Whitley prepare for cup tie against Newcastle United Reserves

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Whitley Bay will be expecting their biggest crowd of the season on Monday evening when they welcome Newcastle United Reserves to Hillheads in the semi final of the Techflow Group Northumberland Senior Cup, kick off 7.30pm.

Newcastle were originally drawn to play at home but following discussions between the clubs, the tie was switched to Hillheads.

The game gives the opportunity for Whitley’s players, many of them youngsters, to test themselves against the up and coming full-time professionals of Newcastle’s second string side, some of whom already have Premier League experience.

Former Magpie legend Peter Beardsley will be in charge of the Newcastle side, and in preparation for the game he was among the crowd at Hillheads last week when Whitley Bay took on Crook Town in a Northern League fixture.

For United’s second string, the game at Hillheads follows a 2-1 defeat at Ewood Park by Blackburn Rovers and comes four days ahead of a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool Reserves side.

Whitley will be relishing the occasion while temporary manager Leon Ryan will be hoping to enhance his chances of getting the job on a permanent basis after an encouraging start since taking over the reins from Ian Chandler last month.

While Newcastle will start as clear favourites, Whitley have an excellent record against them, having defeated them twice in this competition during the past ten years, most recently in 2010 when Bay were 3-1 winners at the semi-final stage.

That season they went on to win the cup, beating Ashington in the final at St James’ Park.

The prize awaiting the winners of Monday’s cup tie is a place at St James’ Park against the winners of the Ashington vs Blyth Spartans semi-final, which is due to be played the following evening.

Whitley were finalists last season and the chance to return to St James’ Park is clearly a huge incentive for the Bay squad and in particular the younger players who are new to the side this year.

Monday’s game will, if necessary, go to extra time, but should the sides still be level there will be a replay at a date to be decided.

Turnstiles will be open from 6.30pm and the Seahorse clubhouse will be open before the game, at half-time and after the match.

To reach this stage of the competition, Whitley won an exciting and high scoring game at Alnwick Town 7-3, while Newcastle were 3-1 victors at North Shields.

Ahead of Monday’s big cup tie, Whitley have a Northern League first division game at home to Newton Aycliffe on Saturday, kick off 3pm.

Aycliffe are currently lying in mid-table, just below Whitley, and after a disappointing series of results since Christmas, bounced back last week with a 2-0 victory at Bishop Auckland.

Whitley hope to have up to three new signings available for this game as they look to bolster their squad in the busy run in to the end of the season.