If clubs at our level have ambitions of playing at Wembley Stadium in the merry month of May, then the Buildbase FA Vase is the competition in which they will do it in.
The March to the Arch began for clubs back on Friday 30th August, with St Martins losing to Shifnal Town 3-0. The following two saw a host of further fixtures in the 1st Qualifying Round, a whopping 37 involving our sides, with West Didsbury & Chorlton receiving a bye after opponents Egerton were removed from the comptition as their ground did not meet requirements.
Sandbach United's win over Wem Town wrote the headlines, with six different goalscorers including Thomas Powell with FIVE GOALS, in a 13-0 win. PJ Hudson also chipped in with a hat-trick. Jay White also grabbed a hat-trick in Rylands' 6-0 win over Athersley Recreation, as did Paul Turner in Longridge Town's 5-2 win over Newcastle University.
Other big wins came from FC Oswestry Town who beat Bustlehome 6-0, Padiham who beat Bedlington Terriers 5-0, and the quartet of Maine Road, Skelmersdale United, Cheadle Town and Wythenshawe Town who all ran out 5-2 winners over Maltby Main, New Mills, Staveley Miners Welfare and Goole respectively. Cheadle Heath Nomads also scored five as they beat Ashton Town 5-3.
Former finalists Gresley beat Winsford United 1-0, but Barnoldswick Town had a great day as they won 2-1 away at former winners Whitley Bay. Other clubs of ours who won on the road were Alsager Town at Bewdley Town, Charnock Richard at Cammell Laird 1907, Stockport Town at Harworth Colliery, Chadderton at Parkgate and Vauxhall Motors at Swallownest. Hanley Town also won away at Eccleshall, but they needed extra time to do so.
Others going to extra time was Nelson against Seaham Red Star, the visitors scoring twice in the extra period in a 3-1 win. Pilkington progressed at home to Atherton LR after a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes, Callum Laird hitting the extra time winner.
Abbey Hulton United beat Tipton Town 3-2, with Ashton Athletic overcoming AFC Darwen by the same scoreline. Surprise of the day perhaps came at Prestwich Heys who beat 1874 Northwich 1-0, but AFC Blackpool's 2-1 win over Redcar Athletic was also impressive. AFC Liverpool were fancied to do well but they lost 4-1 at Nostell Miners Welfare, with Holker Old Boys losing by the same score at Easington Colliery.
Avro lost at home to Selby Town, as did Bacup Borough to Grimsby Borough. Garstang narrowly went down 2-1 to Sunderland West End, with Ellesmere Rangers losing by the same score at Hinckley. Stone Old Alleynians lost 3-1 at Haughmond, with Daisy Hill conceding in the third minute of stoppage time to lose 3-2 at Retford United.
Onto Sunday and the game of the weekend was at Litherland REMYCA as Glasshoughton Welfare found themselves 3-0 up. Back came REMYCA to level the scores but two sendings off for the home side saw Glasshoughton take control, and they ran out 6-3 winners with Nathan Perks grabbing a hat-trick. Squires Gate won 2-1 at Whickham with St Helens Town beaten at home by Rossington Main by the same score.
Shelley's trip to Handsworth Parramore ended in a 4-0 loss, whilst Burscough scored in the last minute to draw 1-1 at Emley. Extra time failed to find a winner meaning that this was the only 1st Qualifying Round involving our sides to go to a replay. That came three nights later with Robert Bordman scoring two minutes from time to give Emley a 2-1 win.
Two weeks later and the 2nd Qualifying Round opened on the Friday night once again. Emley were the last team through but became the first team out as they 2-0 at Winterton Rangers, whilst Wythenshawe Town were 2-1 winners at Skelmersdale United.
Onto Saturday and the biggest win this time was at Ashton Athletic who beat Liversedge 5-1. Whitchurch Alport went close to that with a 4-1 win over Nuneaton Griff, Steve Jones scoring a hat-trick, and there was also a hat-trick for Carl Grimshaw as Charnock Richard won 3-2 at Prestwich Heys. Jay White also scored a hat-trick for the second round running as Rylands beat Rossington Main 4-2.
The most goals came at Hall Road Rangers as Maine Road secured a 6-4 away win, and there were nine goals at Coventry Sphinx where Timothy Barrass scored SEVEN minutes into stoppage time to give Hanley Town a 5-4 win. Another last minute winner came at Lower Breck where Johnathon Swatton scored to give his side a 4-3 win over Pilkington.
Sandbach had to settle for a 3-0 win this time, that coming at Ashby Ivanhoe, with West Didsbury & Chorlton securing a fine 1-0 win at Runcorn Town. Barnoldswick Town won 3-2 at Northallerton Town, with Vauxhall Motors winning 2-1 at Cheadle Heath Nomads. Chadderton beat Brigg Town 3-2 with Cheadle Town winning 4-0 against East Hull.
In something of a derby match, Longridge Town beat AFC Blackpool 3-1, with Abbey Hey winning 2-1 at Stockport Town. Padiham also progressed with a 1-0 win away at Sunderland West End.
FC Oswestry Town would have been disappointed to lose 3-2 at Gresley, whilst two late goals saw Crook Town secure a 2-0 win at Cleator Moor Celtic. Other North East sides winning away at our sides were West Allotment Celtic who won 4-1 at Squires Gate, and Seaham Red Star who won 3-2 at Steeton. Wythenshawe Amateurs also bowed out of the competition, losing 3-1 at home to Selby Town.
Once again there was only one draw in this round of the Vase, that coming at Abbey Hulton United v Alsager Town which was 1-1 after 90 minutes. The extra time period saw two further goals, with Benjamin Cortes-Smith securing a replay for Alsager with a 119th minute equaliser. In the replay, that wasn't as exciting in terms of drama with Alsager Town winning 3-1.
Onto the 1st Round with Bootle and Congleton Town joining those who had progressed so far. The two sides were exempt until the 1st Round after securing a top four finish in the league last season. Bootle bowed out straight away as they lost 3-0 at Rylands, however Congleton Town scored a last minute penalty to win 2-1 away at Barrow Town.
The biggest win came at Abbey Hey where Barnoldswick Town won 5-0, with Lower Breck also scoring five as they won 5-2 away at Charnock Richard. Vauxhall Motors won 2-1 after extra time at Jarrow FC, with Wythenshawe Town winning 2-0 at Nostell Miners Welfare.
Maine Road scored two minutes into stoppage time to level 2-2 at home to Glasshoughton Welfare, with two further goals in extra time giving them a 4-2 win. Longridge Town also won 4-2, without the need for extra time though, against Crook Town.
Elsewhere it was a day to forget for our sides with Hanley Town drawing 1-1 at AFC Mansfield before conceding in the 120th minute to crash out. Sandbach United lost 3-1 at Atherstone Town, with Chadderton losing at home to Guisborough Town by the same scoreline. Whitchurch Alport lost 2-0 at Droitwich Spa, with Alsager Town losing 2-1 at home to Lutterworth Town.
Padiham lost 1-0 at home to Bishop Auckland with Cheadle Town losing 5-1 at Selby Town. West Didsbury & Chorlton and Ashton Athletic both travelled to the North East with both losing 2-0 at Shildon and Sunderland Ryhope CW respectively.
The 2nd Round saw just nine of our sides in action, with Irlam and Northwich Victoria joining teams in the competition after being exempt to this round after reaching at least the 4th Round the previous season. Last season's beaten Semi-Finalists were in the thick of it straight away, leading 3-0 and 5-2 against Wythenshawe Town before the Manchester side roared back to secure a 5-5 draw. The replay of that saw Wythenshawe Town progress with a 2-1 win.
Irlam also bowed out straight away, losing 5-2 at home to Consett with Luke Carr scoring three, whilst another scoring three was Paul Turner, his second hat-trick in the FA Vase helping Longridge Town to a 6-4 win over Thornaby.
Congleton Town beat Maine Road 3-2, with Lower Breck also progressing after a superb 2-1 win over 2012/13 Semi-Finalists Shildon. Vauxhall Motors also had a great win against a North East side, Karl Noon scoring twice in a 4-1 win over Sunderland Ryhope CW.
It wasn't such a great day for Barnoldswick Town who lost 2-0 away at 2017/18 Finalists and this season's favourites Stockton Town. Rylands also bowed out after losing 1-0 at home to Grimsby Borough.
The 3rd Round left us with five sides remaining with Congleton Town and Longridge Town drawn against each other. Bevan Burey forced extra time for Congleton with a goal two minutes into stoppage time making it 1-1, and there was a further goal each in extra time with 2-2 the final score. The replay saw Longridge progress after a 2-0 win.
Joining them in the 4th Round were Vauxhall Motors, who beat another North East side in Newcastle Benfield, this time after a 2-0 win. Wythenshawe Town drew 1-1 with Consett, that being the score after 90 minutes as well as 120 minutes. In the replay a Dale Pearson goal ten minutes from time was enough to see Consett through.
The final game saw Lower Breck bow out after a 5-1 defeat to Hebburn Town. Louie Austin put Breck ahead early on before Hebburn came back to win, Oliver Martin scoring a hat-trick.
Two sides remained in the 4th Round, both of whom will be exempt until the 2nd Round Proper of next season's competition as a result. Oliver Martin was at it again for Hebburn as his first minute goal was enough to give his side a 1-0 win at Vauxhall Motors.
Longridge Town hosted Newark Flowserve who have had a remarkable last few years. Two goals from Thomas Ince put them firmly in control before Ben Hutchinson pulled one back on 25 minutes. A Jon-Jo Morris goal just before the break restored the two goal lead and victory was all but secured 15 minutes from time when Daniel Wilkinson netted. Thomas Ince completed his hat-trick with a minute to go to give Longridge a 5-1 win.
Into the 5th Round and who else could Longridge possibly have faced but Hebburn Town? In front of a superb gate of 692, there was nothing to separate the teams. Full time came and it looked like a replay was on the cards when Robbie Spence scored with five minutes of extra time remaining to give Hebburn the lead. They saw out the game to end our league's interest in the Vase for this season.