Wembley still Northern goal: Non-League notebook

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The Independent Online
The proud clubs of the Federation Brewery Northern League were dismayed two seasons ago when they found themselves banished to the FA Carlsberg Vase, when the Football Association decided they were ineligible for the senior non-League tournament, the FA Umbro Trophy. Now, however, the prospect of two Northern League clubs at Wembley has put an end to the dissent.

Last season no Northern League side reached the last 16 of the Vase, which caused even more distress around Northumberland and County Durham. This term Bedlington Terriers fell by the wayside in the last eight but Whitby Town and Guisborough Town have both reached the semi-finals: in tomorrow's first-leg ties Guisborough entertain North Ferriby while Whitby travel to Surrey to take on Banstead.

The two teams that enjoy home advantage in the second-leg ties tomorrow week look the best bets for a visit to Wembley on 10 May. Whitby's 4-2 home success over Easington on Tuesday means they have won 21 of their 25 League games this season. They also reached the first round of the FA Cup - they lost 8-4 after extra time in a replay at Hull City. Paul Pitman scored a hat-trick in a game in which the Nationwide League side were flattered by their margin of victory.

Harry Dunn, Whitby's manager, has assembled a strong squad which also includes Mitch Cook, the former Scarborough manager, Laurie Pearson (ex- Hull City) and two former Darlington men: Andy Toman and John Borthwick. North Ferriby's progress to the last four has been led by two former Hull City strikers: Andy Flounders and Darren France. Flounders won a Vase winners' medal last season with another Northern Counties East League side, Brigg Town.

Brian Talbot, the former Arsenal, Ipswich and England midfielder, has not been put off management by his unhappy experiences at West Bromwich and Aldershot. He has taken over the helm at the struggling GM Vauxhall Conference club, Rushden & Diamonds, until the end of the season after Roger Ashby "moved upstairs" to become director of football at Nene Park.