SIX STL Northern League First Division sides aim to take another step on the long road to Wembley when they play in the FA Carlsberg Vase this afternoon.
Whitley Bay, of course, know all about the Twin Towers. Not only did manager Ian Chandler play in a final but the Seahorses have lifted the trophy in each of the last three seasons.
He said: “We’ve again got the bit between our teeth and there’s no reason why we can’t win it again.
“All the lads want to be there especially newcomers Michael McMullen, Lee Paul Scroggins and Robbie Dale who want a piece of the action.”
The Bay have home advantage over South Park from Surrey and last week coach Adam Furness watched them in action.
Adam has given me a good report and if we play to our potential we shouldn’t have any problems,” added Chandler who welcomes the return of goalkeeper Kyle Hayes, but Craig McFarlane is ruled out. Newcastle Benfield also have home advantage over Kent side Herne Bay but boss Alu Bangura is uncertain of his line up.
Shaun McAvoy is suspended and Carl Paterson is given only a 50-50 chance of playing.
Phil Lumsden, Kenny Boyle and Scott Martindale are added to the squad and so too is Chris Musgrave, who is eligible following his move from Morpeth Town.
“My assistant Robin Falcus went down to watch them. They are top of the Kent League but we’ve done our homework and I’m 100% certain we can give them a good game,” declared Bangura, who played for Benfield when they lost 2-1 to Squires Gate in the last 16 of the competition.
Dunston UTS stayed in Peterborough last night before making their way to Wisbech Town. Manager Billy Irwin has run the rule over his opponents and reckons the Tynesiders have nothing to be afraid of. “They have a lovely ground and are expecting a crowd in excess of 500. We are taking a full coach of supporters which should make for a good atmosphere. I’m quietly confident we can get a result,” declared Irwin, whose squad is boosted with the inclusion of Lee McAndrew and Stephen Shaw.
Ashington are at Newport Pagnell Town for their tie but a blow to their hopes is the absence of Tommy English, Marc Walton, Dan Taylor, Darren Lough and Stephen Young. In addition, manager Gary Middleton will need to check on the fitness of ace striker Johnny Godsmark.
Billingham Synthonia miss Shane Henry and Jamie Blyth, who are cup tied but Robert Bettson is named for the visit of Runcorn Town.
West Auckland Town, strong challengers for the championship, are in Gloucestershire hoping to make it into the last 16 at the expense of Bitton from the Western League. In the STL Northern league first division, Bedlington Terriers are firm favourites to complete a double over bottom of the table Stokesley SC, who have conceded a massive 125 goals in 27 games.
Joint boss Tony Lowery, who has lost Dean Douglas to Gillford Park, Steven Richardson (Spennymoor Town) and Richard Flynn (Shildon) in the last couple of weeks, is hoping to salvage something from the season.
“There was a stage when we were in contention for the championship but we had a poor spell and losing three quality players won’t help,” said Lowery. “Our best chance of silverware now lies in the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup and in the Sage Northumberland FA Cup.
“We play Newcastle United Reserves on January 31 and I would like a couple of wins under our belts.” Lowery is hoping to have Steve Bowey, Craig Hubbard in his squad. Tow Law Town are second from the basement before their game at Shildon and Jarrow Roofing remain deep in the relegation dogfight following a heavy defeat at Consett in midweek.
Manager Richie McLoughlin has signed David Southern , Darren Reay and Gary McCormick and the trio could all figure at home to Marske United. David Anderson is a definite non-starter while Liam Robertson is doubtful.
Easington Colliery, who are seven points adrift in Division Two, have suffered a blow with the decision of secretary Alan Purvis to call it a day.
He said: “I’ve been with the club for 30 years and during all of this time I have travelled to and from the games in Jarrow, mainly by public transport. I haven’t been too well and been told by my doctor to ease up so reluctantly after 23 years as secretary I am standing down.”