By David Richardson
It’s unlikely the FA Vase will ever see a more experienced pair of managers pit their wits against each other than Dave Diaper and Steve Wilkes.
Sholing boss Diaper celebrated his 1,000th game in charge of the Boatmen earlier this season, while opposite number Wilkes is just three matches away from reaching the landmark career total.
It is of little surprise then that both sides have navigated their way through to the last eight while balancing successful league campaigns.
Wessex League leaders Sholing are currently on a staggering 31-game unbeaten run in all competitions, their last defeat coming after extra time at National League South side Slough Town back in September.
Their season has showed some remarkable similarities to 2014 when they won the Vase at Wembley and promotion as
“This is a surreal season, it’s an unbelievable run we’re on but we haven’t won anything,” Sholing legend Diaper told The NLP. “In 2014 we were second best in some games, this year we’ve probably got a stronger squad than then.
“We know we’ve got a really tough game against Northwich Victoria. It’s a great club, great history. We’re looking forward to going there.”
North West Counties side Northwich face a tough challenge, but can take confidence from winning at Newcastle Benfield and Histon in the last two rounds – and are now back on home turf.
“I think people are starting to sit up and take notice of us after those two results,” Wilkes told The NLP. “We were told Maltby Main were one of the favourites too and we beat them – the momentum has gathered.
“I got to the semi-final stage in 1992 as a player with Bamber Bridge – I always preach to my players that this is the best Non-League football competition we can enter. The FA Cup is great financially, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve focused on this cup.
“The fans have been great throughout the run and have been coming back for league games. We’re really looking forward to it.”
VERDICT: Sholing will be favourites but Northwich have already caused a couple of upsets and will be fancying another.