EASTBOURNE United stand between Sholing and a magical trip to Wembley in the FA Vase final on Saturday, May 10.
Yesterday’s semi-final draw threw up an all-south coast two-legged semi-final clash between Dave Diaper’s Boatmen and the side from the Sussex County League Division Two.
The first leg is scheduled for Sholing’s Silverlake Arena on Saturday, March 29 with the second leg to follow at The Oval, Eastbourne the following Saturday (April 5). But with Saints at home to Newcastle on that first Saturday, the Boatmen have approached the FA and Eastbourne about the possibility of moving it to Sunday, March 30 in the hope of pulling in a bigger crowd.
Drawing Eastbourne came as a welcome relief to Diaper who was dreading having to travel the length of the country to West Auckland Town.
In the event, the County Durham outfit have been pitted against Leicester club St Andrews from the East Midlands League.
Diaper, who wears the twin hat of chairman and team boss at Sholing, said: “We’ve got seven league games between now and the first leg – starting at home to Winchester City tonight – and then we’ve got three semi-finals in the space of week, two in the Vase plus the Sydenhams League Cup semi against Alresford on April 1.
“If we’d drawn West Auckland we’d have had to have gone up the day before which would have caused me massive problems to organise.
“This way I can focus on managing the team, so I’m well relieved.
“It would have been nice to go to Eastbourne first and then bring them back to our place, but we’ve got to be happy with the draw for the travelling alone.
“A two-hour trip is far preferable to six or seven hours.
“We’ll never have a better opportunity to get to the final – and neither will Eastbourne.”
With tonight’s Winchester clash followed by Moneyfields away on Thursday and home to Totton & Eling on Saturday, Sholing face a hectic schedule.
But having lost a bit of momentum during the wet weather, Diaper welcomes a run of games.
He said: “It’d be nice to get games played and go into the Vase in a rich vein of form, but it’s important we don’t fall into the trap of just focusing on one thing.
“We’ve beaten Winchester three times this season and I’m sure they’ll want revenge.”
Midfielder Lewis Fennemore misses his last match suspended tonight and Nick Watts is out with a dislocated shoulder. Recent arrivals TJ Cuthbertson and Alex Baldacchino come into the squad having been ineligible for the Vase.