By Jon Tait

North Shields CC v. Willington Quay Saints

History-makers North Shields Community Christians are the first club from the North-East Christian Fellowship League to take their place the last four of a County Cup – but they’ll be determined to go even one better and reach the final.

Visitors Willington Quay Saints have done their homework and scouted a recent League game though manager Dan Baxter admitted: “We played absolutely rotten on the day so I hope they have that impression of us going into the semi-final.”

Shields were 8-1 winners at Gosforth Bohemians Development in the quarter finals and Dan said that the win was as convincing as the scoreline suggests.

“Our experience and quality showed after a lively start from a young Gosforth side, particularly in the second half it was all one-way traffic,” he said.

“We are delighted to reach the semi-final and we know that any opposition who reach this stage of the competition will be of a high standard - on social media we were having some banter with the other clubs to who we would draw and out the hat came Willington Quay Saints at home. We know that all remaining clubs would be looking at us as the team to draw as we don’t play in the Northern Alliance.”

The Community Christians are well aware of the challenge that facing the Alliance First Division side poses and they are looking forward to facing them on the pitch.

“This will be a real stern test for our lads against a team who haven’t lost a game since the third week in October - we have played Willington Quay once before in a pre-season friendly in July 2021 and gained a credible 2-2 draw.”

“We are expecting to face a strong physical side who have clearly demonstrated great quality this season and I know both clubs will be looking at each other’s results and progress over the last few years ahead of the game,” continued Dan.

“We certainly go into the game as massive underdogs and we will give everything on the day to progress into the final. Our lads have tremendous quality and as shown over the last few years on our day we can certainly go toe to toe with most teams as our results have shown.”

“Anything can happen in a game of football and we will be looking to our strong performance against Rothbury earlier in the competition as a bench mark for the standards we need to hit versus Willington Quay.”

The Saints are no strangers to the big stage and this will be their third appearance in the final four of the Stelrad Minor Cup, and after winning one and losing one they know all about the highs and lows of the competition.

A 3-1 win at fellow Alliance Division One side Hexham in the quarter finals booked their place and Chris Lowes at the club admitted it was ‘one of the most difficult draws we could have been handed against a very talented young side.’

“Just like the previous round defender Tony Lucas put us ahead with a powerful header from captain Steve McCabe’s corner before Joe Connor doubled our lead scoring from the spot after he was brought down. Hexham pulled one back just before half time through Bradley Lowes but another penalty in the second half from Connor sealed our spot in the semi-final for only the third time ever,” said Chris.

“That was our twentieth meeting with Hexham over the years but our meeting with semi-final opponents North Shields Community Christians FC will be the first competitive meeting between the sides.”

Despite that fact the Saints are taking nothing for granted and have poured over the form book in preparation.

“The Christians have been serial trophy winners in their Division and just had an unbelievable run of form of 45 wins in 46 ended in early February, and they are notorious for knocking out higher ranked sides in the Minor Cup including a brilliant 2-0 win over a quality Rothbury FC side in this season’s competition which has saw them score 23 goals in their 4 games so far,” Chris continued.

“A chance to reach our second ever Minor Cup Final awaits us with joint managers Gareth Pugh and Mark Henderson looking to carry our excellent recent run of form into the game and hopefully into their first cup final as managers.”


Newcastle Uni A v Newcastle East End

The Students of the Northern Alliance Second Division have enjoyed a fantastic run in this season’s competition and won’t want to see it end – despite being drawn against the highest-ranked side and last season’s beaten finalists.

The Uni were 3-2 winners over Alliance Amateur Cup winners North Sunderland in the quarter finals and boss Andy Jarman was delighted to get through against the Fishermen.

“We always knew North Sunderland would be tough opposition as we’ve had some tight matches against them this and last season and knew this would be no different.”

“Even at 3-0 up I warned the players that North Sunderland wouldn’t go away and when they pulled it back to 3-2 the last few minutes seem to take forever until the final whistle went,” he admitted.

“We’ll need to prepare well for Newcastle East End in the semi-final good opposition doing well in the league above.”

East End are in fifth spot in the Alliance First Division, just ahead of Willington Quay Saints, and were 2-0 winners at Heaton Stannington A in the quarter finals.

The Combination Cup finalists will be keen to put some silverware in the cabinet and after the heartache of losing out on penalties in the 2021/22 Stelrad Minor Cup final to AFC Newbiggin, will feel that they have unfinished business in the competition.

Ties are scheduled to be played Saturday 11th March 2023, kick-off 1.30pm.