FA Vase fever hits the country as Wembley dreams begin for non-league sides

Ipswich Wanderers' Craig Jennings will be looking to fire the Suffolk side into the next round

Ipswich Wanderers' Craig Jennings will be looking to fire the Suffolk side into the next round - Credit: Ashley Pickering/Anglia Picture

The road to Wembley begins for many of Suffolk’s non-league clubs this weekend, with the return of the FA Vase.

The popular competition, which sees sides from Step 5 and 6 level from across the country strive to reach the final at the home of English football, unfolds with more than 350 teams beginning their adventure in the First Qualifying Round.

With valuable prize money up for grabs, all of the county’s teams will be looking to progress as far as possible. Ipswich Wanderers were one of last season’s success stories in this competition, reaching the Second Round Proper (last 64) before bowing out to Hertfordshire side St Margaretsbury, losing 3-0.

Wanderers skipper, David Head, missed that game due to the birth of his child, but is looking forward to another run in the competition this campaign – starting with a home tie against London Bari tomorrow.

“I’d like for us to go as far as possible,” said the experienced defender, who helped his side to a 2-0 win over FC Clacton in midweek.


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“Both the FA Vase and the FA Cup are competitions we’d like to do as well as we can in because not only do they bring extra revenue through the gate, but they bring excitement and momentum for the fans and the club as well.”

Head is likely to pair up with his old partner in crime tomorrow afternoon, Mark Goldfinch, at centre-half.

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The two spent several successful seasons together at Leiston, and have started forming that formidable force again after Head has dropped back to defence from holding midfield.

“Glenn (Read, the Ipswich Wanderers boss) would rather me there this season, and that suits me just fine,” continued Head, a FA Vase finalist with AFC Sudbury previously.

“Goldy and I are a bit older and slower now but it’s good to be playing alongside him again – even though we have to split the running even more these days!”

Wanderers have enjoyed a solid start to the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division season, collecting seven points from four games, and sit in 10th position.

Ross Myhill and Craig Jennings have been in good goalscoring form so far, and Head is backing them to have an impact tomorrow.

“Rossy has got himself some goals, and CJ is looking threatening so the signs are good,” he continued.

“We have a better squad this year than last, and I know Glenn is planning to push on with a top-six finish and decent runs in the cups.

“I think all three are realistic. We steadied the ship in our first season back (at Step 5 level) last year, and now have the squad to push on.

“Ben Deacon and Tom Bradlaugh have come in, and will be quality players for us.

“Everything is really encouraging, and we’ll look to be on our game on Saturday as you can’t fall flat in cup games.”

Fellow Thurlow Nunn Premier Division outfit Brantham Athletic also enjoyed a run in the Vase last season, reaching the Third Round Proper, before bowing out to Yaxley.

During the run, the Imps brilliantly battled to an unforgettable 4-3 away win over Wembley FC.

Paul Skingley’s men start their adventure again with a home tie against Sawbridgeworth on Sunday (kick-off 2pm).

Thurlow Nunn trio Saffron Walden Town, Stanway Rovers, and Norwich United all reached the latter stages of the Vase last campaign, and will not enter the competition just yet.

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