Eastbourne United manager Simon Rowland was this week keeping his cards close to his chest as The Oval outfit prepared for one of the biggest’s games in the club’s history.
United entertain Sholing today in the second leg of the FA Vase semi-final with the clubs locked at 2-2 following last week’s hard-fought first leg at the Silverlake Arena.
That means the Oval showdown is a winner takes all game – with a Wembley final on Saturday, May 14.
“The two leg semi-final format was new ground for all of us but now that first leg is out of the way it becomes more or less a straight knockout,” Rowland said.
“At Sholing it seemed strange to go in at half-time knowing that only a quarter of the game had gone and to adapt your tactics to suit the format.
“But despite not having our strongest squad available we’ve come away with a 2-2 draw which sets up the second leg nicely.”
United recovered well after falling behind at Sholing and went 2-1 up in the second-half. But the hosts came back strongly and levelled up with just seven minutes to go.
“We were obviously disappointed to concede that equaliser but they finished strongly and are a good side.
“We know we’ll have to be at the top of our game – as we have had to be through most of the rounds.”
The United Vase journey began last September and Rowland was quick to praise all the players who have taken part. He said the players trained on Wednesday evening but he was reluctant to give away any team news ahead of the game.
“We have had a fantastic cup run and I just hope that the players do themselves justice and put in a good performance, “ he explained.
“Whatever the result on Saturday I am extremely proud of what this team has achieved this season.
“Our priority has always been to get promotion and this Vase journey has been a wonderful bonus. Saturday will be a tough day for all at the club but we are confident in our own ability.
“We have a great bunch of players whose talents and nerves have been put to the test on numerous occasions this season. This is another great test for them – and for us all. Let’s hope it’s a great day for the club.”
l The other semi-final tie sees West Auckland and St Andrew’s resume at 0-0.