History makers Colne on the cusp of drawing one of the ‘big guns’ in FA Cup

Colne boss Steve Cunningham
Colne boss Steve Cunningham

A win is all that separates Colne from a potential FA Cup tie against a former Premier League club in the first round proper of England’s most celebrated competition.

The likes of League One leaders Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers, Blackpool, Coventry, Portsmouth, Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and Swindon Town will all be waiting in the hat should the Reds continue breaking records.

Colne's Tony Donaldson, right, and Ramsbottom United's Josh Hmami

Colne's Tony Donaldson, right, and Ramsbottom United's Josh Hmami

Tomorrow is the biggest game in the club’s history as they travel to Tyne and Wear to take on National League North side Gateshead at the International Stadium in the fourth qualifying round.

And Sovereign Play Stadium boss Steve Cunningham is finding it impossible to contain his excitement: “It’s a big one for us at the weekend, we’re in dreamland. Nobody expected us to get to this stage.

“I still don’t think some people fully understand just what we’ve achieved. It’s an amazing feat. We’ve played seven ties, including replays, to reach this stage.

“We’re a win away from potentially drawing a Sunderland, Ipswich Town or Bradford City. That’s the dream if we can get past Gateshead.

“We want to give ourselves a chance of pulling out an Accrington Stanley or a Bolton Wanderers.

“That would be like winning a league title for us. We’re putting ourselves on the football map and that’s brilliant for everybody.

“The natural progression would be for us to be drawn away at Sunderland because every team we’ve played so far has been from the north east. I think it’s written in the stars.

“That would be a fitting reward for all our hard work - the prestige of being in the first round proper of the FA Cup, live on TV against a former Premier League club is what dreams are made of.”

Colne will be up against it when they return to the north east, tackling opposition who could climb to fourth in their division by winning their game in hand.

The Tynesiders have triumphed in five games on the bounce on home soil, keeping clean sheets in each of those.

But Cunningham is out to prove that this is no flight of fancy. “It’s a tough game, they’re two leagues above us, they’ve won five games in a row at home, all with a clean sheet,” he said.

“We’re the underdogs, but we believe on our day, if we’re at the races, we’ve got a chance.

“I’ve had six or seven reports on them, I’ve had scouts watching them, everything is building towards Gateshead. That’s all my head is on.

“We don ‘t fear them, we’ll go there full of confidence and whatever happens I’ll be so proud of the boys and I’ll be the proudest manager in the country.

“We are on a fantastic run of form and hopefully we can keep that habit. The reason we’re in football is for days like this. I want that big tie and to have a chance of playing on TV.”

Meanwhile, Colne will play Kidsgrove Athletic at Hollinwood Road in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy on October 26th after beating Ramsbottom United 3-1 at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.

The visitors started on the front foot and after three minutes Sefton Gonzales played in William Harris who saw his low shot turned around the post by goalkeeper Tom Stewart.

The home side’s first chance of the game came just before the half hour when Reuben Jerome’s smart shot was saved by Hakan Burton’s foot at the expense of a corner.

United went ahead against the run of play in the 37th minute when Nic Evangelinos headed home after Peter Dornan whipped in the cross.

Colne had a chance to equalise from the spot before the interval when Joe Coveney was fouled. However, Stewart kept out Gonzales’s penalty.

The Reds started the second half brightly and were awarded a second penalty for handball by Kelvin Lugsden, after good interplay between Lee Pugh and Harris, which was confidently converted by Harris.

The away side then had their noses in front in the 57th minute Anthony Donaldson kept Coveney’s corner alive before Gonzales swivelled and shot home.

They then wrapped the game up in the 71st minute when substitute Billy Hasler-Cregg took advantage of hesitancy in the home defence from a long Burton clearance to nip in front of the keeper and find the net.

Colne were firmly in the driving seat and they almost added a fourth when Hasler-Cregg won the ball in midfield and drove past the covering defender only to see his shot hit the post.

The hosts were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages when Jerome was given his marching orders for a late challenge on Donaldson.

“You’re always in it to win things but, realistically, we’re not going to win the FA Cup or the FA Trophy, especially against the big guns,” said Cunningham.

“You’ve just got to try and push to the latter rounds so beating records and creating history is a nice achievement.

“We are always challenging and it’s all through hard work because we don’t have pots of gold. That will enhance our chances of winning something.”