WHITLEY Bay find themselves back in FA Carlsberg Vase action this weekend when they welcome South Park FC to Hillheads, with a place in the last 16 at stake.
Winners of the competition for the last three years, Bay go into the tie knowing the majority of the players in the squad helped lift the trophy at Wembley last May, and with some having played in all three finals.
But South Park, who are making the long journey from Surrey, will not be a walk over and come to North Tyneside on the back of a 5-0 league win over Croydon on Saturday.
Craig McFarlane is a major doubt for Bay but Lee Paul Scroggins is likely to appear while keeper Kyle Hayes is expected to return in goal after missing Saturday’s win over Consett.
On Tuesday evening the squad were given a 50-minute run incorporating interval training as the Hillheads pitch was frozen, and the squad will re group tonight (Thursday) for a final training session.
Manager Ian Chandler said: “We will get together on Thursday and play some five-a-side, get everyone relaxed and have a chat about the game on Saturday.
“It’s what we have always done in the past and it seems to work.”
As the players focus their minds on the job ahead, some will be looking to make a return to Wembley, while newer additions to the squad will be going into the game knowing this could be their chance to make it to the home of English football for the first time.
Chandler added: “We have 90 per cent of players who played last year, so we have that consistency.
“But we have the likes of Robbie Dale and Lee Paul Scroggins who haven’t been to Wembley with us and want to go, so they will be up for the game.
“They [South Park] have good players in their squad and it’s important our players turn up on the day.”
As ever with Vase games at Hillheads, the match is expected to draw in a bumper crowd on Saturday, which Chandler is looking forward to seeing.
“The Vase atmosphere is always great, I know a few extra people who are going and I would like to see maybe a 1,000 spectators there,” he said.
Before the game Whitley will be presented with a miniature replica of the Vase to commemorate last year’s success and also, to mark their unique achievement in winning the competition for three consecutive years.
The chairman of the FA Vase committee is travelling to Hillheads to present the club with an illuminated scroll.
The ceremonies are due to take place at 2.30pm and fans are asked to arrive in good time to see the presentations and to avoid last minute congestion.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes, extra time will be played and if there is still no winner the replay will take place the following Saturday.