SHOLING will be at home again in the FA Vase last 16 if they get through tonight’s delayed fourth round test against Hullbridge Sports at the Silverlake Arena (7.45pm).
The winner of that tie will entertain Toolstation Western Premier leaders Larkhall Athletic on Saturday, February 15.
Larkhall flexed their muscles with a comprehensive 3-0 win over reigning Sydenhams League champions Blackfield & Langley on Saturday and will undoubtedly pose a threat should Dave Diaper’s Boatmen progress.
Reacting to the draw, Diaper said: “It’s hard to comment because we’ve not played Hullbridge yet.
“We need to make sure we play at our best tonight and we’re trying to put the next round out of our minds because, at the moment, we’re not in it!
“I must admit, though, I had a premonition we’d draw Larkhall. I’ve known their assistant manager Lee Collier, an ex-Paulton player, for a couple of years and we talk now and then.
“If we do get through all we could have asked for was to be at home. It’s far better than travelling somewhere like Newcastle because the North East teams are exceptionally strong.”
Sholing had been desperate to get the Hullbridge game played on Saturday but, keen to save the visitors a wasted trip from Essex, they had a Friday pitch inspection done.
“It was totally unplayable and more heavy showers were forecast for Saturday daytime, although they didn’t materialise until about 5pm,” said Diaper.
“We’ve got a sump pump to drain the neighbouring field as well as our pitch because not only were we getting what was falling from the sky but water was coming from the field next door.
“The forecast is for more rain just before kick-off tonight, but we’ve spoken to Eastleigh about borrowing the covers they use on their pitch.
“The weather’s playing havoc and it’s disappointing because we were desperate for the game to be played on Saturday from a revenue point of view. Hullbridge won’t bring as many fans tonight because people have got to work.”
The three other delayed Vase ties are being played this Saturday and there has been frustration about the rearranged date among some at Hullbridge – not least because they have players, as well as fans, who can’t make the midweek trip.
But Diaper explained: “It’s all about the weather. There was a dry spell predicted for Sunday and yesterday whereas we weren’t sure about later in the week. We weren’t going to risk another postponement and losing home advantage.” FA Vase fifth round draw: Hanworth Villa or Eastbourne Utd v Morpeth Town, Ampthill Town v Hanwell Town or Ashford Utd, Dunston UTS v Brightlingsea Regent, Sholing or Hullbridge Sports v Larkhall Athletic, Hadleigh Utd v Wisbech Town, Spennymoor Town v Newcastle Benfield, East Preston or Brantham v St Andrews, West Auckland Town v Hallen.