Morpeth Town preparing for biggest game in their history
Morpeth Town will be hoping to reach the semi-finals of the FA Vase this Saturday after they host Bristol Manor Farm at Craik Park.
The Highwaymen have already made history this season by reaching the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.
They got there by beating Hertfordshire side Berkhamsted on Saturday, February 6, and are now just three games away from a day out at Wembley Stadium.
Western Football League side Bristol Manor Farm stand in their way, they and will make the 622-mile round trip at the weekend looking to beat Northern League opposition for the second straight round after defeating Sunderland RCA 3-2 in round five.
Manor Farm currently sit second in the Western Football league table, having won 15 of their 22 league games this season, losing just three times.
The Farm entered the competition two rounds after the Highwaymen, in the first round proper, defeating Bridport, Lymington Town, Hengrove Athletic, Moneyfields and RCA on their way to the quarter-finals.
Morpeth Town manager Nick Gray is not taking the Northumbrians’ next opponents lightly.
“We’ve done everything we possibly can to prepare,” he said. “We’ve had Bristol Manor Farm watched, and we have been training, but it’s difficult to keep training without games.
“Preparation-wise we’ve done the best we can under the circumstances, with games called off, so it hasn’t been ideal.”
It has been a rough couple of months for the Craik Park outfit, with the weather curtailing their league campaign, meaning months have gone by without a home game for the Highwaymen.
Before the extended period of poor weather, Town sat five points clear at the top of the Northern League.
They now reside in third place, 14 points and seven games behind table-topping Shildon.
Morpeth have played just four games in the last two and a half months, all of those cup games, but Gray believes the motivation is there for Town to continue their historic FA Vase run all the way to London:
“The main thing is keeping the lads motivated, but to be fair, they’ve done that very well themselves,” he said.
“It’s the quarter-final of the FA Vase. You shouldn’t need any motivation for that, really. You shouldn’t be in football if you can’t get up for these types of games.
“Since November, we have had just four tough cup games.
“Now, with the weather getting better, we have plenty of games to use our 23-man squad.” Gray admitted the excitement of a possible trip to the national stadium is in the back of his mind, but he is all too aware that there is a lot of work to do to get there.
“You know the excitement is there. Everyone wants to go to Wembley,” he said.
“You have to take it one game at a time.
“You can’t help thinking you’re two or three results from Wembley, but we have to treat Saturday’s game like a final. If we don’t perform, we’ll be far, far away from Wembley. It’s all on the day.
“We’ve just got to make sure there are no ifs or buts after the game, do our talking on the pitch and hopefully make the town proud.”
Morpeth Chairman Ken Beattie believes Saturday’s FA Vase quarter-final tie is the biggest game yet in the club’s history.
“Saturday sees the club compete in its most important match in its 132-year history when it takes on Bristol Manor Farm in the quarter-final of the FA Vase,” he said.
“There is no doubt that this is going to be a hard match, and all our players need to be up for it on this momentous occasion.
“I know, however, that if we play the type of football we have shown in the season so far we can certainly advance to the semi-final, which would be a tremendous achievement.”
“We really need the Town to get behind us for this match and we are hoping for a huge crowd to carry us through. “
The last eight of the competition sees the names of former high fliers Hereford FC and Salisbury FC both fighting for a semi-final place and the thought of potentially meeting these clubs and going in to Wembley is what dreams are made of.”