This coming Saturday sees the biggest match in Morpeth Town FC’s 132-year history.
The team will take on Bowers and Pitsea at Craik Park in the semi-final second leg of the FA Vase, with the winners going to Wembley – the national stadium for football in England.
It is all to play for as the first leg in Essex finished 2-2.
Club officials have been in the town centre to promote the game this week and they are expecting Morpeth’s largest ever attendance.
It will also be a great occasion for the stalwarts and chairman Ken Beattie paid tribute to some of them.
He said: “Getting to the semi-finals of the FA Vase is the culmination of the years of hard work and dedication put into the club by numerous volunteers, many of whom have given decades of their own free time to come and give support to a club that would not have survived without them.
“These volunteers are numerous, but I believe special mention should be given to those past and present who have allowed us to get to where we are today with a set up and team that sees us one match from Wembley.
“The first names to mention are Ralph Craik and his father before him, who collectively together gave over 80 years service of to the club.
“Other significant names that come immediately to mind are Jimmy Kidd, Ron Griffiths, Bill Holian, Billy Smith and Margaret Smith. More recently, names that stick out are Don Carmen, Brian Turnbull and Jim Smith.
“Don, for example, has given in excess of 50 years to the club, working every day on the ground preparing and marking the pitch and keeping the stadium in order. Without Don Carmen, this club would not be here.
Speaking about the game itself, Mr Beattie added: “It has to be said that it is of huge importance to the club, not only to signify the contributions made by the aforementioned people but also to the benefit the club will receive going forward interns of publicity and prestige.
“Over the past 10 years, the Ebac Northern League has dominated the FA Vase competition, with the league having eight winners in that period.
“There is consequently great expectations put in the club from within the North East football fraternity and we are desperate not to let anyone down and in particular all the supporters we have in Morpeth and the surrounding area.
“With respect to our opponents on Saturday, I can say they have some really nice people within the club and we were really treated well last week at their temporary headquarters of Concord Rangers FC on Canvey Island. “They have a good team who work very hard and the match should be an excellent one, especially for the neutral. Not so good, however, for the committed with the heart taking a pounding from the no doubt extreme tense situation that will prevail.
“We have been there before, however, during this great campaign having defeated on the way fellow Northern League teams North Shields, who are the current holders, and South Shields FC on penalties.
“Moving forward, the club is going really well off the field and the potential of working closely with the Juniors is really exciting.
“There is no doubt that together we can become one of the leading non-league clubs in the North East for many years to come.”
In the first leg, Sean Taylor and Michael Chilton had given the Highwaymen a two-goal lead at half-time.
After getting a goal back soon after the midway point of the second half, Bowers and Pitsea scored a late equaliser to make it 2-2 at full time.
But Morpeth Town manager Nick Gray was still upbeat after the game and he is confident that his side can get through to the final, where they would face Hereford or Salisbury FC.
He said: “We would have taken a draw before the game started, so I’m not disappointed. We played some great football, scored two excellent goals and we were unlucky not to get a penalty.
“It has been a long season, but we’ve got the quality to push on and put in a good performance in the second leg. We’re quietly confident that we can win the tie.
“We had a great attendance for the quarter final game at Craik Park against Bristol Manor Farm and hopefully there will be more than 1,000 people there on Saturday.
“To win at home in front of hundreds of Morpeth fans to get to Wembley, you couldn’t ask for more than that!”
Joint manager Dave Malone added: “We go into the match confident we can get the desired result in the knowledge that it will be a tough match.
“One of the biggest problems for us is picking the side and subs as we have such a talented squad with so many good players. Let’s hope we pick a side that can do the job and repay the support we have been given over this season’s campaign.”
Advance tickets are on sale from Craik Park today and tomorrow between 10am and 4pm. Kick-off is 3pm.
People can pay at the turnstile on the day, but those coming along are asked to do so in good time. They are also advised to get to the ground on foot – or by a combination of bus to Kirkhill and on foot – if possible, or alternatively get dropped off by car.