Eight teams from the North West Counties League will be in FA Vase 2nd Round action this weekend, with 1 all-League tie ensuring a NWCFL team in the 3nd Round, and the other six teams facing teams from the Ebac Northern League.
AFC Darwen and reinstated Chadderton go into the all-League tie as neighbours in the First Division table, and are within range of the playoff spots in 8th and 9th respectively. Despite their previous league encounter at Andrew Street resulting in a 6-1 away win, both sides are in good form and a close scoreline is more than possible.
St Helens Town will be hoping to achieve another Vase conquest as they travel to Alnwick Town of the Northern League Division 2. The Northumberland side occupy 16th in their division, beating Pickering Town in the 2nd qualifying round while receiving a bye in the First Round Proper. With both teams in mixed form as of late, this tie may well go to 120 minutes or a replay.
Atherton Collieries will be welcoming a fellow in-form side to Alder House in the guise of Seaham Red Star, who are based 6 miles south of Sunderland and are second in the NL Division 2 only by warrant on goal difference. The visitors defeated Esh Winning and Selby Town en-route to Atherton, beating the former 12-1, so goals may well flow in what can be seen as a fixture to keep an eye on.
Congleton Town play host to Whitley Bay, who are well known for having won the Vase a record four times to date, including the famous hatrick between 2008 and 2011. However, the Seahorses have been in variable form and are currently 13th in the Northern League Division 1, so an interesting tie could be in store for the Bears, who reached the 4th Round last season and have found form recently.
Glossop North End are no strangers to playing Northern League sides in the FA Vase, having been defeated by Whitley Bay at Wembley in in 2009, and having lost only once in the League this season, are surely favourites as they play NL Division 2 side Ryhope CW at Silver Street. The visitors needed a replay to beat Lincolnshire side Bottesford Town in the First Round, and make a return to the FA Vase after relegation from the NL for ground grading reasons two seasons ago.
The final tie on Saturday featuring a NWC side takes place in County Durham, as Runcorn Town travel to Shildon. Both teams had lengthy runs in the FA Cup this season as evidenced by their league games in hand as well as their league positions, in 10th and 16th respectively. The Railwaymen edged past Colne in extra time in the previous round, while Town have already taken the scalps of Glasshoughton Welfare, Athersley Rec, and West Allotment Celtic to reach Saturday’s tie, and having scored 19 goals in those ties, could be seen as having a slight upper hand.
Sunday’s tie sees 1874 Northwich travel to Shildon’s near-neighbours Bishop Auckland, with the 4pm kickoff and Sunday tie being due to The Two Blues’ tenants Darlington taking priority the day before. 1874 have reached the 2nd Round of their debut Vase season by warrant of defeating Oldham Boro, Wigan Robin Park and Ashton Town, and this is also their first away tie of the competition. With both teams being in the upper reaches of their respective divisions, a close and competitive game should be anticipated.
Massive thanks to Sam Hodkin for the preview and also the fantastic teletext poster. This was Sam’s preview that was also used on this week’s podcast which you can listen to here: