JUST two games away from another trip to Wembley, Whitley Bay FC face their longest journey of the season this weekend when they travel to the Dorset coast to play Poole Town in the first leg of their FA Vase semi-final.
With a record breaking third successive win now tantalisingly close, Bay will be hoping their experience of a fourth consecutive last four appearance can be a significant factor.
Poole are defending champions of the Wessex League and their 3-0 win at leaders and only serious rivals Winchester City on Saturday sees them hot favourites to lift the title once again.
In the fifth round of the Vase they came back from two goals down to beat Whitley’s Northern League rivals Spennymoor Town.
And they will be out for revenge after being one of the Bay’s victims in last season’s competition, going down 3-1 at Hillheads when Paul Chow’s late goal sealed Whitley’s hard earned fourth round victory.
Whitley have watched Poole in recent weeks and have learned enough to know that they will be tough opponents.
However, the holders go into the game on a superb winning run of 14 games and with confidence high.
Whitley will probably be without the injured Callum Anderson on Saturday but should otherwise have a full strength squad to select from.
The availability of David Coulson following his serious cruciate injury in last year’s semi-final at Barwell is a huge boost.
The team will travel to Dorset on Friday with upwards of 200 fans setting off on the long journey by coach and various other means early on Saturday morning.
In their previous successful semi-final ties, Whitley have drawn the away leg and a similar outcome on Saturday would be a good result.
While Poole are hoping for a capacity 2,000 crowd at their Tatnum ground, Whitley will be anticipating a figure close to 3,000 for the return leg on Saturday week.
Whitley’s unbeaten run in the FA Vase now amounts to a remarkable 23 games, since the semi-final first leg defeat at Lowestoft in 2008.
Maintaining that unbeaten sequence this weekend will see Ian Chandler’s men edging closer still to a third successive appearance at Wembley.