Newcastle East End v Stobswood Welfare
Stephen Gibbard knows what it takes to lift the NFA Stelrad Minor Cup.
The veteran Stobswood Welfare striker spends a lot of his time on the bench these days – he is 47 after all – but he also dedicates hours to coaching in both junior and women’s football.
He is, in short, the kind of player that you want around the dressing room.
Gibby has had his hands on the Stelrad Minor Cup trophy as both a player and a manager during his time in the game and has exactly the kind of experience that Welfare boss Stefan Townsley will look to draw upon ahead of their tough trip to Newcastle East End in Round Four.
When you consider that Stephen’s father Ronnie has also lifted the silverware when Stobswood last won the competition back in 1976, then you’re dealing with a real Northumberland football dynasty.
“It’s going well at Stobswood. Stef’s doing a grand job getting the team to the top of the League so all’s going well on that part,” said Gibbard.
“We’ve actually got three Minor Cup winners who were in the same team as me when I managed Amble in Josh Hay, Ross Gair and Ross Stewart, so it’s good.”
“Newcastle East End is a tough draw. It’s probably the hardest draw we could get. We played them away a few weeks ago and won 4-3 but it was a battle, a real big battle, which is what you want.”
“I know Tim Hutchinson from East End who is absolutely the life blood and soul of local football so I usually get a good bit of banter with him because usually he works in an office I work from so I catch up with him on numerous occasions,” he continued.
“The lads are great and they want to push for the Alliance Premier League. Stelrad Minor Cup-wise, you want to get as far as you can and we’ll just approach the game against East End like we approach every one – we want to win every game, and we want to work hard.”
“I’m just praying that I’m not on the bench like the last round because I came on for the last 20 minutes and the game does move a little bit quicker now,” he laughed.
“Stobswood are starting to come up a little bit in the world, our facilities are up, things are going well on the outside, the football is great and we’ve got a good nucleus of a team. What I think the blueprint is, if I’m honest, is being like Wallington because they have a fantastic little set-up and they’ve always coped in the Premier Division – they’ve never dropped below the Premier for a long time and that’s what it’s all about, working hard on and off the pitch.”
“Obviously I’ve got different responsibilities in different areas and will keep going at that. Stef’s handling the occasions well, doing really well as a manager so I’m just waiting to get a pint in after a game once in a while which you’ve got to try and do. East End is a hard draw but we’ll look forward to it and put the hard work in,” he concluded.
Anyone who has ever taken a penalty will tell you how high-pressured the situation can be; imagine cranking that up to be the 24th taker in a Stelrad Minor Cup Final at Whitley Park?
That’s the position the East End lads found themselves in last season as they just missed out to AFC Newbiggin.
When you’ve come that close to glory it can be hard to take and the Walker Riverside outfit will be keen to progress from what is probably the pick of the fourth-round draw as the two Northern Alliance Division One sides battle it out for a place in the last eight.
East End were 3-0 winners over Great Park in round two and beat Cullercoats 7-1 to reach this stage.
Ponteland United Reserves v Willington Quay Saints
Northern Alliance Division One Saints will be favourites on paper for their trip to Second Division high-flyers Ponteland United Reserves – but you have to take into account the dark January weather, the likelihood of a heavy pitch and the magic of the Cup as factors that will all play a part in making this a tricky tie for the High Flatworth men.
“In round two we overcame the Division Three leaders Benton FC who came into the game unbeaten in their opening eight games. A Sean Conway overhead kick and a goal from Ryan Ferrier had us 2-1 up before Ferrier put one in the wrong net for 2-2, he however redeemed himself by scoring the winner for an unofficial hat trick as we progressed 3-2,” said Saints’ Chris Lowes.
“Round three was a special day for us as we played our 700th game as a club and we celebrated with a win as we saw off a very good West Moor & Jesmond side as two of the highest ranked teams in the competition met.”
“Elliot Mitchell headed us ahead before Ben McDermott nodded home at the back post to make it 2, Myles Ferraro made it 2-1 just after half time and minutes later our captain Steve McCabe saw red. 10-man Saints added a bit of breathing space when Sean Conway smashed home with 20 minutes left scoring in his 7th game in a row, Jesmond grabbed a last gasp consolation goal through Kyle Gilmour but the Quay went through with another 3-2 scoreline.”
“Another very tough tie lies ahead in round four as we travel to Ponteland Utd Reserves.”
Willington Quay were narrowly beaten finalists in the Stelrad Minor Cup in 2006/07, reached the semi-finals in 2011/12 and were quarter finalists in 2007/08, so have some real pedigree in the competition.
United’s Reserves secured a 5-1 success at Forest Hall Celtic in round two and then disposed of Cramlington Town Independent 7-1 so pose a significant goal threat.
Stocksfield v Gosforth Bohemians Development
The Bohs first team went out at Hexham in round two and their reserves at North Shields Community Christians in round three leaving the Development side, who play in the Northeast Combination League, to fly the flag for Newcastle’s oldest amateur club.
The bulk of the Development team came up from the club’s u17s last season and it is encouraging to see so many young sides making progress in the prestigious competition.
With a 5-4 win at Berwick Town in round one followed by walkovers against both Newcastle Blue Star u23 and Burradon Juniors in rounds two and three, Bohs have had some fortune on their side during their run.
Times have proved quite difficult football-wise along the Tyne Valley in recent years and Stocksfield are just finding their feet again in the Third Division of the Northern Alliance.
Club secretary Tina McKeown stated that their previous ties have proved very competitive and they were looking forward to welcoming Bohs to their picturesque Cricket Club ground.
“Stocksfield are struggling in the league so far building a new team and the Stelrad Minor Cup has been a great, positive distraction.”
“Referees and opponents have been of a high standard and the Cup games have been played in the good spirit of the competition,” said Tina.
The Griffins have drawn twice with the Bohs reserves this season – 0-0 in the League in 4-4 in the Neville Cowie Cup – so the visit of the Development side should provide an open and exciting encounter.
North Shields Community Christians v Rothbury
North Shields Community Christian’s Dan Baxter says that the North East Christian Fellowship side’s tie against Alliance First Division Rothbury ‘will be a fantastic challenge against good opposition.’
“Over the last couple of years our team reputation has grown and we have progressed well in county and national competitions. We know in this game we will be the underdogs but we will try our very best to get to the next round of the competition,” he said.
North Shields CC were semi-finalists in the National Christian Cup in 2019/20, reached in the quarter finals of the Stelrad Minor Cup in 20/21 and have claimed a number of Northern Alliance scalps in the competition in recent seasons.
Rothbury player/manager Tom Macpherson spent years marshaling the back line at Alnwick Town in the Northern League and is too long in the tooth to underplay the threat that the hosts possess.
The Hillmen’s best performances in the Stelrad Minor Cup have seen them reach the quarter-finals in 2018/19, 1992/93,1975/76 and 1974/75, so Macpherson will be keen to at least emulate that achievement and knows full well his side will have to be at their very best to achieve that.
“I think we’ve been given a tricky draw,” said Macpherson.
“NSCC are unbeaten so far this season and swept up in their respective league last year so they are obviously a very competitive team. We will be going there full of respect for our opponents and mindful of their dangers.”
“We haven’t been at our best in this competition so far this season; we got a reprieve following the expunged game against Red House Farm and then battled it out against Ellington so hopefully that stroke of luck is a good omen.”
New Hartley Juniors v Hexham
You can’t mention New Hartley Juniors without thinking about former Arsenal and Liverpool ace Ray Kennedy, who started out there.
The u18s side play their football in the Durham County Youth League and had been immensely successful in the NFA Junior Cup over the years.
When that competition was disbanded due to a lack of teams, New Hartley entered the Stelrad Minor Cup.
“Obviously we are restricted as all our players are under 18,” said John Malley from the club.
“It’s a bit tougher playing against ‘men’s’ teams but we’ve done well so far beating Cramlington United Reserves and Blyth Town u23s.”
“We now face Hexham in the last 16 which will be another tough contest but it’s great experience for our lads.”
Hexham were Stelrad Minor Cup semi-finalists last season and will be well aware of the potential banana skin that the trip affords them.
The Northern Alliance First Division side have been in top form of late and the Tynedalers will want to continue that in the Cup.
“So far we’ve had two good wins in the competition - we came from behind twice against fellow Division One opposition Gosforth as we won 3-2. In the last round we were 1-0 down at half time to a well organised Westerhope United, before turning the tie around and running out comfortable 6-1 winners,” said manager Martin Lowes.
“We know very little about our next opponents, New Hartley Juniors U18s, but it’ll be a tough tie away from home. If my players show the same character and belief they have in recent weeks then, hopefully, that will land us a spot in the Quarter Finals.”
Heaton Stannington A v Alnwick Town Development
Alnwick Town Development squad gaffer Stephen Patterson says that everyone involved with the black and white’s young guns are looking forward to their trip to Grounsell Park.
“We are keen to continue our run as far as possible,” he said.
“We produced a very good performance in round two against rivals Amble to get through and hit six during our win in round three so we are confident we can take that momentum into what will be a challenge against Heaton Stannington A.”
“The game will provide a test of how far we have come on top of a positive league campaign to date.”
Teams from the Ducal town have lifted the Minor Cup in 1903/04 and 1936/37 as well as providing finalists in 1889/90, 1892/93, 1904/05 and 1932/33.
The Stan’s A side play in Division Two of the Northern Alliance, the division above their opponents, and were 2-1 winners over Blyth Rangers in the third round with goals from Niall Boothroyd and Chris Marshall.
This was proceeded by a 5-0 success at Benton Reserves in round two.
“After benefitting from having home advantage as we came through a tough tie against 2020/21’s beaten finalists in the previous round, we are delighted to have secured another home draw and we are looking forward to a first meeting with another team which is the product of prominent clubs in the North-East investing in the next generation of promising footballers,” said manager – and proud new dad – Russell Ward.
“We are however under no illusion that we are sure to face another tough tie as we did with Blyth Rangers in the last round.”
North Shields Athletic Reserves v North Sunderland
Seahouses club North Sunderland have a long tradition in Northumberland football and Roderick MacKenzie from the fishing village held influential roles in the County FA, the local Leagues and as a director of Newcastle United during the early development of the game in the area.
The Northern Alliance Division Two outfit have a fantastic set up at their Seafield Park ground and boss Alan MacFarlane hopes that the black and whites can continue their form in the competition.
“As a Northumbrian club we always like to have a decent run in the Stelrad Minor Cup and try and follow the likes of Amble, Shilbottle and more recently AFC Newbiggin in actually winning the competition,” he said.
“We’ve had two very good performances so far in the Stelrad Minor Cup this season in dominating Swarland in a 3-0 win and putting six past Blyth Rangers Seniors Reserves. We’ve got our trip to North Shields Athletic Reserves in the last 16 so if we get past them and the draw is kind to us who knows what can happen!”
Northeast Combination side Athletic Reserves will be keen to put the skids on that run and a club official said: “We are excited for the challenge of facing tough opposition a few divisions above us. It’s a good platform to show what we’re really about and the level we know we can perform at. It’s also always nice to get a home tie.”
“We feel we have performed well in the competition thus far beating what was in front of us. Newcastle Blue Star 18s was a tough match and our most competitive game in a few weeks. We feel we can do well in the competition but we are keeping our heads and taking each game as it comes.”
Newcastle University A v Wideopen
The two sides are no strangers to each other as they both ply their trade in the Northern Alliance Second Division.
The Student’s Andy Jarman said: “We’ve had two tough matches against local rivals Newcastle Independent Cabrito and Newcastle Chemfica Amateurs and a bye in the last round.”
“We’d like to go as far as possible in the Stelrad Minor Cup but there are lots of good teams left starting with Wideopen which will be a difficult match.”
Jack Desmond has been banging in the goals regularly for the visitors and will want to continue stretching the net in the Cup.
Wideopen had a walkover against North Northumberland League Lowick United in round two and beat Alliance First Division Seaton Burn 5-1 at Lockley Park to book their slot – with dangerman Desmond hitting a late double.
They are hoping to at least equal, if not better, their fabulous run to the quarter-finals of the competition last season.
“We face a tough task against the Uni but it’s a challenge we are relishing after a great win against higher opponents and local rivals Seaton Burn,” said assistant manager Martyn Clark.
“We got to the quarter final stage last year, losing to eventual winners AFC Newbiggin, so we’re looking to try go one better and reach the semis this year. We were able to win the Bill Gardner Trophy last season so the lads are all fully aware of the magic of a cup run.”
Ties are scheduled to be played Saturday 14 January 2023, kick-off 1.30pm.