STEVE Wilkes has said his players have revelled in defying the odds this season and can do so again when they meet the bookmakers’ favourites to win the FA Vase.

Northwich Victoria host Sholing, who triumphed in the competition at Wembley five years ago, in a quarter-finals encounter on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.

They will start as underdogs, but the manager doesn’t care.

He said: “We’ve been written off in the two previous rounds, and look what happened.”

Vics stunned Newcastle Benfield last month, scoring three goals in the first-half before protecting that advantage in the face of an onslaught after the interval.

They then became the first visiting side, save for a higher-ranked opponent in the FA Cup, to beat Histon on their own pitch three weeks ago.

Wilkes said: “I can’t imagine Sholing will expect us to be a pushover after we knocked out those teams.

“It’s the last eight of a national competition and we know there isn’t an easy game.

“I hope they look at those results and reach the same conclusion about coming here.”

Vics have won six matches, starting with a 2-0 victory over Maltby Main in a qualifier back in September, to reach this stage.

This weekend will be the first home tie since they brushed aside Silsden before Christmas, and Wilkes told the Guardian the atmosphere at Wincham Park will be different to that afternoon.

“Expectations have changed since,” he said.

“Our fans are daring to dream a little bit and it’s nice to be back at our place where we’ve played well this season.

“Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd behind us and I think the players will respond to that.”

Preparation will be important, and road trips to watch both previous opponents allowed Vics to expose weaknesses that tipped those ties in their favour.

And on paper at least, Sholing appear formidable.

The Southampton-based side are unbeaten in the Wessex League’s Premier Division and occupy top spot in the table after prevailing in all but one of their 23 matches.

That includes a 4-2 win at Andover New Street last weekend.

Wilkes said: “We’ll be ready for them.

“The lads need to take on board the information that we give to them and then carry out those instructions.

“It worked a treat previously, and if they do that then we’ve got a chance.

“We can’t go out there and play as individuals, trying to be a hero, because it won’t pay off.

“I think the penny dropped after the Histon game, when our substitutes made a big impact, that we might need 15 guys to play a part.

“That’s a message I’ll be sending to them again this week.”

This is already Wilkes’ best run in the FA Vase as a manager.

However he isn’t ready for it to end yet.