Middleton believes his squad is capable of win

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ASHINGTON CFC manager Gary Middleton is this week preparing his outfit for what he has labelled as being their “toughest challenge of the season by far”.

Middleton and his side set off on Saturday lunchtime ahead of an overnight stay not far away from Gloucestershire-based opponents Shortwood United for Sunday’s 3pm showdown.

And the Woodhorn Lane boss – as he stated before the fourth round tie with Newport Pagnell – firmly belives his squad are more than capable of returning to Wansbeck with a result.

A place in the quarter-finals of this season’s FA Carlsberg Vase awaits the winners with the Colliers already delving into new territory having never been this far in the competition.

“Naturally, we are all looking forward to the tie,” said Middleton.

“It is fantastic because from the management and playing side of things this is the furthest Ashington have reached since the inception of the Vase.

“It is a great challenge to try and get into the last eight and we will do our very best to get a result.

“But we are amongst the last 16 now and there are no shocks.

“The game represents our toughest challenge of the season by far.

“But we are more than capable of getting a result, and if we win down in Gloucester then it will be a top result whilst a draw would not be the worst scenario.”

Middleton and his staff of assistant Neil Winskill and Ritchie Bond will again be doing their homework on the opposition before Sunday’s contest.

“I have three reports from different managers on file to study,” said Middleton,

“By all accounts, Shortwood are a good attack-minded side who have scored lots of goals from an array of personnel throughout the team.

“And we will prepare as we have done all season for all games.

“However, this is the most difficult tie from the Northern League section as we have not only been drawn away but also face a long journey.”

With last Saturday’s STL Northern League first division clash against fellow Vase hopefuls Billingham Synthonia called off due to a frozen pitch at Woodhorn Lane, Middleton called his players in for a lunchtime training session.

Jonny Godsmark is definitely sidelined for Sunday’s clash at the Meadowbank ground whilst James Taylor and Phill Bell both remain doubtful.

However, although Shortwood – whose League Cup tie on Saturday also fell a victim to the elements – had a scheduled fixture in the league against Flackwell Heath on Tuesday night, the Colliers are without a midweek game.

Instead the countdown will begin on what will be another historic encounter for the Wansbeck side.