WHITLEY Bay FC’s bid to win the FA Vase for a record-breaking third successive time takes them into new territory on Saturday when they play their first ever game in Kent.
Recent seasons have seen the Seahorses travel to Suffolk, Gloucestershire, Cornwall and Surrey, but in the fourth round of this season’s Carlsberg sponsored competition they travel to Herne Bay, a holiday resort on the north coast of Kent, some 67 miles east of London.
Their opponents are currently leaders of the Kent League, with only one league defeat all season – and that was on the opening day back in August.
But following an FA Cup defeat on the second Saturday of the season, The Bay went 19 matches unbeaten in all competitions until they lost a local cup competition just last weekend.
They went down 3-2 at Beckenham in the Kent Senior Trophy.
Coincidentally, like Whitley, Herne Bay play in blue and white stripes so as at Wembley last May, Whitley will be playing in their yellow away kit.
The match is being billed locally as ‘The battle of the Bays’ with the home side hoping to attract a large crowd to what will be their biggest game for years.
As in every round of the competition, Whitley have had their opponents watched.
On this occasion it has proved a particularly difficult challenge with the clubs being more than 350 miles apart – a round-trip of 700-plus miles.
Having won the competition for the past two seasons, Whitley now have a staggering run of 20 games unbeaten in the FA Vase and they want nothing more than to continue that run all the way to Wembley again.
However, every opposing side will raise their game as they aim to claim the most prized scalp in the competition.
Whitley’s recent form has been inconsistent, but their 7-1 win over AFC Liverpool in the last round was a tremendous confidence booster and if they reproduce that form on Saturday, they must have a good chance of going through to the last 16.
The Whitley team will be preparing for the tie by travelling down to Kent on Friday afternoon and staying overnight ahead of the tie.
Fans are travelling to Herne Bay by a variety of means.
The club is providing coach transport leaving Hillheads at 5.30am on Saturday, but some will be flying down, while others are going by train or car.
Public transport to Kent presents a challenge for those travelling there and back on the day and a number will be staying overnight and returning Sunday.
Unless the game ends in a draw, and there will be extra time if necessary, Whitley will be back at Hillheads on Tuesday evening for a local derby league game against Bedlington Terriers, kick-off 7.30pm.
If the FA Vase game requires a replay, it will take place on Saturday, January 29, and Whitley would be granted permission to postpone the midweek league game.