FOR the first time ever the FA Cup provides the opening competitive game of the football season for Northern League clubs.
This Saturday’s extra preliminary round ties are being played a week earlier than they have been in the past.
Whitley Bay are on their travels having been drawn away to Bridlington Town.
And the two sides have recent history.
They met in the third round of last season’s FA Vase competition at Hillheads with the home side going through with a resounding 5-1 win.
The sides have also met in the FA Cup, back in 2005, when Whitley won a replay in the preliminary round after the first game at Bridlington had ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Yorkshiremen, who finished second in the Northern Counties East League last season, will be keen to avenge those previous defeats by Whitley, but Bay manager Ian Chandler will be equally determined to get the new season off to a good start.
The last two pre-season friendlies brought mixed fortunes for Chandler’s side, with a 2-0 defeat by Ryhope CW last Tuesday being the only loss of the seven-game pre-season programme.
Saturday’s scheduled friendly against Oadby Town was cancelled at short notice by the Leicester side, but fortunately Jarrow Roofing stepped in to provide the opposition at Hillheads, with Whitley running out comfortable 5-2 winners.
The pre-season programme has seen a number of young players, including several from the reserves, making a favourable impression alongside new signings Lee Owens, Denver Morris, Daryll Donnelly and James Fairley.
Former Hillheads favourite Chris Moore is also back in the squad but still lacking match fitness, his appearance in the Jarrow Roofing game being his first since surgery.
Two coach loads of Bay fans will be making the trip to the Yorkshire coast to support the team at Bridlington in the hope of cheering their side into the next round and a home tie against either Bedlington Terriers or Morpeth Town.
There are still a few seats available on the supporters’ club coach and any fans wishing to book a seat should contact the club at Hillheads as soon as possible.
Should Saturday’s game end in a draw, the replay would take place at Hillheads on Tuesday evening.