Stelrad Minor Cup Final Preview
NFA STELRAD MINOR CUP FINAL
Newcastle University A v. North Shields Community Christians
Both the Students and the Community Christians raised a few eyebrows with their dramatic semi-final victories over the highest-ranked sides left in the competition.
The Uni A had Chris Pearson on target in their 1-1 draw with last season’s finalists Newcastle East End and they held their nerve to win a penalty shoot-out while the Christian’s Matthew Agar sparked the celebrations as he lobbed in a spectacular late winner against Willington Quay Saints.
With their opponents both just outside the promotion places in the Northern Alliance First Division, their progression to the Final could be regarded as something of a surprise in some circles.
But North Shields have impressed in both National and County Cups in recent seasons and the Students have long produced sides that have done well in the NFA competitions.
The University were beaten by Whitley Bay in the 1968 Senior Cup final and have lifted the 1950 Minor Cup (as King’s College), the 1966 Amateur Cup and the 2018 and 2019 Benevolent Bowls. Although the senior side competes in the Northern League these days, the A team have been a welcome addition to the Northern Alliance Second Division as they look to continue that proud tradition.
“I challenged the players to get as far as they could in the Stelrad Minor Cup and to get to the final is a great achievement - especially as we’ve beaten some very good teams on the way,” said manager Andy Jarman.
“When we beat a very well-organised Wideopen team in the last 16 and then North Sunderland, who we’ve had plenty battles with in the last two seasons, in the quarter final I started to dream a bit but knew Newcastle East End in the semi -final would be a difficult match,” he admitted.
“The semi-final was a tight affair and we took the lead in the second half, but we just couldn’t get the second goal to kill the game off and Newcastle East End kept pushing and scored a late penalty to take it a penalty shootout. We’d been practising penalties in training plus our goalkeeper made two great saves which took the shootout our way.”
“We are all really looking forward to the final. For a lot of our lads it’s their last year at University so getting to a final is a great way to finish. I won’t take the opposition lightly and will be doing my homework as they’ve beaten some very good teams on the way to the final,” said Andy.
North Shields Community Christians are the first side from the North East Christian Fellowship League to ever reach an NFA Cup final and they’ve done it on merit, taking some impressive scalps along the way.
Manager Dan Baxter summed up the feeling at the club when he stated that: “At the start of the season I am sure most people would have had their predictions of who would contest the Minor Cup final this season - I don’t think many would have had us down and they would have got long odds!”
“We are absolutely delighted and honoured to be taking part in the Stelrad Minor Cup final, getting the opportunity to play at Whitley Park in front of a big crowd is the stuff of dreams. We will be proudly representing the North East Christian Fellowship League in the final; quite often over the years we’ve been automatically written off by many opponents for the sole reason that we don’t play Saturday afternoon football in the Alliance,” continued Dan.
“Our lads in the semi-final fought like lions on the day against a very good Willington Quay side, we had to remain organised and focused. The scenes when our forward Matthew Agar chipped the Willington Quay keeper from 35 yards with three minutes to go will long live in the memory of everyone involved with our club.”
“Tremendous credit must go to all our players for this achievement, they deserved that moment as the reward for being the best set of lads you could wish to manage. Our social media accounts went into meltdown after the Willington Quay game with so many people contacting the club offering their congratulations and wishing us well in the final.,” he said.
“This final is going to be incredibly tough against a young and vibrant Newcastle Uni A side who have again done very well this season, we will be making sure that we do our homework before the game.”
“We will be taking the same approach that we’ve had during the tournament, giving 100% on the pitch and focusing on our game and seeing where this takes us. Our lads gave their best Dan Burn quote of ‘We’re off to get our suits measured!’ and we’re looking forward to seeing many of you there.”
NFA Vice President Derek Booth extended warm congratulations to both clubs on their achievement and welcomed them, the officials, supporters and sponsors to Whitley Park for the Stelrad Minor Cup final.
“Newcastle University A are members of the Northern Football Alliance League Second Division and are in the hunt for promotion to the First Division this season,” said Derek.
“Their opponents, North Shields Community Christians, are members of the North East Christian Fellowship League and are also having a successful season.”
“Both teams have excelled in the Stelrad Minor Cup in reaching the final by being successful over teams playing at a higher level in previous rounds of the Competition. Everyone is looking forward to a competitive final.”
ROUTE TO THE FINAL
Newcastle University A
First Round Newcastle Independent Cabrito 3 Newcastle Uni A 5
Second Round Newcastle Chemfica Amateurs 1 Newcastle Uni A 4
Third Round Eden Blyth FC v. Newcastle Uni A (away walkover)
Fourth Round Newcastle Uni A 2 Wideopen 0
Quarter Finals Newcastle Uni A 3 North Sunderland 2
Semi Finals Newcastle Uni A 1 Newcastle East End 1 (Uni A won 4-1 on penalties)
North Shields Community Christians
First Round Bye
Second Round North Shields CC 12 Newcastle West End Tigers 1
Third Round Gosforth Bohemians Reserves 0 North Shields CC 1
Fourth Round North Shields CC 2 Rothbury 0
Quarter Finals Gosforth Bohemians Development 1 North Shields CC 8
Semi Finals North Shields CC 3 Willington Quay Saints 2
Final at Whitley Park (Headquarters of the Northumberland FA) on Friday 5th May 2023, kick-off 7.00pm.