Football / Non-League Notebook: Canvey's sunny island

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The Independent Online
PARK LANE, Canvey Island, is not one of football's more glamorous venues. Six feet below sea level, in the middle of a housing estate surrounded by gas and oil terminals, the home of Canvey Island FC has no permanent spectator seating and rarely sees crowds of more than 200, writes Rupert Metcalf.

The Essex amateur side, however, are enjoying their finest season, and will welcome an anticipated 1,500 people tomorrow, when Bilston Town are the visitors in the quarter-finals of the FA Vase.

Canvey earned their tie with Bilston, a mid-table side in the Beazer Homes League Midland Division, by overcoming Clevedon Town in the last round at Park Lane. 'Clevedon were a fantastic side,' Frances Roche, Canvey's secretary, said, 'but we managed to snatch a goal and keep them out.'

Canvey won their first 14 matches in the Essex Senior League this term and did not drop a point until last month. They remain unbeaten, in second place on goal difference, with five games in hand on the leaders, Bowers.

The Canvey manager, Jeff King, who runs a holiday camp on the island, has brought in several good players from local Diadora League clubs. 'They prefer to play in a lower league - they can't afford to travel too far,' Roche said.

Bridlington Town and Gresley Rovers, the beaten Vase finalists of 1990 and 1991 respectively, have home draws and are expected to reach the last four. Both clubs have a special incentive to reach the final. Bridlington are top of the HFS Loans League First Division and Gresley are well placed in the Beazer Midland - if they win promotion they will be in the FA Trophy next term, with Wembley an unlikely prospect.

Bridlington meet Banstead, from Surrey, while Dunston travel from Tyneside to Derbyshire to take on Gresley. Steve Dolby, the Rovers manager, is happy that his side are tipped to reach the final: 'It gives our players confidence.' He could field eight players with experience of Vase finals at Wembley - seven from 1991 and Martin Devaney, who was in Tamworth's winning side in 1989.

In the last sixth-round tie, Tiverton will not be overawed by a trip to Buckingham Town, after their 6-0 win at Forest Green Rovers, another Beazer side, in the last round.

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