January 6 2018: Coleshill to Newcastle

Before resuming the Road to Wembley, here’s a message from Brian Sherrington from the perhaps more prosaic surroundings of Alnwick v Whickham, Ebac Northern League second division.

Joe Mole, reports Brian, has scored a hat-trick for Whickham in the 38th, 39th and 41st minutes.  Is it a record?

In the Northern League I honestly don’t know – others might – but the quickest of all is attributed to 18-year-old Tony Ross, in 90 seconds for Ross County against Nairn County in 1964.

The Football League’s fastest, 2 minutes 20 seconds, is credited to James Hayter of Bournemouth against Wrexham in 2004. Sadio Mane tops the Premiership speed merchants, 2 minutes 56 seconds – presumably excluding stoppages between goals – for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015.

I’m at Newcastle Benfield v Coleshill, last 32 of the Vase. Alan Shearer, who scored a few hat-tricks himself, has sent Benfield a good luck message. “It’s a long time since a team beginning with N got to Wembley,” he says (and even then it was probably Norwich City.)

Coleshill have come up with National Holidays. Some go to Torremolinos, others to Torquay. Football sends you to Newcastle in January.

The ageless Paul Brayson, the man they call Brassy, has an 11th minute chance to put Benfield ahead but scrubs his penalty wide. “Aa tellt him to lace it, not place it,” someone sighs.

The Colemen, known formerly as The Rabbits because of the alleged excellence of the half-time rabbit pie, are becoming quite familiar up here. Last season they played South Shields in the Vase semi-final, in 2014 went down 2-1 in extra-time at Dunston in the fourth round.

They take a 79th minute lead before Scott McCarthy equalises soon afterwards, one of those that’s possibly a shot and possibly a cross but for which we’re very grateful, whatever.

Before 90 minutes are up the Coleman lose Joe Coke, red carded for a pretty grievous tackle. It’s bitterly cold when the match ends, still 1-1, at 5 40pm. Newcastle United, that other team beginning with N, have won almost an hour ago.

*A happy 55th birthday today to Ashington chairman and local MP Ian Lavery, though Ian’s day is unlikely to be made by a story in today’s Times. And a happy 68th birthday on Sunday to North Shields president Malcolm Macdonald, top bloke. He scored a few hat-tricks, an’ all.