It is not often that Scunthorpe have assumed the mantle of football giants but, as the big boys yesterday, they succeeded in avoiding a fate which befell Colchester at Doctor Pit Welfare Park in the last round.
Not that there was any danger of Bedlington being hit for the football equivalent of a cricket score by the club that boasts one I T Botham as a vice-president. It took two second-half goals - a 54th-minute penalty by John Eyre and a low driven shot by Jamie Forrester 10 minutes from time - to secure Scunthorpe's place in the third-round draw.
At least the Northumberland Terriers can say they have lifted the FA Cup, which is more than Scunthorpe are ever likely to do. They got to touch the old tin pot last Wednesday, thanks to a promotional visit to their ground by the competition sponsors Axa, and their spirits were high as they polished off their pre-match meal at the Briggate Lodge Hotel and settled down to watch their five minutes of fame on Football Focus. "We will fight them on the beaches," someone shouted when Warren Teasdale appeared on the screen, his face streaked with mud.
Bedlington, though, were grateful for the talismanic presence of their captain. A Newcastle junior in Paul Gascoigne's youth-team days at St James' Park, Teasdale was on his third giant-killing run as a non- Leaguer in the FA Cup, having been a member of the Whitley Bay team that beat Scarborough and Preston in 1989, and the Blyth side that knocked out Bury three years ago.
The veteran midfielder did not take long to make his mark, leaving Paul Harsley prostrate and in need of treatment with a crunching second-minute tackle. The Terriers showed early bite in attack too, Tim Clarke having to tip over a curling Martin Pike free-kick that threatened to give the visitors a 12th-minute lead. As the first half progressed, Scunthorpe took control in midfield but it took them until the 35th minute to test Paul O'Connor, the Bedlington keeper making a brilliant diving save to keep out a Forrester volley.
Bedlington's army of supporters - 20 coachloads filling one end of the ground - might have been celebrating seven minutes into the second half had Eddie Lomas not ignored their appeals for a penalty after Dean Gibb struck a cross against Ashley Fickling's arms.
The referee pointed to the spot a minute later, but at the opposite end, punishing Craig Melrose for holding the Scunthorpe captain, Chris Hope. Eyre converted with an audacious chip but Bedlington, to their credit, fought back. Mickey Cross forced a diving save from Clarke and Gary Middleton came tantalisingly close, connecting with a low ball that crept across an open goal.
Bedlington's Cup run was over when Forrester pounced to bury a loose ball. But as their manager, Keith Perry, said: "We can be extremely proud of ourselves. The lads gave everything." For the Terriers, though, the Wembley dream is far from over. They might not be playing beneath the twin towers on FA Cup final day in May but they could be there six days earlier - in the final of the FA Vase. Mickleover Sports will not be relishing their third-round trip to Bedlington next Saturday.