In profile – the three teams who stand in the way of US Portsmouth realising their FA Vase final Wembley dream

US Portsmouth have been handed a double home draw in their bid to reach the 2020/21 FA Vase final at Wembley.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 2:16 pm
Flackwell Heath celebrate their goal during their FA Vase fourth round win at Lancing. Pic: Stephen Goodger.

They already knew that their reward for their weekend victory at Tavistock was a home quarter-final tie with Flackwell Heath next Saturday, May 1.

And this lunchtime they discovered they will host either Long Eaton United or Binfield in the last four on May 8.

Here, The News takes a closer look at the three clubs – all of whom play a division higher in the non-league pyramid than Wessex Division 1 club USP.

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Flackwell Heath

Manager: Marcus Richardson. Played over 100 EFL games as a journeyman striker for Cambridge, Rochdale, Hartlepool, Yeovil, Lincoln and Bury. Has been Heath boss since November 2017, after joining from Hellenic rivals Highmoor Ibis.

League form: They had won six and lost one of their seven Hellenic League Premier games prior to curtailment, scoring 16 goals and conceding just four.

They topped the table by a point from fellow Vase quarter-finalists Binfield, who were the only team to take points off them in 2020/21 with a 2-1 away defeat. USP stand between Flackwell and a possible all-Hellenic last four tie with a club based just 16 miles away.

This season’s league form was a huge improvement on 2019/20, when Heath were ninth - having won and lost nine games out of 26 - at the time of null and voiding

Heath’s top scorer this term is youngster Khalid Simmo, who was released by Reading in the summer of 2019 aged 18. He has six goals from eight games. He was also leading the goal charts last term with 13 in 25 outings.

Keeper Aaron Watkins - who saved two penalties in the fourth round shoot-out win at Lancing - played for Basingstoke Town in the Southern League last season, and has also been with Thatcham.

Adam Thomas and Ash Howell both have five goals while Simeon Weekes - who scored in the Vase fifth round win at Lancing - offers a pacy option up front.

Vase form: Heath, like US Portsmouth are in the last eight for the first time. They had reached the fifth round once before, though, in 2014/15 - losing 3-0 to Barnsley-based Shaw Lane Aquaforce.

The quarter-final tie in Portsmouth is the seventh time they have been drawn away in eight rounds. They are the highest-scoring team in the last eight, having netted 18 times.

1st Q: Rushden & Higham (A) W 4-0; 2nd Q: Desborough (H) W 3-0; 1st R: Frimley Town (A) W 2-0; 2nd R: Stansfield (A) W 3-0; 3rd R: Chatham (A) W 1-0; 4th R: Lancing (A) D 1-1 (won 4-2 on pens); 5th R: Plymouth Parkway (A) W 4-2.

Both Rushden and Stansfield are step 6 clubs, the same as USP. But Chatham were top of the curtailed Southern Counties East Premier table, and Parkway were top of the curtailed Western League Premier with the best PPG record of any step 5 club over the last two seasons.

Binfield

Managers: Jamie McClurg and Carl Withers were appointed joint-managers after the 2019/20 season was null and voided.

League form: Binfield were second at the time of the Hellenic League curtailment, having won five and drawn two of their seven league matches.

In the FA Cup they thrashed one-division higher AFC Totton - who play in the same division as Monefields - 5-1 with Oliver Harris and Sean Moore both scoring twice.

Moore - who has played in the Southern League for Bracknell Town - is the top scorer this term with 11 goals in 14 appearances. Harris has seven in 14.

Josh Helmore is another big threat. He was the club’s leading marksman with 26 in 29 matches in 2019/20, and after returning from injury struck twice in the Vase fourth round tie at Fakenham.

Last season Binfield - a town in Berkshire with a population of under 9,000 - were second in the Hellenic Premier at the time of null and voiding.

They were 13 points adrift of unbeaten leaders Westfields, but did have four games in hand.

Of all the clubs in the last eight of the Vase, they have the best points-per-game ratio based on league results over the last two pandemic-scarred campaigns.

Binfield (Hellenic Premier) 2.41 avUS Portsmouth (Wessex Division 1) 2.23 avHebburn (Northern League) 2.20 avWarrington Rylands (North West Counties League) 2.08 avLeighton Town (South Midland League) 1.9 avLong Eaton (Midland League Premier) 1.76 avWalsall Wood (Midland League Premier) 1.64 avFlackwell Heath (Hellenic Premier) 1.67 av

Vase form: Goalkeeper Chris Grace has been the stand-out performer as Binfield have reached the last eight for the first time.

He has produced saves to help his club win through THREE penalty shoot-outs.

Grace stopped two penalties in a second round win at Newhaven in December before returning from lockdown to stop two more in the fourth round success at Fakenham on April 10.

The keeper then made a crucial save after the weekend’s fifth round tie against Hadley had ended goalless - The Moles winning 5-4 on spot-kicks.

2nd R: Newhaven (A) D 2-2 (W 4-1 on pens). 3rd R: Deal (A) W 4-1; 4th R: Fakenham (A) D 2-2 (W 4-1 on pens); 5th R: Hadley (A) D 0-0 (W 5-4 on pens).

Long Eaton United

Manager: Ian Deakin was appointed boss in February 2020.

League form: The Nottinghamshire club had won seven and drawn one of their Midland League Premier matches at the time of curtailment. They were no slouches in front of goal, scoring 31 times and conceding just four.

Alex Marshall is this season’s top scorer, with 13 in eight games - six of his goals coming in a 12-0 league thrashing of Selston.

Last season Long Eaton were ninth in their division at the time of null and voiding. Top scorer was Niall Towle, who netted 30 times - winning a move to higher division Basford. David Kolodynski was next highest with 19 goals, but he now plays for Rugby Town.

Vase form: Two goalkeepers have been Long Eaton’s heroes in their last two Vase victories.

First, Jake Askew produced the vital save to give the Blues a 5-4 shoot-out victory over fancied Westfields in the fourth round. They had been seconds from losing, only for Kameron Campbell to score a 93rd minute leveller to force penalties.

With Askew feeling ill, Sam Wilson was called up for last weekend’s fifth round tie at Hanworth Villa - saving Sam Merson’s spot-kick as Long Easton again won on penalties, this time 5-3, to book a last eight spot for the first time in their history.

2nd Q: Selston (H) W 4-1; 1st R: Studley (A) W 4-1; 2nd R: Stone Old Alleynians (H) W 3-2 (W 4-1 on pens). 3rd R: Hanley Town (H) W 2-0; 4th R: Westfields (H) D 2-2 (W 5-4 on pens); 5th R: Hanworth (A) D 2-2 (W 5-3 on pens).

The other semi-final pairs either Warrington Rylands or Hebburn Town against Leighton Town or Walsall Wood.

That tie will take place on Wednesday, May 12, as the Warrington v Hebburn tie is not being played until May 8.

That is due to the fact Hebburn are playing Northern League rivals Consett in the delayed 2019/20 FA Vase final behind closed doors at Wembley on Monday, May 3.