Sunderland RCA hope for big backing in FA Vase showdown against Bristol Manor Farm

Sunderland RCA's Stephen Callen (red) takes on Sleaford in the FA Vase fourth round. Picture by Tim Richardson
Sunderland RCA's Stephen Callen (red) takes on Sleaford in the FA Vase fourth round. Picture by Tim Richardson
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Sunderland RCA are hoping that all roads will lead to Meadow Park tomorrow – and make it the biggest gate in the club’s history.

Bristol Manor Farm descend on Wearside for a fifth round FA Vase tie and RCA manager Martin Swales can’t wait to get started.

He said: “No Sunderland side has ever played in the final at Wembley and we are now just four games away.

“Tomorrow it’s the last 16, then the quarter-finals followed by the semis, which are played over two legs, so what an incentive there is for the lads.”

With Sunderland AFC having no game, RCA are expecting by far their biggest crowd of the season for the eagerly-awaited match.

“It would be great to have a big following and for the fans to cheer us on,” enthused Swales.

“Home advantage, with the crowd behind you, can be like having a 12th player, so we really need everyone on board.”

Their Bristol opponents –top of the Western League’s Premier Division – score a lot of goals and Swales is under no illusion as to the size of the task tomorrow, adding: “The lads will need to put a shift in and work hard both on and off the ball, but I know every man-jack of them will give 100 per cent.”

Unfortunately, four players miss out for RCA.

Jack Pounder is ineligible, having played for neighbours Ryhope CW in a previous round, Liam Hatch, who scored in last week’s win over Sleaford, and James Armstrong are both injured, while Luke Richardson is also unavailable.

Dunston UTS know all about playing at Wembley. They defeated West Auckland in the 2012 final and manager Billy Irwin would love another trip to the capital.

The Tynesiders set off today for their 660-mile round trip to play Ashford United in Kent and Irwin cannot name Mattie Fisher (Washington), Steve Bowey (Newcastle Benfield) and Gary Shaw (Durham City) who are cup-tied.

“We go there confident despite having to play on a 3G pitch. Fortunately, we’ve had three matches on all-weather surfaces this season, so it might not be such a big disadvantage,” declared Irwin.

Morpeth Town manager Nick Gray is returning from holiday early for his side’s re-scheduled tie against North Shields at Craik Park.

He flies into Edinburgh tomorrow morning and will then make his way to the ground.

Speaking from France, he said: “When I booked the break, I didn’t know we would be in the Vase, but I’m more than happy to come back early.”

The Northumbrians will hand a Vase debut to Mateusz Halambiec, who scored twice when he made his first Northern League appearance, but David Hiftle is ruled out with a broken wrist.

Holders North Shields are without Brad Brooking, who is ineligible, having played for Durham City in an earlier round, but Lee Mason looks set to play his first game following a move from Whitby Town.

Newton Aycliffe face a long trip to Surrey club Camberley Town, who are fourth in the Combined Counties League.