It’s the North East v the North West – two teams from the Ebac Northern League pitted against opponents from the North West Counties League in tomorrow’s showdowns in the third round of the Isuzu FA Vase.

Whitley Bay take on West Didsbury & Chorlton while Horden face Darwen FC, our only remaining teams left in the competition, with the Tynesiders only in this round after being reinstated following their previous opponents being thrown out of the competition after playing an ineligible player.

Whitley Bay manager Nick Gray said:

“We trained on Tuesday night before the England game and I’m pleased with how we’ve prepared.”  But he said the club winning a reprieve to see them through hasn’t changed their preparations.

“We were confident we were going to be reinstated so waiting for the appeal hasn’t really altered anything.

“We’ve been given a second chance and we need to make the most of it.  If you win the league then you’re the best, but you need a bit of luck to win a cup and we have had a little bit of luck.”

And fate may also be playing it’s part.  When he guided Morpeth to victory in the Vase they played Billingham Synthonia and West Didsbury & Chorlton, just like this season.

But Nick has also questioned why the game goes straight to a penalty shoot-out if the scores are level after 90 minutes rather than play extra time.  “Both teams are there, ready to play and I think it devalues the competition.”

The team has come on in leaps and bounds since last season, with many new, young players in the squad and until last Saturday’s reverse at West Allotment Celtic, they were on a record-equalling unbeaten run.

“It’s been fantastic – 19 games unbeaten – equalling the longest unbeaten run since 1954 which is a great accolade to the players.”

Meanwhile, Horden manager Jonny Payne said:

“Preparations are going well.  We are looking as though we are going to have a full squad available.  There are a couple of injuries but I’m just waiting to hear back from the players after training midweek.  It seems very positive.

“All the players want to play – it’s a big game.

“Only one player has won the Vase – and that’s Mark Ellison who won it with Spennymoor.  Everybody is buzzing at the club and in the village.”

Horden have had their opponents watched and have viewed videos of a couple of their matches.  “We have an idea as to what formation they are likely to play.

“They’ve already beaten Thornaby so they are certainly no mugs.  I have no doubt it’s going to be a really tough game.  We have surprised ourselves by how well we’ve done in the Vase but the squad is very together, everybody gets on.  They play for the badge and it’s all done in the right way.”

This is their fifth game in the Vase this season, having already faced Penrith, Steeton, Armthorpe Welfare and Barnoldswick Town and he’s hoping that people in the village will get behind the team.

Both games kick off at 3pm and the clubs are hoping for big crowds to cheer them on.