With two of its member clubs enjoying home advantage in tomorrow's sixth round the FA Carlsberg Vase, the North West Counties League is hoping for a repeat of the events of 1987, when St Helens beat fellow NWCL club Warrington in a Vase final that provided a Wembley day out for the League.
The NWCL leaders, Flixton (at home to Canvey Island), and mid-table Clitheroe, who entertain Peacehaven & Telscombe, will bear the burden of their colleagues' expectations tomorrow. Both sides have battled through from the qualifying rounds - in six ties en route to the quarter-finals Flixton have scored 19 goals and conceded three while Clitheroe's record is even better: 23 for, two against.
Clitheroe, runners-up to Bradford Park Avenue in the NWCL First Division last season, have an experienced squad which includes two men (Simon Westwell and Clive Dunn) who played for Colne Dynamoes when they beat Emley in the 1988 Vase final. Flixton, whose fine league form has continued after winning the NWCL Second Division last season, also have plenty of seasoned non-League campaigners - but neither side will have it easy tomorrow.
Peacehaven have yet to taste defeat in the Unijet Sussex County League this season, although their cup commitments mean they lie in sixth place in the First Division, with as many as 12 games in hand on their title rivals. Canvey lead the Second Division of the Icis League and remain this columnist's tip to win the Vase. In the other sixth-round ties, Collier Row, one Icis League place below Canvey, travel to Humberside to meet Brigg while, in Bristol, Mangotsfield entertain Raunds.
Luther Blissett's return to Watford yesterday as first-team coach means that Fakenham Town, of the Jewson Eastern Counties League, must find a new centre-forward. In his final game in almost two seasons with the Norfolk club, the former Milan and England striker scored one and made the other goal in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Hadleigh.