Chandler facing a selection headache

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WHITLEY Bay FC travel to Dunston UTS on Saturday for what will be their fourth FA Vase quarter-final tie in as many years.

In the 2007-08 season they won 1-0 at Hungerford in Berkshire, then the following year they demolished Biggleswade Town 5-2 at Hillheads, before last year they faced fellow Northern League side Shildon and eventually ran out 5-1 winners after their opponents were reduced to ten men.

To maintain their unbeaten run at this stage of the competition and keep alive their hopes of retaining the Vase for a third successive year they will have to overcome a traditionally tough local rival aiming to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

Whitley could not be going into the game in better form, having won their last nine games and with clean sheets in four of their last five outings.

Performances were inconsistent in first half of the season, but since the turn of the year they have approached the level of the past two years and confidence among the squad is as high as it has been since returning from Wembley last May.

Following their win at Ashington on Friday night, manager Ian Chandler confirmed that there were no new injuries.

“The problem I’ve got is all the lads are starting to perform top notch and I’ll be struggling as to who to leave out of the starting 11.”

Bay are also strengthened by the return to fitness of club captain David Coulson,

Chandler said: “David played 50 minutes against South Shields and should have been playing for the reserves on Saturday only the game was called off.

“He’ll be in the squad at Dunston but I don’t think I’ll be considering him because he needs a couple of games to get his fitness and timing right, and once that is back then he’ll be a real handful.”

Dunston’s preparation for the big game has been hampered by the weather.

They have not played for more than two weeks, and their only game since their fifth round win at Stansted was a 1-0 defeat at Ashington on February 15.

Spectators can pay at the gate on Saturday, and ticket sales have been going well with at least 500 having been bought by Bay fans by last weekend.

Supporters are travelling to the game by a variety of means, with a number of mini buses already fully booked and one party even travelling up the Tyne by ferry from North Shields.

Car parking at the Dunston ground is limited but there is a regular bus service that operates from the Gateshead Interchange to the ground in Wellington Road.

Extra time will be played on Saturday if the scores are level after 90 minutes, and if necessary there will be a replay at Hillheads on Saturday, March 12.

BBC Newcastle will be providing online commentary of the game via its website.

The FA Vase tie marks the start of a series of crucial games for Whitley Bay and results during the month of March could be decisive in their quest for honours.

On Wednesday, March 9, Whitley travel to Shildon for the first time since last season’s Vase quarter-final with the home side currently top of the table and in excellent form having scored more than 80 league goals.

Then the following Saturday, Whitley are due to travel to Newcastle Benfield, the side immediately above them in fourth place – should there be no Vase replay.

Then on Tuesday, March 15, Whitley are back at Dunston, and the following weekend another of the title challengers, Consett, are the visitors to Hillheads.

n Bay beat Colliers – page 92