400-mile round trip for spying mission

Dunston player Chris Swailes
Dunston player Chris Swailes

DUNSTON UTS arrive at the Elgood’s Fenland Stadium on Saturday in top form and looking to improve on reaching the last eight in the FA Vase last year.

Manager Billy Irwin has left no stone unturned before the fourth round tie and even made the 400-mile round trip himself to take a look at the Fenmen and also had them watched on one other occasion too.

He said: “Wisbech look a decent team – you have to be to reach the fourth round. They work hard and play the game in the right manner and have a couple of good forwards.

“I was impressed with the facilities and am really looking forward to coming back this weekend.”

Dunston lost out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Whitley Bay last year and Irwin admits: “That was a really big disappointment as we deserved to win. We lost 1-0 in front of 1,700 people and it was a really good day.

“That is why we are keen to go further in the competition this year.”

Dunston have drawn twice with Whitley Bay this season in a very strong Northern League Division One – they have six clubs in the Vase on Saturday – and lost just twice in the league this season.

In fact Irwin is very confident his side can win the title. “We are four points off the top of the table and have games in hand on the three clubs above us. We have a much stronger squad of players this time around.”

When asked which competition he would prefer to win, the league or the Vase, Irwin replied: “Both of them. It is too difficult to choose one of them. We are playing really well at the moment so why not.”

One player Wisbech will have to look out for is Dunston’s prolific scorer Andy Bulford.

A powerful and sharp player, he has been their top marksman for the last four seasons and equalled the club’s all-time Northern League scorer with two goals in a 5-1 win against Penrith over a week ago.

This is his fourth season with the club having previously played for Ryton and was once on Darlington’s books. The 25-year-old has scored 28 goals this season in all competitions and a total of 124 in four seasons so far.

Dunston also include former Ipswich, Peterborough and Boston United player Chris Swailes in their squad and the 42-year-old forms a strong central defensive partnership with Michael Robson.

Swailes has already tasted an FA Vase final win when with Bridlington in the 1992-93 season.

Irwin and his squad will be travelling down on Friday and staying overnight in Peterborough and a coach of 50 fans will be making the journey from Gateshead on Saturday.