HULLBRIDGE Sports have hit out at FA Vase rivals Sholing for refusing to host their tie on Saturday and thereby forcing many of their fans and half of their first team to miss tonight’s game.
Saturday’s fourth round game was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch at the Wessex League leaders’ Silverlake Arena. Sholing’s manager Dave Diaper said ahead of the tie that if it was called off they would not look to “get any cheap advantage from a midweek” replay.
But that is exactly what has happened and, with the chance to move to within three games of Wembley, Hullbridge chairman Andy Burgess admits it’s a blow to his Essex Senior League club.
He said: “We are disappointed it could not be played on Saturday as, being a family club, we wanted everybody to enjoy such a big footballing occasion.
“This competition is very important to us and we feel it would have been more suited to the following Saturday as both clubs and their fans would have been able to appreciate the occasion.
“We asked the FA if it could be played the following Saturday and they were happy for this to happen, but they said both clubs had to be in agreement as Tuesday was normally the designated replay date.
“We asked Sholing if we could play the game on Saturday but they declined, explaining they could not guarantee they could get the game on then. They told us this on Friday.
“We don’t want to get in to a slanging match over this and it is what it is.”
It means that five of the Bridge Boys’ first XI are now unavailable because of work commitments while others are doubtful and a coach-load of supporters will not be making the lengthy midweek trip to Southampton for the 7.45pm kick-off.
Of the five FA Vase games postponed because of the bad weather on Saturday, four have been rescheduled for Saturday, with Sports’ trip to Sholing the only one set to be played four days later.
Burgess said: “We will just have to try to get the strongest team possible together and hopefully we can call on some of our youngsters to step up and try to get 11 people on the pitch.
“I feel really sorry for our fans, who were really looking forward to the away day, which Sholing would have benefited from the gate receipts.
“This competition is really important to us and our fans as this is the first time in our history that we have achieved a place in the fourth round.
“But maybe the competition and everything it stands for isn’t so important to others.
“The boys that can’t make it are gutted as it’s not every day clubs like our achieve this level and we would have liked to at least made a game of it by putting out our first 11.
“But our management team of Dan Braney and Mark Bliss will do everything possible to get a team together for the game.”
Yesterday’s FA Vase fifth round draw handed the winners of tonight’s tie in Southampton a home game with Western League Premier Division side Larkhall Athletic on February 15.