After a fairytale run to last season’s semi-finals, USP were handed a bye through to the second round of this term’s competition - at the same time as other Wessex clubs have had to negotiate three ties to reach the last 128.
Tom Grice’s men travel to Camberley to face Frimley Green on Saturday, November 20, for their first Vase tie since last May’s semi-final loss on penalties to Binfield.
Fareham’s reward for a dramatic shoot-out win against much-fancied Jersey Bulls in the first round is a Cams Alders date with Abbey Rangers.
US were just 10 minutes away a fairytale Wembley final last May when Binfield levelled, prior to losing on penalties. Now they are 540 minutes away (plus stoppage time).
The Portsmouth club also had the luck of the draw en route to the last four, being drawn at home in seven out of eight rounds. But they must negotiate a trip to the Combined Counties League Premier South strugglers if they want to progress.
Frimley are third bottom of the Combined Counties League Premier South division - the same step 5 level as the Wessex Premier - with just three wins in 11 matches. In their last two league games they have been thrashed 5-0 at home by Redhill and 5-0 at Beckenham Town.
But they have already won through three rounds of the Vase, having been drawn at home all the time.
They defeated fellow step 5 club Shrivenham (Hellenic Premier) 3-0 in the first qualifying round before home wins against lower division pair AFC Aldermaston (3-2) and Rochester (2-1).
Sub George Keenan netted a last minute winner against Aldermaston while top scorer Ross Murdoch grabbed his 11th goal of the season in the closing stages to see off Rochester at the weekend.
Abbey Rangers also play at step 5 of the non-league pyramid, and are currently fourth in the Combined Counties League Premier North.
They are six points behind leaders Hanworth Villa but have two games in hand. Of their nine league matches so far, they have won seven and lost two. But the two defeats - 4-0 at Edgware and 5-1 at North Greenford - will certainly be noted by a Fareham side who are among the highest scorers at step 5 this season.
Abbey can certainly score goals - in the FA Cup they thrashed Chatham 5-0, and Chatham last weekend handed Fareham’s Wessex Premier rivals Alresford a 6-0 Vase caning.
Defence could well be an Achilles Heel, though; in addition to their two league losses, Abbey also shipped four goals against Reading City (scoring six - the tie at Cams Alders, given Fareham’s record, could be very entertaining indeed!)
Abbey, like Fareham, required penalties to book their place in the second round, in their case after a 2-2 home draw against Frimley Green’s league rivals Horley.
Prior to the draw, Reds boss Pete Stiles said a home draw would be his first choice but he wasn’t fussed whether it was against Wessex opposition or not.
Fareham won £750 from the prize pot as a result of beating Jersey Bulls, with another £825 up for grabs in the second round.
The Reds didn’t enter the Vase until the first round due to reaching the last 64 (third round) in 2020/21 - a tournament record-equalling performance.
At least two Wessex clubs will reach the third round this season as Bashley have been drawn at home to Shaftesbury and Andover New Street host Hamworthy United.
Fareham are back in league action on Tuesday, with a trip to Cowes Sports.
Stiles insisted a midweek trip to the Isle of Wight ‘isn’t ideal - you tend to lose players because they can’t finish work in time.
‘Of the 11 who started at the weekend, I’d say five or six won’t start at Cowes.
‘It is what it is, we have to get on with it.’