Stevenage v Newcastle, TOTT preview
Newcastle visit Stevenage for the 2nd time in the FA Cup in 12 years. Which manager will win the battle of the Wembley giants? The last time these met, Newcastle made the final. Can they do the same again?
Stevenage from League 2 have a memorable record, being the first winners of a trophy at the new Wembley with the FA Trophy against Kidderminster. At the time they were managed by former Newcastle left back, Mark Stimson who was later replaced by the man who ominously snubbed Newcastle last week, coach Peter Taylor. Stevenage have beaten the two versions of FA Cup winners Wimbledon to reach this far.
The current manager is Graham Westley, who preceeded Stimson and on his return led the club to a repeat of the cup success in 2009, beating York City, achieving a double with the Herts Senior Cup, against Cheshunt in the final, narrowly missing out on an FA Trophy hat trick in 2010 as Barrow snatched victory in extra time. During his first spell, Westley also masterminded a Conference play off win over Newcastle`s nemesis, Hereford. His first cup triumph was the Isthmian Cup with Farnborough in 2000.
Pardew has some cup success of his own, picking up his first managerial pot with the Johnston`s Paint Trophy with Southampton last season. He will be able to sympathise with Westley`s late defeat, himself having been in charge of a West Ham team which lost the FA Cup final to Liverpool.
Last time out, with Southampton, Pardew lost to local rivals Portsmouth, losing out 2 years previously with Charlton against West Brom, and the lower league Nottingham Forest in his first year at the Valley. Plymouth, lowly York City twice and Walsall put paid to his cup aspirations at Reading.
Alvin has some choices to make, after a tough but largely victorious concentrated run of games, and with the big match against local rivals Sunderland the following weekend. A catalogue of injuries may force him into testing the credentials of the less experienced members of his squad.
In goal, the options are to continue with Harper`s comeback, give Krul another opportunity after witnessing Harper`s clean sheets this year, or even blooding Soderberg.
Simpson has expressed his desire to continue at right back with Williamson seeking to stake his claim under the new manager, not having started since suspension. Campbell could come into the reckoning, although Perch and Kadar will also be itching to start. Youngster Tavernier is of course going out on loan.
Midfield sees Tiote and Jonas nursing injuries, allowing Vuckic the chance to impress as he negotiates a new contract. Guthrie has also not had the opportunity to impress the new manager while Ferguson may start on the left following his cameo role against the Hammers. Routledge will also be keen for a first start under the new manager although he faces competition from Donaldson. Gosling also seeks his debut.
Striking options might be limited, the midweek hat trick hero suffering for the cause, potentially leaving cup specialists Ameobi, and the man who scored his own hat trick in the same round last year, Lovenkrands, as potential starters. Nile Ranger will also have something to Tweet about before the match with Xisco also possibly in the reckoning.
Westley, on the other hand, appears to have an almost full strength squad to choose from, aiming to keep as close a side as possible to the one which beat relatively near neighbours Barnet in the league last weekend.
Chris Day should start in goal. Chris started his career at Spurs, making 1 appearance before travelling around several London clubs and even to Oldham before settling at Stevenage. Day has seen Newcastle from the Watford bench during the 1999-2000 season.
The team is led by defender Mark Roberts, signed from Accrington after trawling around minor clubs in the North West and with a scoring knack of around 1 every 9 games. His central partner should be Luke Foster, formerly of Lincoln, Oxford and Mansfield Town. Former Plymouth man, Scott Laird starts at left back while the man with Premier League aspirations, who dated Frank Lampard`s ex, Lawrie Wilson should start on the right.
Youngest in the midfield is former Salisbury City man, Rob Sinclair at 21. Just a year older is Michael Bostwick whose previous league experiencewas at Rushden and Diamonds before moving via Ebbsfleeet United with who he won the 2008 FA Trophy. Former Brentford and Wycombe man at 24 brings a bit more experience, as does 25 year old Stacy Long, another former member of the Ebbsfleet Trophy winning squad. Byrom and Murphy are pressing for a recall.
Up front, Bath born journeyman, Charlie Griffin is expected to lead the line, supported by Derby born Chris Beardsley. Seeking to return is former Scunthorpe winger/striker, Peter Winn.
Referee is the Premier League official Andre Marriner, who probably owes Newcastle one after some controversial decisons in the League Cup at St James`against Arsenal, although he put in a more respectable performance in the Chelsea league match despite letting a horror tackle from Ashley Cole go. For the Stevenage players, this will be the first time that most of them have seen Marriner.
This match will be keenly fought. Newcastle youngsters have a chance to impress, while from past glories, the home side will know that they can put in an effort on the day, potentially being household names by early evening. A draw would not be a surprise, leading to a potentially more lucrative return at St James` as it did in the 90s. Newcastle should still, however, be favourites.