WHITLEY Bay FC manager Ian Chandler could not hide his delight on Saturday afternoon after his side had secured a third visit to Wembley in as many years.
The 3-1 win at Hillheads over Poole Town gave the Seahorses a 5-2 aggregate victory and a place in the FA Vase final against Coalville Town on Sunday, May 8.
Chandler said for those who have missed out in previous years, and the new players he has brought in since the club retained the trophy last season, it was a chance to fulfil their dreams.
“Some of the lads missed out a couple of years back so it is pleasing for them to get there, and then and then we have brought in three or four new lads, and I am just over the moon for them,” he said.
Despite going into Saturday’s semi-final second leg with a 2-1 advantage, Bay once again had to come from behind.
In front of a crowd of almost 3,000, the tie was level after only eight minutes when the visitors from Dorset equalised through Dave Sturgess.
But never a team to let a one goal deficit get in the way of a result, Whitley Bay gradually settled into the game and a tactical change from the manager prompted the comeback spectators have become so used to seeing.
Chandler said: “It was typical Whitley Bay, we looked a bit nervy and did not get to grips with the conditions at first, and the big lads for them caused a little bit of trouble.
“I think the turning point was changing Lee Kerr and Paul Robinson.
“Paul held the ball and kept the ball, and was in and around their defenders and Lee was fantastic in midfield, so I was pleased with that change.
Moving Robinson into the forward line with Kerr dropping back into a midfield role benefited one player in particular – Paul Chow.
The club’s top scorer continued his record of scoring in every round so far this season with a stunning hat-trick.
And the manager felt Chow’s return was a perfect response to the banter thrown at him by the Poole fans in the first leg meeting
“Paul Chow put three in the net, just to put them right on what they said last week when they called him a donkey and said he couldn’t finish a Sunday dinner never mind a goal, but, that’s what Chowy does.”
Bay’s FA Vase final opponents Coalville Town booked their place at Wembley with a 3-2 win at Kings Lynn, completing a comprehensive 6-2 aggregate victory.
n Match report – page 87