Newton Aycliffe’s Northern League side face an FA Vase fourth round tie at home to Marske United at Moore Lane Park this weekend.
The Newtonians finally got their third round clash with Atherton Collieries played at Durham this week – with Peter Dixon’s side winning 1-0.
Their prize is a last-32 clash with Northern League rivals Marske at Moore Lane on Saturday (3pm kick-off), with the winners travelling to Camberley Town in Surrey as the competition reaches its last 16.
The recent appalling wet weather has prevented progress being made in the competition.
With Moore Lane Park remaining waterlogged this week the Club took the bold decision to play a home match away from Aycliffe.
With most pitches in the area being in a similar condition it is not easy to find an alternative which will satisfy the FA’s requirements for Vase matches.
However, the artificial surface of New Ferens Park in Durham City fitted the bill & Tuesday’s game was moved at very short notice.
Aycliffe had not played since the week before Christmas but started positively against a strong Atherton side.
During the first 20 minutes both sides had chances but the shooting lacked accuracy with several shots blasted over the bar.
On the half-hour Atherton came close to taking the lead but were denied by an offside flag from the Assistant Referee.
The objections from the small but vociferous away supporters suggested they were not impressed with the decision. In the following minutes Aycliffe began to show more promise & their attacking play to caused problems for the Atherton defence but they went into the break with nothing to show for their efforts.
The “home” side began the second half well & came close to scoring just a minute after the restart. Brian Close’s shot may have been heading goalwards but a deflection off the Referee’s head denied the former Middlesbrough midfielder his second goal of the season.
The only goal of the game came after 55 minutes. Matty Moffat received the ball near the half-way line and played an excellent pass through to Stuart Banks who drove forward & placed a low shot into the far corner beyond the Atherton keeper’s reach.
For the last half hour Aycliffe had to withstand a determined effort from their opponents to draw level.
They were not helped when central defender Alex Kitchen was shown a straight red card with 16 minutes remaining.
Dixon shuffled his pack with forward Dennis Knight taken off for Grant Hickman who took Kitchen’s place in the centre of the Aycliffe defence.
With a numerical advantage Atherton pressed forward but were unable to break through.
Their last attempt being the best, after 5 minutes of injury time, Aycliffe keeper James Winter was called on to make an excellent high save, preserving the lead.
The final whistle brought relief and joy to those Aycliffe fans who had made a 15-mile journey to watch a home match.
The side worked hard for the win and know that the next round will bring another tough challenge from Markse United.
Aycliffe beat the League Champions 2-1 at Moore Lane Park on the opening day of the season. A repeat result would bring a 540-mile round trip to Camberley Town at the end of January.
Aycliffe are enjoying their most successful season ever, and if you are a lapsed supporter or a newcomer to non-league football why not get yourself along to Moore Lane to lend your support.