2010/11: FA Cup Third Qualifying Round – Guiseley AFC v Whitley Bay
With a second International break upon the Premier League and Championship clubs, for many fans football hasn’t existed during the weekend just gone. The reality is that League One and Two continued as usual, as did a full programme of games in the rest of the football pyramid at non-league level.
Lurking amongst the games in the various leagues, the eagle-eyed may also have noticed that it was an FA Cup weekend, the Third Qualifying Round to be exact. Depending on the club you support, your awareness of the competition varies greatly. For those in the Premier League and the Championship the FA Cup only comes onto the radar in the first week of January. For those in League One and League Two, November see entry into the First Round.
If the thought of FA Cup matches in November seems a little early, then consider this, the FA Cup which will end this season at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 14 May 2011, began this year 9 months previously. The 2010/11 FA Cup competition began on Saturday 14th August 2010 with the Extra Preliminary Round. Amongst the teams involved in that Round were Whitley Bay from the Northern Football League Division One. Back in August, The Seahorses were drawn against Liversedge and in an impressive away victory emerged as 3-0 winners. Before the month was out, Whitley were back in FA Cup action and were again drawn away, this time at Bishop Auckland. The Bay seemed to be heading out, but in the last minute grabbed a goal to level the game at 2-2. Just three days later the replay took place and with home advantage Whitley sailed through 3-1. September 11th and Whitley were in FA Cup action at Ossett Albion. No replay was required as the men from Hillheads Park went through 2-1. Into the last Saturday of September and the draw again sent the team from the North East on their travels, this time to Nantwich Town and in a thriller, The Bay emerged victorious 3-2.
This brings the story up to date to last Saturday and unbelievably another away draw and another fixture in Yorkshire. The opposition were Guiseley AFC of the Conference North, three divisions higher than Whitley Bay. This was The Seahorses sixth game in the FA Cup and the team were rewarded with a dedicated and noisy following of around 200 fans in a bumper attendance of 704 at Nethermoor; with the cries of Howay the Bay ringing clear from the North East voices before kick-off. Alas, Lady Luck turned her back on Whitley and on the half hour they were reduced to 10 men and a penalty awarded against them. With the kick successful and another goal before half-time, Guiseley were well on their way, and the game ended 3-0 to The Lions.
To me it shows that there still is magic in the FA Cup. A competition that can provide teams with the chance of a fantastic run, memorable days out for the fans and always that chance that David will beat Goliath. The Bay are left to cherish the memories of their journey and count some useful additions to the clubs coffers. For Guiseley the win brings entry to the 4th Qualifying Round (the last before the First Round) and a home tie against Conference South opposition Redditch United.
In a period when football headlines are dominated by clubs facing financial meltdown, temperamental “stars” and reckless challenges, it’s good to know that the romance of the Cup isn’t dead – it just needs finding and nurturing, as it’s only just below the surface. Saturday 23rd October 2010, FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round – get out there and fall in love with football again.