Red cards have littered recent ties involving the Boatmen’s FA Vase semi-final opponents Eastbourne United – and all for the opposition.
Ampthill ended their 2-1 quarter-final defeat with nine men – one more than Morpeth who had three players sent off in their 6-1 fifth-round hammering at Eastbourne.
With a May 10 Wembley appearance awaiting the winners of the Sydenhams Wessex versus Sussex County League clash, there is much at stake in tomorrow’s semi-final first leg at Portsmouth Road. And Sholing boss Dave Diaper thinks the best advice for his players will be to keep their cool.
“I’ll be telling the players that they’ll be their own worst enemies if they get involved,” stressed Diaper.
“I’ve seen videos of Eastbourne and they’ve got Sean Ray, the ex-Hastings United player/manager, who’s 15 stone but still influential and set-pieces could be a problem.
“But I believe that if we stick to our football we could have too much mobility for them.”
As leaders of the Sussex Division Two, Eastbourne are a step down on the non-League pyramid to Sholing, who sit second behind Alresford in the Sydenhams Premier.
But United’s progress to the last four speaks for itself and Diaper said: “I don’t think there are any underdogs or favourites at this stage.
“Everyone wants to be an underdog but, for me, it’s all about what happens on the day.
“If we mess up in the first leg, we have the second (on April 5) to respond in.
“I don’t look further than the semi-finals and getting this far is a tremendous achievement in itself.” Team-wise, Diaper is sweating on twin central defensive towers Lee Bright and Pete Castle.
Bright has an eye problem which dates back to Sholing’s fifth round win over Larkhall, while his 6ft 3in side-kick Castle was seeing a specialist yesterday about a knee injury that first surfaced in pre-season.
“They’re both big, strong lads who are important, but I’ve got cover in Dan Miller and Mike Carter who can also play at centre-back,” said Diaper.
“We’d miss Mike’s energy at full-back, but Lewis Fennemore and Byron Mason are quite mobile in midfield and Tyzer (Tyronne Bowers) can play right-back.”
Ex-Blackfield duo Alex Baldacchino and TJ Cuthbertson are cup-tied, but the Boatmen could be boosted by the return of winger Nick Watts from a shoulder injury.