Football: Gateshead next stop on the twin roads to Wembley for busy Borough

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The Independent Online
Stevenage Borough are preparing for a crucial cup tie on Tyneside after which, if they win it, they will be just four games from Wembley.

The Hertfordshire club's next opponents are not, however, Newcastle United but, in a second-round FA Umbro Trophy Tie tomorrow, Gateshead.

Despite the obvious distractions of next Wednesday's FA Cup fourth-round replay at St James' Park, Stevenage are keen to rebuff suggestions that they will be taking tomorrow's game lightly.

"The Trophy is our prime target this season," Paul Fry, the GM Vauxhall Conference club's press officer, insisted yesterday. "It is unreal that we are travelling to Newcastle, though. It would have been much easier to concentrate on the game anywhere else."

Even though Gateshead are bottom of the Conference, Borough will not be taking victory for granted. They lost 2-1 at the International Stadium last month to give the Tynesiders one of the two league wins they have secured this season.

Tomorrow John Carroll, the Gateshead manager, will welcome the experienced Gary (brother of Bryan) Robson back from a ban, but his Stevenage counterpart, Paul Fairclough, has suspension problems. Jason Soloman, who scored the first goal in the 2-1 win FA Cup third-round win at Swindon, starts a ban which will also rule him out of Wednesday's big game against Kenny Dalglish's Magpies. Steve Perkins, another key midfielder, can play tomorrow but will be suspended on Wednesday.

Fairclough must also do without two defenders for both fixtures on Tyneside: Michael Love, who is out for six weeks with a broken foot sustained in the 1-1 draw against Newcastle at Broadhall Way last Sunday, and Ryan Kirby, whose six-game suspension has ruled him out of both games against the Magpies - "he's just gutted about that," Fry said - as well as tomorrow's tie.

Despite the selection problems, Stevenage are confident that their squad is strong enough to keep them on course for Wembley in the Trophy and, if their wildest dreams come true on Wednesday, they may still have two routes to the twin towers open to them this time next week.

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