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FA Vase 1st Round Preview – Billingham Synthonia

After the previous week’s schedule involving planes, ferries and coaches and the odd game of football, the Ravens have had a relatively quiet few days, during which the only thing they have had to endure has been the monsoon weather conditions in training.

However, it’s back to busy busy-busy as we embark on another series of three games in a week, which will of course culminate in next Saturday’s historic first home league game.

Prior to that however, we have another vital fixture game at Cheadle Town on Wednesday night, but proceedings start tomorrow with our longest journey to date, as we voyage to County Durham to take on Billingham Synthonia in the first round of the FA Vase.

Our Opponents this Week

Like most teams we have come across this season, the Synners are a long-standing club within their community. They were formed in 1923 and are named after an agricultural fertiliser, Synthonia.

Based in Norton, a suburb of Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham play in the Northern League Division Two, which is the same level as the Northwest Counties Football League Division One (South) in which we compete. Like the Ravens they currently sit sixth in their league, just one place outside the playoffs. However, their form has taken a jolt in recent weeks, as they have lost three on the bounce.

The Synners have already played two FA Vase qualifying games so far this season to reach this stage of the competition, and the club have a long history with the ‘Vase’, coming so close to reaching the final in 2007, before losing in the semi-finals.

FC Isle of Man Team News

Manager, Chris Bass will again be absent this Saturday as he continues to recover from illness, but he is nearly fighting fit and expects to make the trip to Cheadle on Wednesday.

In the meantime, however, interim management team Lee Dixon and Paul Jones will take charge for this weekend’s prestigious cup-tie.

As seems to be the norm the Ravens continued to pick up injuries, as both Alex Maitland (to borrow from Dixon, a colossus this season) and Cam Avery had to be replaced during last week’s clash at Abbey Hulton. Neither are expected to make the long trip north this weekend.

With Alex Harrison, Sean Quaye and Chris Cannell, all close to returning, but not quite ready for tomorrow it leaves Ryan Burns as the only fit centre back this weekend, but he will be ably supported by unsung player of the season, Ash Higginbotham and teenager Adam Cooil. The latter having an impressive 30-minute cameo at right back last week (it’s amazing what he can do without that head band).

Up front however, the Abbey Hulton absentees Dan Simpson, Charlie Higgins, Lee Gale and Furo Davies all return, which will provide a headache in the selection process (albeit a good one) considering the form of Jacob Crook, Luke Murray and some bloke called Doyle last weekend. It’s believed that Sean has commissioned his own musical rendition of ‘Freed from Desire’ for this week. He deserves it.

So, while there might be changes at the back (enforced) and upfront (a multitude of choice), things are expected to remain more or less de de rigueur in the midfield where skipper Jack McVey and Michael ‘the Salmon’ Williams continue to be a big influence in the centre of the park. Although the other member of the midfield triumvirate, the effective Samuel Baines, is unavailable this weekend.

We’re on the verge of a very big week, three important games and an historic day to come at the end of it.

The Ravens are well and truly unleashed!