Football: Terriers banned for light failures

BEDLINGTON TERRIERS have enjoyed mixed fortunes in FA competitions this season. The little Northumberland club were the heroes of the FA Cup first round after their 4-1 thrashing of Colchester United, but they have not been so lucky in the FA Carlsberg Vase.

A week after losing 2-0 at Scunthorpe United in the second round of the FA Cup, Terriers entertained more modest opposition, Mickleover Sports, in the third round of the Vase on 12 December. They established a healthy 4-1 lead but, after 55 minutes, the Welfare Ground floodlights failed and could not be repaired.

Four days later, Mickleover set off on a long midweek trek to the north- east for the re-arranged tie. Despite being without some key players due to work commitments, the Derbyshire side were winning 3-0 when, with just 14 minutes to go, the floodlights failed again.

Despite pledges from Bedlington that the problem would be solved promptly, the Welfare Ground remained shrouded in darkness and, in similarly black mood, Mickleover set off south again with the tie still undecided.

The Football Association decided this week that the tie will now take place tomorrow at Mickleover's Station Road ground in Derby. The Redferns Central Midlands League side were not happy with Terriers' suggestion that the match should be played at a neutral venue - Blyth Spartans, just five miles from Bedlington. If a replay is required, it will be back at Mickleover next week, as Bedlington have been banned from playing home games in FA competitions under lights until their lights have gained FA approval. Banstead Athletic will visit the winners in the fourth round tomorrow week.

Meanwhile, Colchester are probably wishing that the lights had failed at the Welfare Ground during their calamitous FA Cup fixture! Another Vase tie is being played tomorrow in east London, where Barkingside entertain Oldbury United after three postponements due to a waterlogged pitch.

Away from cup competitions, Altrincham swept to the top of the UniBond League Premier Division after collecting six points from their two Christmas fixtures: a 3-0 victory at Runcorn followed by a 4-1 home win over Marine. The Robins have had a remarkable resurgence this season. There was talk of a crisis at Moss Lane when the former Alliance Premier League champions picked up just four points from their first eight games, but they have now collected 38 from the last 45 on offer to race up the table. They entertain fifth-placed Guiseley tomorrow.

Another club setting a fast pace in the race for promotion to the Football Conference are Nuneaton Borough, who have built up a huge 17-point lead at the top of the Dr Martens League Premier Division. They visit Halesowen Town today and entertain troubled Merthyr Tydfil on Sunday as the Dr Martens crams in two fixture cards over the New Year holiday weekend.

Things are much tighter at the top of the Ryman League, where Aylesbury United could be deposed if they lose at Gravesend & Northfleet tomorrow. The Ducks hold a slender one-point lead over three teams level on points in the Premier Division title race: St Albans City, Purfleet and Sutton United.