Marske United v Stockton Town
Of the two ties, this is possibly the easier to make a judgment on because both sides are in the same division and have already met once in the league this season. That game was played at Stockton's Bishopton Road ground in September and saw Marske run up a 3-0 win. In the league, Stockton currently sit seventh on 50 points. With nine games remaining, they have no way of pushing into the top three, so they may be a lot more focused on their Vase run.
Marske are in fourth spot some 21 points adrift of leaders Morpeth Town. However, The Seasiders have a colossal ten games in hand which, of course, could see them go clear if they won the lot. With such a short time remaining in the season, though, this is a massive ask for the club.
Marske have been the bookies favourites for the FA Vase for some time now and, to be honest, I can't see any reason to doubt the odds. They have already beaten Stockton on their own ground, an artificial surface, in the league and they disposed of Bracknell Town in the FA Vase, another side who have an artificial pitch. So, travelling to Bishopton Road will hold no fears for them. Stockton's best hope, in my opinion, is that they have little else to play for this season. They can give their all in both legs, without fear of it affecting their league position.
This game, for me, is extremely difficult to predict. I'll admit that, even as far back as the Fifth Round, I have had a sneaky feeling about The Kingfishers. They keep getting results week in, week out and have really seemed to find a way of winning games, even when they don't perform to their maximum level. What makes this one so difficult though is that I saw 1874 win at Leighton in the Quarter-Final and, to do so, they had to show exactly the same qualities as Thatcham have been displaying. They didn't play that well at Leighton but, they got their goal and then managed the game perfectly, defending stoically and doing what they had to do to win the game.
Both of these sides have league ambitions. Thatcham are, as I write, sitting in second place two points behind Highworth but with a game in hand and a visit to The Elms still to come. 1874 are in eighth spot but, like Marske, have a huge number of games in hand. They are 33 points behind Runcorn Linnets but have 11 games in hand. So, the title race is not lost and, certainly, a top three finish is well within reach. The issue for 1874 is that they still have over half of their league games to play and we are already heading rapidly towards the end of March. The fixture congestion may prove to be one step too far for them.
Statistics and Predictions
Games Played. Goals Scored, Minutes Played
Marske United 2 Stockton Town 2
Stockton Town 2 Marske United 2 (2-3 aet. Agg 4-5)
Thatcham Town 2 1874 Northwich 1
1874 Northwich 2 Thatcham Town 1 (3-1 aet. Agg 4-3)
Which would mean a final between Marske United and 1874 Northwich. Saying that, if my predictions in the office Premier League predictor last week are anything to go buy, we'll be seeing Thatcham and Stockton at Wembley.
Good luck to all four teams. Whoever gets to the Final, I am sure they will put on a spectacular show for us on Non-League Finals Day.
Personally, I can't wait to get to Wembley.