FA Vase: The Final 32

For once, the luck for Northern League teams in the FA Vase was spread across the board, all six of the region’s team managing to avoid each other in the draw for the fourth round.

Whitley Bay, 7/2 favourites to win the competition outright for a fourth successive year, play Surrey Premier Cup holders South Park – currently seventh in the Combined Counties Premier League – at Hillheads and will be expected to progress with the minimum of fuss. Billingham Synthonia were also drawn at home, but face what looks a much tougher proposition against North West Counties Premier League leaders Runcorn Town, while Newcastle Benfield await the winners of Wednesday night’s replay between Hanworth Villa and Herne Bay.

After Saturday’s win in Doncaster, second favourites West Auckland Town have a trip to the outskirts of Bristol to play Bitton AFC, who currently sit third in the Western Premier League, having finished champions and runners-up in the previous three seasons. With work now complete on the Bitton Park clubhouse, the Gloucestershire club will be hoping to move up to the Southern League next year. If West Auckland travel well, they should have enough to ensure the home side won’t be going to Wembley on the way. Dunston UTS, joint third favourites along with St Ives, are also on the road, playing Wisbech Town of Cambridgeshire and the Ridgeons Premier League, which is currently led by 2009 Vase finalists Wroxham.

Ashington, an attractively priced 16/1 with Skybet, travel to Newport Pagnell, who won their last United Counties Premier League game 4-1 at leaders Peterborough Northern Star. Pagnell knocked out Godmanchester Rovers 3-1 at the weekend in what was billed as the biggest game in the club’s recent history, and have also beaten Stansted – who lost in the fifth round to Dunston last season – 5-0 on their way to the last 32. “We think, on our day, we can beat any side in this competition,” manager Darren Lynch said before the Godmanchester tie, but it’s the furthest his side have ever been in the Vase and Ashington have the edge in big game experience.

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