Stockton took a good following with them to the Buildbase FA Vase 1st Round tie at Whickham, winners of this competition in 1981. Captain Tom Coulthard returned to the side after work commitments had restricted appearances lately and Chris Stockton returned to replace Matty Garbutt.
Stockton dominated the opening 20 minutes as the pace and movement of their forwards caused problems for Whickhams defence and keeper Mordey made 2 good saves to keep it scoreless, one low down at his near post from Hayes who cut in and fired a low shot from 20 yards. Anchors took the lead in the 12th minute when Carters superb cross from the right found Craggs who’s effort was brilliantly saved on the line by Mordey with his right boot, the ball looped back out and Coleman acrobatically despatched an overhead kick past the prone keeper. Just 3 minutes later Chris Stockton running at full pace flicked the ball around the covering defender who thought he’d blocked him off and pulled the ball back to Woodhouse who’s shot was blocked. Hayes continued to cause problems and his reverse pass to Woodhouse was turned across to Craggs whose shot went just wide. Alan Cossavella replaced Dale Mulligan on 23mins who went off with a slight hamstring problem. Whickhams first real effort at goal came in the 28th minute when a free kick was cleared out to Jelley’s and his cross to the far post was just too far in front of Peareth to turn the ball goal wards. Whickham ended the half on the front foot and forced a couple of corners and a free kick from Shickle went just over Arthurs bar, but the last chance went to Woodhouse on 43 after he tried to turn in Colemans flicked header from Craggs corner. Half Time 0-1
Second Half started with the Anchors in the ascendancy again, the rain had now arrived to combine with the strong cross breeze to make it very difficult conditions to play any sort of football. On 54 minutes Stockton extended their lead after a strong challenge by Ward saw the ball fall to Craggs on the edge of the box, he slipped by two defenders and found Woodhouse 10 yards out who fired home. This seemed to galvanise Whickham and they started to control the possession a bit more with the conditions making it hard for Stockton to use their normal passing style. Owens replaced the hard working Coleman on 65 and maybe Stockton took their foot off the gas a little as Whickham started to push for a goal. The introduction of Cains for the home side gave them a new purpose and he struck a sweet volley that crashed against the inside of the upright and bounced to safety from just outside the box after Cossavella had cleared a corner. Craggs picked up a Yellow for a clumsy challenge and he was replaced by Nathan Mulligan on 72mins. Whickham continued to press and Coulthard and Ward both made great challenges to break up attacks, Stocktons wide men were now spending more time in their own half defending. A scramble in the Stockton box fell to Peareth who should have got his effort on target but it went harmlessly wide as the conditions matched the scrappy play the Anchors held firm with Cossavella making a brilliant last ditch tackle on substitute Mole as he was about to pull the trigger from 10 yards, that was the last real threat as Stockton saw out the surprising 6 minutes of injury time in the Whickham half.
Stockton probably should have been able to relax a bit more towards the end in this game as they created enough chances to be 2 up at half time at least, but credit to a hard working Whickham who never gave up and caused problems for Stockton in the last 20 minutes. Tom Coulthard cruised through his first game for 3 weeks like the thoroughbred we know he is. Joe Carter and Jimmy Ward were nice and tidy again and Jamie Poole seemed to be in the right place most of the time to break things up and start things off. Sonni Coleman and Fred Woodhouse were a constant threat and it was a close decision but Sonni gets the nod for man of the match for a great hard working performance in both boxes and a spectacular finish. Now for a nice draw please………