Middleton well aware of semi-final dangers

ASHINGTON manager Gary Middleton goes into next Wednesday’s Northumberland Senior Cup semi-final against North Shields knowing his side will need to be on the top of their game.

The winners of the clash at the Daren Persson Stadium will face either Whitley Bay or Bedlington Terriers in the final at St James’ Park.

And Middleton knows that his outfit need to perform if they are to progress.

“It’ll be a tough game for both sides but one we are really looking forward too,” said the Woodhorn Lane boss.

“The clash presents the victors with a great opportunity to play at Newcastle United, and we know that we will have to be at our best.”

Middleton also paid tribute to opposition manager Graham Fenton.

He added: “Graham has got a good squad who are flying high and fighting for promotion.

“They are knocking on the door of the top three in the promotion stakes in the Ebac Northern League second division and are in with a chance.

“They are high on confidence with some good players and we will need to be at our best.

“We will be taking nothing for granted but we need to perform, and if we play to our capabilities then we will have a great chance.

“However, as we have found out, football is not easy and we will have to be on the top of our game.”

Fenton, who took over as manager last April, said: “We are all looking forward to the game but even more so are the two lads from Ashington – James Harmison and Sean McCafferty.

“We played Ashington in a pre-season friendly where we lost 3-1, but we had a depleted squad and they were by far the better team on the day.

“However, since then we’ve strengthened and I’m very much hoping that my lads will give them a good game and run them closer this time round.”

Fenton believes the carrot which dangles in front of the semi-finalists – the final at St James Park – will act as a massive spur.

“It’ll be an incentive without question,” he said.

“With the exception of one or two of my players, the squad are Newcastle United fans and very few lads get the chance to play at St James’, so it would be a childhood dream come true.”

Fenton, 38, will do his homework before Wednesday’s 7.30pm kick-off.

“I know most of the Ashington players because I had a look at them pre-season, but I’ll also be speaking to a few contacts just to get an up-to-date run down,” he said.

“What I do know is that they have some good players and goal scorers so we know we are going to have to be very solid.

“But for a second division side we too have some good players in our squad, and if they give a good account of ourselves on the night and give everything, then they will have a chance.”