it, but it all depends on the level and intensity of any rain we get,” he said.

“We need to let Hullbridge know by the end of play today. We don’t want to give them the extra expense of a wasted coach journey.

“If the game was off, I’m not sure when we’d play it. But, if possible, we’d try and push for next Saturday. Common sense has to prevail and we wouldn’t look to get any cheap advantage from a midweek game.

“But, hopefully, the game will be on unless we get torrential rain later today.”

Sholing – a high-riding Southern League club for the last four years – are 8/1 third favourites for the Vase.

On paper, they should have too much power for their mid-table visitors, but Diaper stressed: “It’s all about how we approach it. We’re coming into it in a rich vein of form and we’ve got to make sure it’s a high-tempo game.

“When we keep the tempo high we’re a Southern League team; when we let it drop we’re a Wessex League team.”