13 down, 15 still in it.
After replays dispensed with another six hopefuls, the remaining Northern League club sides went into the Preliminary Round weekend with a mixture of relief – £1,500 already pocketed – and renewed dreams of emulating Shildon (beaten in a replay at last season’s fourth qualifying stage and still the last Northern League side to make the first round proper in 2003-04) or, perhaps, the gloriously improbable run that put Blyth Spartans, “the most famous non-league football team in the world”, into the quarter final draw in the same year they finished Division One runners-up to Spennymoor United.
It was the last of the Division Two sides that had been making most of the social media noise, but Heaton Stannington – who’d won their first FA Cup game since 1954 in the previous round – went down 2-1 at Whitley Bay in one of five all-Northern League ties. “We more than matched them,” Stan’s assistant manager Geoff Walker told the Northern Echo. “A win’s a win,” Bay’s Paddy Atkinson thought.
Consett had walloped 10-man Billingham Synthonia, former club side of Brian Clough and Frank Bough, 8-0 in their extra-preliminary round replay. It took 11 minutes before Michael Mackay netted their first against Scarborough Athletic, who hadn’t previously conceded in four games this season. Another ex-Synner, Michael Sweet, hit a second six minutes before full-time. “Scarborough are virtually a Conference North team,” said Consett boss Colin Myers. “It says a lot for our lads to beat them.”
Bishop Auckland, 4-2 winners at Shildon in the previous round, welcomed Jarrow Roofing, who they’d already beaten 4-2 at home in the league. When the two clubs met at the same stage last season, Bishops went through 4-3 after a 4-4 draw in the first game. Four would prove crucial once again, Roofing adopting a system that left triple-Vase winner Paul Chow among the substitutes as they added Corey Barnes to their customary three-man defence. Roofing’s John Campbell had already missed a penalty when Glen Lane gave the home side a 13th minute lead, the visitors deservedly progressing through goals from Lewis Teasdale and Alex White, who got as far as the third round proper with Blyth Spartans in 2009. “First half misses cost us,” a disappointed David Bayler told the Echo, though his team had been almost completely nullified after half-time.
Vase holders North Shields had taken two coachloads to Bridlington in the previous round and got a crowd of 356 for the visit of Kendal Town. A goal from James Luccock cancelled out Dan Forbes’ 28th minute opener for the Cumbrians.
With a second stalemate between Northern League champions Marske United and Lancaster City, it was left to Dunston UTS to put one over the north-west. “We did what we had to do,” manager Billy Urwin said after the 2012 FA Vase winners defeated Holker Old Boys 2-0 away.
Still without a point after four league games, West Auckland Town were leading by the same scoreline with just 14 minutes left at home to Washington, but ended up going out 3-2. “It’s a cruel, cruel game,” thought manager Andy Campbell, scorer of one of the goals when Middlesbrough put Manchester United out at the fourth round stage in 2002.
Also through are Guisborough Town, who beat Newcastle Benfield 4-2, and Newton Aycliffe, who’ll make their inaugural appearance in the first qualifying round after defeating Morpeth Town 2-0. Steve Harmison’s Ashington side won’t be joining them, Thackley scoring twice in three minutes before Matt Grieve pulled a late goal back. “I’m not sure what to say,” assistant manager Ian Skinner said, who now knows how Harmison must have felt after his opening delivery of the 2006 Ashes.