Owing to my relocation to Japan, Viva Northern League‘s been a bit quiet of late. Fortunately, things have been much more eventful in the league itself, with Sunderland RCA holding on to top spot in Division One, Whitley Bay still unbeaten, and Spennymoor and Hebburn Town both through to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup after weekend wins over Ashton United and Runcorn Linnets, and Ashington facing a Tuesday night replay at Vauxhall Motors. Andy Hudson was at the Hebburn game and spoke to debutant keeper Dan Regan and striker Dean Nicholson after the game.
It was a good debut. It was good to get ninety minutes; it was my first proper game for about three weeks. They were good fans [Runcorn Linnets] and it was a good game it be involved in. I enjoyed it. Before the game we were told to go out and enjoy it first of all because it isn’t often that we’ll get to play in this kind of FA Cup game. Play for each other and there will be ups-and-downs in the game and just make sure that we stick together.
We scouted them before the game and the reports said that at the back they were immobile and slow and we should keep them on a high line. In the first half we tried to play over the top of them. I think they were a bit leggy to be fair, coming up on the coach for a few hours. Before the game we talked about getting at them during the first fifteen minutes to make sure that they weren’t off the bus. We did well.
I think their possession told in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. They were always going to have a spell of their own. [During the late scramble] I thought we should have had a free-kick. There were three or four of our players around us.
I thought the sending-off was harsh. At the time, there were a few nasty challenges being made and I think the ref was trying to stamp his authority. I thought if anyone put in a tackle then there was always going to be a card shown. I would like an away tie in the next round but then we would possibly have a few hours on the bus so I think a home tie against a big team who would hopefully bring a few fans up. We just want to enjoy the day again to be honest.
A game of two halves today I thought. First half we were certainly the better side; they came at us [in the second half] and when we went down to ten men they pushed on but we had enough to see the game through.
I thought the sending off was very poor. There was nothing different to a challenge during the first half by their number five. It could have affected us in two ways but we made sure it didn’t affect us too much.
Jeff went in there and was a very, very good centre half alongside Jewelsy. I thought Jewelsy was the best player on the pitch by a country mile. I thought the back four from minute one to minute ninety, well minute one hundred according to the referee, were absolutely brilliant. I’m not sure where he got the extra time from but the way the back four played in the second half, we could’ve played another ten minutes and not conceded. They looked very, very solid back there. For a split second I thought my shot was going in, but it’s all about the team. From number one to number eighteen, and then including the gaffer through to the physio and everyone, it was a big day today and gladly we’ve all come through it.
We’d all love a game away so we can get together [in the next round] but if we can get someone up here, beat them 1-0 like today, and go to the next round then you never know what could happen. It would be lovely to play against one of the bigger clubs in the draw but equally it would be nice to play against one of the teams of a similar level. Ashington have done very well today and drew with a team from the Blue Square North so why couldn’t we do it? Penrith were from the step above us and we’ve beaten them here; we’ve been over to Whitehaven and beat them, so we’ve done it the hard way so far. Runcorn have come a long way this morning and I thought they were very good but we’ve done enough to beat them. I think they were a similar level to us. They battled hard and maybe in the final third they broke down a little bit, but you can’t knock them; it’s a long way to travel and they played very well but it was our day today.
My dad went down there on Tuesday to watch them against Warrington and the gaffer went down last week. We’ve had three people watching them and each have said that they are a very good side. We had stuck on the [dressing room] wall all of their strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure they would have watched us last week against Brandon. When you got to this stage of the competition it’s something that you need to do; it isn’t a league game. We’re happy to come off the pitch having won 1-0. Our aim from the Chairman right down is to get promotion to Division One. That’s what we want to do. Whether we do it or not remains unknown because we’re up against some very good teams. It’s always nice, especially for the committee and the club and the young lads within the squad to beat a team like that [Runcorn] and you never know where you’ll end up next. But a Cup run is always nice to keep people involved and to keep people happy.
There’s a few of us [with experience]. We’ve got Jamie McGlen who has played at the very top and he’s the one who everybody looks up to. We’ve got players like me, Jewelsy, Jeff Forsyth, and my brother is now back [ex-West Bromwich Albion forward Stuart], so right throughout we have players who have experience. Chris Tate is the only one who hasn’t played in the Northern League First Division but since his start with Horden he hasn’t looked back and could play very comfortably at that higher level I believe. We go into every game believing we are a Division One side playing in Division Two; we are where we are, and if we can get promoted then fantastic.
A lot of the young lads, and even Jamie to be fair, will remember today. They had a lot of fans here and they made it hard for us. But to win a game 1-0 is always very pleasing. We’ll all be looking on Monday to see who we get to play. We hope it isn’t [fellow Northern League side] Spennymoor away, but what comes our way, comes our way. The main aim is to get a decent game and if we can win that game and progress, then that would be fantastic.
Neither Dan or Dean got what they were hoping for. Following this afternoon’s draw, Hebburn will travel to Radcliffe Borough in the third qualifying round, while Spennymoor are at Witton Albion. If they dispose of Vauxhall Motors, Ashington will be at home to Guiseley, who put Whitley Bay out at the same stage last season. “I’m happy with our draw, Radcliffe will be a very good side, playing a very high standard, so we will be prepared for a tough game,” says Dean Nicholson. “Preperation is massive for us and the work started the minute the draw was made. A club like Hebburn doesnt get this every season, so we aim to make a big deal of it, and if we can progress, it will be huge for all involved.”
The very best of luck to all three clubs.