Whitley Bay look to end a season of mixed fortunes on a high as they make a rare appearance in the Northern League Cup final on Tuesday, May 6.
This year’s game is being staged at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park and kicks-off at 7.15pm.
Whitley will be taking on Marske United in the showpiece fixture, which marks the climax of the Northern League’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
Usually staged at a Northern League ground, this year’s final will give the players a rare opportunity to perform at a Premier League venue thanks to the co-operation of Newcastle United.
While Whitley have won the FA Vase, the Northumberland Senior Cup, Cleator Cup and the Northern League Championship in recent years, the one trophy to have eluded them is the League Cup.
They have made two semi-final appearances in the past five years but the last time they lifted the trophy was way back in 1971 when they defeated North Shields 1-0 at Blyth’s Croft Park.
Their only previous League Cup triumph came in 1965 when they defeated Spennymoor 3-1 in the final.
Marske United, were runners-up in 2001 but have never won the competition.
The two sides have had contrasting fortunes this season, with Whitley recovering strongly in the last two months after a disappointing start while Marske began in tremendous style, winning their first eight games in a 17-match unbeaten run which saw them reach the final qualifying round of the FA Cup. They then suffered a loss of form but have improved in recent weeks.
During a hectic last month of the league season, Whitley have played ten games but manager Leon Ryan has been careful to rotate his squad to avoid fatigue and ensure that everyone is fit and raring to go next Tuesday evening.
Games between the sides this season produced one win each, Marske claiming a narrow 3-2 win in North Yorkshire back in August, while at Hillheads in November, Whitley ran out 5-0 winners with Marske having their goalkeeper sent off in the second half.
With Whitley in mid-table and Marske ending the season in 16th, there is not a lot between the sides and a closely contested final looks likely.
Marske upset the odds in the semi-final with a 4-1 victory at Ashington while Whitley caused a surprise in the third round with victory away to favourites West Auckland.
Several of the Bay squad played for the club in their FA Vase successes at Wembley and also featured at St James’ Park last season in the Northumberland Senior Cup final, so their experience of the big stage could count in their favour.
Club chairman Paul McIlduff has urged the town to get behind the side and turn out in force at St James’ Park on Tuesday.
“I would like to see as many Whitley Bay people as possible supporting our new manager Leon Ryan and his side as they try to win the League Cup for the first time in 43 years,” he said.
“It’s the one piece of silverware we’ve not seen at Hillheads for a long time and it would be a fantastic climax to the season if we could win the trophy.
“In a close game, the extra support from our fans could really lift the team and make all the difference.
“For anyone who has not been to St James’ Park, it’s a chance to get in for a fraction of the normal admission prices.”
Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for concessions, payable at the East Stand turnstiles on the night.
The game must be decided on the night so if necessary there will be extra time and penalties.
Whitley Bay’s route to the final
First Round Willington: (home) 2-0
Second Round: Washington (away) 1-0
Third Round: West Auckland (away) 1-0
Quarter-Final: Bishop Auckland (home) 3-2
Semi-Final: Whitehaven (away) 3-2