It's something of a showdown between the Midlands and the North(ish)-East with the Midlands sides being at home first.
Bromsgrove Sporting v Cleethorpes Town
Coleshill Town v South Shields
Cleethorpes Town v Bromsgrove Sporting
South Shields v Coleshill Town
Both ties are fascinating and will, no doubt, attract large crowds once again. Let's take a look at the sides involved.
Bromsgrove Sporting (Midland League Division One - Step 6)
Sporting are the sole remaining representative from Step 6 and, as such, the rank outsiders for the Vase this year. However, they have scored more than any of the remaining teams, albeit in more games and with the aid of 13-0 victory in their opening qualifier against Ellistown & Ibstock United. Since that smashing start to the campaign they have played seven more games, three against higher ranked opponents, and conceded just five times. Three of those five were also shipped in the 1st Round during a local derby with Cadbury Athletic which The Rouslers won 5-3. Of the three Step 5 sides that have come up against Sporting only Bristol Manor Farm have actually managed to score a goal against them. Top scorer in the Vase for The Rouslers is Jason Cowley with 8 goals.
In the league Sporting have a six point lead after their 6-0 win at Southam on Saturday. However, there's no taking it easy in the build-up to the big game as they have a league meeting with Bolehall Swifts to take care of on Tuesday.
Progress so far:
Qual 1 - Ellistown & Ibstock United (h) 13-0
Qual 2 - Tipton Town (A) 1-0
1 Cadbury Athletic (H) 5-3
2 Lichfield City (H) 3-1
3 Nuneaton Griff (A) 2-0
4 Sun Sports (A) 4-0
5 Bristol Manor Farm (H) 2-1
QF Buckland Athletic (H) 2-0
Cleethorpes Town (Northern Counties East Premier - Step 5)
The Owls are the lowest scorers remaining in the competition but, in fairness, they have only played five games to get to the semi-finals. They are also the only side left in the last four that has conceded at least one goal in every FA Vase game so far. Having said that, they are sitting pretty at the top of the Northern Counties East Premier and seem to be in perfect form coming into the sharp end of the campaign. Their superb and thoroughly professional 5-2 demolition away at Southall in the Quarter-Final was followed up with an equally impressive 4-1 mauling of their closest league rivals Pickering Town on Saturday, a display that earned them the BotP Step 5 Team of the Week award. Joint top scorers in the Vase are Liam Davis and Brody Robertson who both have four goals.
In the league The Owls have a seven point advantage over Pickering after The Pikes drew on Saturday whilst Cleethorpes local derby at Bottesford was rained off, leaving them with a game in hand over their rivals.
Progress so far:
2 AFC Emley (A) 2-1
3 Bootle (H) 2-1
4 Billingham Town (A) 2-1
5 Atherton Collieries (H) 3-2
QF Southall (A) 5-2
The Colemen, as with all of the remaining clubs, are still in with more than a fighting chance of their respective league title although, after Saturday's unexpected 2-1 reversal at Shawbury, they now trail Alvechurch by 9 points with just the one game in hand. They will have an full week to prepare for the semi-final with no midweek league game scheduled. Their progress in the Vase has been, with the exception of the second round victory over Uttoxeter, all against Step 5 sides. A 4-1 win over fellow Midland league promotion rivals Westfields was followed by two very impressive away wins, 3-0 at Eastern Counties promotion chasing Gorleston and 6-3 at Southern Counties East title hopefuls Crowborough Athletic. They then disposed of another Midland League rival, Sporting Khalsa, in the Quarter-Final after I had picked Khalsa as my dark horses for the competition (shows how much I know). Town have conceded just 5 goals in the 5 Vase games so far with striker Dean Rathbone being their top scorer with 5 goals.
Progress so far
2 Uttoxeter Town (A) 3-1
3 Westfields (H) 4-1
4 Gorlseston (A) 3-0
5 Crowborough Athletic (A) 6-3
QF Sporting Khalsa (H) 2-0
South Shields (Northern League Division One - Step 5)
The Mariners are many people's, including my own, favourite for the competition. Having had to enter at the second qualifying round stage they have played seven games to get to the Semi-Finals. However, they have conceded just 4 goals in those seven games whilst notching up 26 themselves. Their run has not been short on controversy however. In the 4th Round holders Morpeth Town had just scored to lead 4-2 in the 79th minute when the lights at Mariners Park failed. The game was eventually abandoned and ordered to be replayed. It was switched to Morpeth's ground where Shields produced a stunning performance to notch up a 4-0 victory. This was followed by a marathon trip to the South coast where they disposed of Team Solent by 5-2. Then, in the Semi-Final, Shields once again produced something special, hammering Newport Pagnell Town 6-1 in front of over 3,000 at Mariners Park, with leading scorer Gavin Cogdon scoring a brace to take his Vase total to six.
In the league they trail local rivals and league leaders North Shields by 8 points but do have two games in hand. They have no league game scheduled this midweek and can focus fully on the Semi-Final 1st leg.
Progress so far:
2Q Esh Winning (A) 4-0
1 Runcorn Linnets (H) 2-1
2 Marske United (H) 2-0
3 Staveley Miners Welfare (H) 3-0
4 Morpeth Town (H) 4-0 @Morpeth Town
5 Team Solent (A) 5-2
QF Newport Pagnell Town (H) 6-1
So, the big question is 'Who is going to triumph and make it to Wembley?'
All four of the remaining sides have qualities that could take them all the way and, in my opinion, it is too close to call, however on the Non-League Show before the Quarter-Finals I picked out South Shields as my favourites for the trophy. A run of 22 consecutive victories in all competitions makes me think that they should still have that honour.
That being said, they are up against Coleshill who have already put out my suggested dark horses, Khalsa. They also have the slight advantage of playing the first leg on their artificial surface at Packington Lane.
In the other Semi-Final Cleethorpes, being a step above Sporting, must start as favourites. Having said that, Bromsgrove have already put out 3 teams from a higher division and there is no doubt that The Victoria Ground will packed to the rafters and rocking again on Saturday. If they can take a lead up to Lincolnshire for the return leg, who knows what could happen.
I have great respect for all of the remaining sides. It's a massive achievement to reach this stage of a major tournament. I can only imagine how it must feel to play in a game where the prize is a final at Wembley. I'm going to stick with my prediction of South Shields to win purely because they were my original choice and I should stick by my convictions. It would be interesting to see what the general consensus of opinion is. Why not leave a comment with who you think will be lifting the trophy in May?