Football: Non-League notebook - Southport show there is life outside League

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IT MAY not come as much consolation to Doncaster Rovers, but three clubs are doing their best this season to prove that there is life beyond the Football League.

All three were former rivals of Rovers in the Third Division North and then the Fourth Division before losing their League places. Now they are experiencing happier times: Halifax Town are on course to win the GM Vauxhall Conference, Barrow are similarly well-placed in the UniBond League - and Southport are on the brink of playing at Wembley for the first time.

Tomorrow Southport travel to Slough for the first leg of their FA Umbro Trophy semi-final. If the Sandgrounders see off their Conference rivals and lift the Trophy in May, it will be the biggest achievement by the club from the seaside town since they won the Fourth Division in 1973 - just five years before they lost their League place.

A hat-trick by Brian Ross earned Southport a 3-1 quarter-final replay win over Grantham last week and a place in the last four of the Trophy for the first time. Ross, the former Chorley striker, has scored in every round of the competition so far and has found the net seven times in total.

Slough are claiming the dubious honour of the country's busiest cup team this season. They have already played 17 knock-out ties this season. In the quarter-finals the Rebels achieved a feat which was beyond Newcastle United: they managed to win at Stevenage.

Dover reached the last four of the Trophy for the first time when their marathon journey midweek journey to Barrow last week resulted in a penalty shoot-out victory over the Cumbrian side. Tomorrow they travel to the bookmakers' favourites, Cheltenham, for the first leg of their semi-final.