WHITBY Town are 90 minutes away from the last qualifying round of the FA Cup – but they take on full-time opponents in Stalybridge Celtic, on Saturday (6 Oct).
The winners will pocket £7,500 and a shot at making the first round proper, with the possibility of meeting a Football League club.
It’ll be the second successive stage where Town are meeting a Tameside team from the league above, after disposing of Celtic’s neighbours Droylsden, at the Turnbull Ground, in a 4-3 thriller.
However, Jim Harvey’s men are an altogether different proposition.
Despite losing to highflyers, Chester, 6-2 and at Guiseley, 1-0, this week, the Greater Manchester club sit in eighth spot and have a full-time professional set-up.
Stalybridge saw off fellow Blue Square North outfit Vauxhall Motors 1-0 in the last round, but intriguingly, could only draw 0-0 with Droylsden on the opening day of the season.
They’ve also won just twice in seven matches when they’ve hosted the Blues, who have three victories at the 6,500-capacity Bower Fold.
Town’s best-known success there was a 1-0 FA Trophy win in 2004, thanks to a Neal Bishop goal, though Stalybridge were 3-0 victors when the sides last met, in the same competition, four years later.
Whitby remain rock bottom of the Evo-Stik Premier, but have yet to lose in cup action so far this season, with over £10,000 already earned, following success over Ossett Town and the weekend’s trophy glory at Chorley.
Player-boss Darren Williams told the Whitby Gazette that Chorley’s chief Garry Flitcroft was one of the first to congratulate him on Saturday’s win: “Garry just said ‘well done you deserved it’ and that coming from the opposing manager, is a nice comment.”
If Williams’ side were to advance on Saturday, it would be their best FA Cup run for nine years, when they lost out 4-0 in the first round proper, at Hartlepool United.
Williams watched ‘Bridge on Tuesday night when they lost by a single goal at Guiseley and wasn’t particularly impressed by either team.
“It wasn’t particularly a great game, to be honest, I was quite surprised,” he said. “The conditions didn’t help, Guiseley are a good team and they put them under a lot of pressure, but they were quite fortunate to get the goal late on.”
The former Sunderland star doesn’t think there’ll be much between Stalbridge and their local rivals, Droylsden.
“They’re both teams that look to counter-attack, but I didn’t see a lot of difference, although obviously the table tells a different story.”
Blues’ physio Kenny Bolton is expecting Ibby Hassan to recover from a cramped hamstring, while fellow defender Alex White’s status is less certain after suffering a badly cut eyelid, at Chorley.
The injury was caused by an aerial elbow.
Bolton explained: “I was a little bit concerned, so I congealed it and asked him to go to the hospital.
“It’ll be seven days so it might be okay, but I’d rather just to have a look at him, because I don’t know how he’s going to heal, because people react in different ways.”
Meanwhile, forward Jordan Hugill (20), who hasn’t played since scoring, then limping off during last December’s 5-4 defeat against Nantwich Town, is now fit to return, 10 months on.
The former Glenn Hoddle Academy student suffered a torn ligament affecting the top of his leg, to the knee, but would love to play some part at Stalybridge.
“I’m hoping I might be involved”, he said. “I know the strikers are playing really well at the moment, Mullers [Nathan Mulligan] is banging them in and so is Graeme Armstrong.
“It’s been a long road and I’ve felt every minute of it.
“I’m just happy to be back in full training and then hopefully back in contention for the team.”
Kick-off at Stalybridge is 3pm, with admission set at £10 adults and £6 concessions. If the game ends in a draw, a replay will take place at the Turnbull Ground on Wednesday, 7.45pm.
Otherwise, the Blues will host Grantham Town that evening, hoping to extend their 100% record over the Lincolnshire outfit.
Promoted from the First Division South last season, they’ve just one win from their last seven and lost twice to the Seasiders when relegated from the Premier Division in 2006/07.
However, Wayne Hallcro’s men have suffered just one defeat on their travels, in the league, this season - a 2-0 reverse at Chorley.
Admission is £9 adults, £5 concessions and £2 under 16s.
QUIZ night in the Whitby Town club house on Tuesday (9 Oct) at 8pm.