Sholing winger Barry Mason has likened the club’s history-making run in the FA Vase – ahead of their first leg semi final tie against Eastbourne United – to Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2011/12. The Blues were crowned European champions through pure defensive resilience – and grabbing goals when it mattered.
That is something the 27-year-old feels the Boatmen are doing as they prepare for today’s tie at the Silverlake Arena, with Wembley firmly in their sights.
The Stamford Bridge side came through onslaughts from European giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the semi final and final respectively.
But they claimed the biggest title in European club football with goals late on and on the break, before beating Bayern on penalties in the final. To put it in perspective, Barcelona had 72 per cent of possession as Chelsea survived a battering from the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
They were then subjected to wave after wave of attacks from Bayern as 36 shots rained in on Petr Cech’s goal, before Didier Drogba popped up with an 88th minute equaliser, and then remained resilient through extra-time to win on penalties. And that is exactly what Mason thinks Sholing are doing as they bid to become only the fourth Wessex League club to reach the Vase final since the league was formed in 1986. While it was Drogba and Torres who popped up with crucial goals for Chelsea two years ago, so it has been Lee Wort who has been Sholing’s match-winner in the last two rounds against visiting Larkhall and Wisbech in the fifth round and quarter final.
Against Larkhall, Wort fired in an extra-time goal with his side under the cosh, and he again grabbed the only goal as Sholing kept a clean-sheet in the last eight against the Cambridgeshire side. And, because Dave Diaper’s side have not been at their attacking best in either of those ties, it has led Mason to make that comparison with Chelsea.
“We set ourselves the target of winning the league at the start of the season so, if we were to win the Vase, it would be a massive bonus,” Mason said. “We have not played too well in the last couple of rounds, but it’s just like Chelsea’s run to the Champions League a few years ago.
“You defend well and, perhaps with a bit of luck, come through each round.
“Our defence is one of the best out there. We’re very strong.
“We haven’t played our best in some games but that doesn’t matter because we’ve been winning.”