Alex Francis taken to hospital during FA Vase win at Whitley Bay

RARELY can a hospital visit have been so euphoric. Rarely has there been such an accomplishment to cherish.

RARELY can a hospital visit have been so euphoric. Rarely has there been such an accomplishment to cherish.

For 1420 days and 29 games, Whitley Bay have gone unbeaten in the FA Vase. They won it three times during that spell. Special times, but over now.

West Auckland Town, also of the STL Northern League, were always likely to push the Seahorses closer than any side before, and so it was.

Matty Moffat opened the scoring after 89 minutes and in a finale of typical drama at Hillheads, Paul Robinson equalised two minutes later before Michael Rae won it six minutes into added time.

Cue some incredible scenes, of rapture and disappointment.

But the tears in West manager Peter Dixon’s eyes thereafter were not solely ones of joy.

On 15 minutes Whitley midfielder Lee Paul Scroggins’ tackle on Alex Francis saw the former sent off and the latter taken, after a 40-minute delay, by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Dixon, his backroom staff and players visited Francis later on Saturday night.

And while relishing a quarter-final clash with Billingham Synthonia or Bournemouth, who drew 0-0 and replay on Saturday, Dixon was still numb in the throes of victory.

“It was emotional, my heart goes out to Alex Francis,” said Dixon. “I was heartbroken when I saw what happened to him.

“He’s a huge player, and the best midfielder in the Northern League and I’m just devastated about what happened.

“My thoughts are with him, above and beyond winning and going into the quarter-finals.

“What a way to go through, but I’m lost for words.

“I’m full of emotion, for winning and for Alex. In the first half we were at sixes and sevens.

“We had a couple of players playing who’ve never had more than 30 minutes for us all season. We had to make big changes when Alex went off but the lads were brilliant.

“The last thing Alex said before the ambulance took him away was ‘Make sure you don’t lose it for us, lads’.

“We told the lads that at half-time and it was a monumental effort on his behalf. When we scored, I thought that was it but you can’t write off Whitley Bay. Then when we scored the winner, emotion got the better of me.

“My celebrations were a bit over the top and I apologise for that. I think we need to be a little bit more mature than that next time.

“I can’t really look too far ahead, we’ve got to take stock. We’ve got a big game on Tuesday against Ashington. So we’ve just got to dust ourselves off, see what injuries we’ve got and take things from there.”

Likewise Whitley, whose manager Ian Chandler added: “The run doesn’t come into it. It’s basically the fact that it was a game we needed to win and the 29 games before this weren’t on my mind at all.

“The record’s there but it doesn’t mean anything really. History’s history, it’s what happens on the day.

“It’s not a nice feeling, we haven’t had it for a while. But we need to move on to Tuesday. I think we’ve got Shildon, so we’ll see if we can get some points on the board and try and win the league.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer