Whitley Bay’s season, which two months ago seemed to be giving fans little to enthuse over, is building up to an exciting climax with the Easter weekend providing plenty for the supporters to enjoy.
Good Friday marks the beginning of the Northern League’s ‘Easter Groundhop’ weekend, when non-league fans from across the country will be descending on the area for a series of games in which kick-off times have been staggered to enable fans to watch three games each day, with transport provided to take visiting fans between the grounds.
Attendances, usually boosted over the holiday period, will be increased significantly by the extra supporters, many of whom have booked into hotels and guest houses in Whitley Bay for the weekend.
Whitley’s local derby at home to Newcastle Benfield is the second of Friday’s games and kick-off is 2.30pm.
Other games on Friday are at North Shields (11am) and Ashington (6.30pm).
Whitley will be hoping to extend their excellent run of form since Leon Ryan was appointed manager, but Benfield could prove tricky opponents.
They created a major shock by knocking holders Spennymoor out of the FA Vase in February, but since going out of the competition themselves in the following round, their form has been inconsistent and they are currently five points behind Whitley having played the same number of games.
On Easter Monday, Whitley will be hoping to book their place in the Northern League Cup final for the first time in over 40 years and the form book would suggest that they have every chance of doing so.
Their opponents are second division strugglers Whitehaven, who have never previously reached this stage of the competition and must be considered as rank outsiders.
However, the Cumbrians have already created two shocks by knocking out first division sides Crook Town and Dunston UTS, so Whitley certainly cannot take them lightly.
Whitehaven have home advantage, so Whitley and their fans will face a 100-mile journey to the west coast for the game, which is scheduled to kick-off at 2pm.
This will be the first time that the clubs have met and the prize for the winners will be a place in the final at St James’ Park, Newcastle, on Tuesday, May 6.
The hectic end of season programme continues two days later on Wednesday, April 23, when they are at home to the first division’s most improved side, Guisborough Town, who are enjoying a tremendous season and currently sit in fourth place.
The North Yorkshire side were 3-1 winners when the teams met at Guisborough in December and will have had the benefit of a free week ahead of this game, whereas it will be Whitley’s third in six days.
The kick-off at Hillheads on Wednesday evening is at 7.45pm.