Just eight teams remain in this season’s FA Vase and the competition continues this weekend, with the quarter-finals the next step on the road to White Hart Lane, the venue of the this year’s Final.
Today (Saturday) sees favourites AFC Sudbury (Eastern Counties Premier League) take on Stourbridge (Midland Alliance), Bedlington Terriers of the Northern League host AFC Newbury (Wessex League) and Didcot Town (Hellenic Premier) entertain Bury Town (Eastern Counties Premier League).
The other quarter-final between Jarrow Roofing Boldon CA (Northern League Division One) and Frome Town (Screwfix Direct Western League Premier Division) has been postponed.
AFC Sudbury are looking to make it third time lucky this season, having reached the previous two FA Vase Finals, only to lose to Brigg Town and Winchester City in successive seasons. They have won 23 and drawn five of their 28 league matches so far this term, but manager Gary Harvey knows just how important this stage of the competition is, and is hoping for a big performance against Stourbridge.
"You are so close,” he says. “But if you get it wrong in the quarter-final it's over. In the semi-final you get a chance to put things right in the second leg."
AFC Sudbury, who used the training facilities of nearby Ipswich Town this week to help with preparations, go into the match as strong favourites. But Harvey knows that doesn’t mean anything, although he is well aware just how much this season’s FA Vase, in partnership with Carlsberg, means to the club.
"When you are the favourites you are there to be shot down. We have no divine right to win this game. The boys will have to earn a victory. But after going so close in the last three seasons I think the players feel we have to do it this year. I think we are a better team than last season.
"This is a team of winners, and for this weekend we can forget all about the league and the other competitions, and just concentrate on the Vase."
Meanwhile Northern League Bedlington Terriers will be hoping to take full advantage of their first home tie of this season’s FA Vase, when they face AFC Newbury.
The Terriers, who lost to a last-minute goal in the 1999 Final at Wembley against Tiverton Town, beat Enfield 3-0 away in the previous round and joint manager Tony Lowery is confident they can progress further.
“We’re fairly optimistic because we feel that on our day, we’re as good as anyone left in this competition,” he says. “We’ve got home advantage, I think there should be a decent crowd there for us and we need to make that count.
“We have a very capable team but cup football is all about what happens on the day, so we’ve got to hope that we turn in a good performance and also get the rub of the green.
“At this stage, all the teams left want to win it. We’ve all come a long way and it will be difficult to go out now having worked so hard to reach the sixth round, but there will be some very disappointed teams at 5pm on Saturday. We’ve got to make sure we’re not one of them.”
Lowery enjoyed a playing career that saw him have spells at West Bromwich Albion and Mansfield Town. He played at Wembley with the Stags in the Freight Rover Trophy Final in 1987 — which they won on penalties against Bristol City — and was part of the Terriers set-up that reached the FA Vase Final in 1999, but he has never made it to White Hart Lane, something he hopes to put right this year.
“I would love to get to White Hart Lane for the final,” he says. “I played at quite a few of the big grounds, but I never played at Tottenham so to get there this season would be fantastic, not just for me but the whole club.”
ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ The draw for the semi-finals of the FA Vase will take place at White Hart Lane on Monday, March 7.
ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ The FA Vase Final is due to be staged at White Hart Lane on Sunday, May 15.