WHITLEY Bay are back on the FA Cup trail this weekend in the first of a double header against local rivals Bedlington Terriers.
The preliminary round tie of the world’s most famous cup competition sees Whitley facing a tricky task against one of the favourites for the Ebac Northern League title with the Terriers having brought in a number of experienced players from higher level clubs during the close season.
This is the first time the clubs have met in the FA Cup, but in league games, Whitley have had the edge in recent years, although last season the Terriers completed a rare double thanks to a 2-1 victory at Hillheads in March following a comprehensive 4-0 win at Welfare Park back in November.
Both sides recorded 2-1 wins in the FA Cup extra preliminary round, with Bedlington overcoming Morpeth Town while Whitley won at Bridlington.
Both sides also won their opening day league games on Saturday, Bedlington recording an impressive 6-2 win over Durham City.
The good news for Whitley is that Craig McFarlane returns to the side having completed his three-match suspension, although Callum Anderson will have to sit out another two games.
David Coulson has been regaining match fitness in the Reserves and may be considered for this game. Denver Morris is unavailable but Chris Fawcett who missed the Billingham Town game is back from holiday.
If the game ends in a draw after 90 minutes, the replay will take place at Welfare Park on Wednesday evening.
The reward for the winners is a home tie in the first qualifying round against either Bishop Auckland or Esh Winning.
Coincidentally, Whitley will face Bedlington at Hillheads twice in a week as the clubs meet in a league fixture on Saturday, September 1. This is a similar situation to last season when Whitley met Marske United twice in a week, also in the FA Cup Preliminary Round and in the league. Whitley won both of those games and a similar outcome this year against much tougher opponents would be an excellent achievement.