South Shields are set for their biggest game in decades on Saturday when they travel to Coleshill Town for the first leg of their FA Vase semi-final.
The Mariners are red-hot favourites for the competition, but will face an in-form Coleshill side.
They are second in their league, and will have a record crowd watching the game at Pack Meadow – where they play on a 4G pitch – with almost 2,000 people expected in the ground.
While Shields bosses Lee Picton and Graham Fenton have had the Midlands League side watched since the draw was made, the Gazette has done it’s own scouting report on the Colemen.
We spoke to Coleshill Herald sports editor Matt Panter about what Shields can expect from their Warwickshire trip.
Q: It seems to have captured the imagination of the town. Is this the biggest game in Coleshill’s history?
MP: Undoubtedly. The club has become accustomed to success in recent seasons, challenging at the top of the Midland Premier table and enjoying decent runs in the FA Vase.
They also reached the third qualifying round of the FA Cup last season, before losing emphatically to AFC Fylde.
But this two-legged tie surpasses all of that.
In some ways, it might have been unexpected as the club lost hugely successful manager Paul Casey to higher league Hednesford Town earlier in the campaign.
But his replacements, Simon Lyons and assistant Adam Wilkes, have continued the good work he did in the league and cup, perhaps even exceeded it.
And now, to be so tantalisingly close to Wembley is incredible for a town and football club of Coleshill’s size.
Q: Who are the men to watch from a Shields perspective?
MP: Dean Rathbone has been a key player this season, scoring 19 goals from midfield.
Coleshill though have a strong work ethic and have good players throughout their side.
Goalkeeper Paul Hathaway, defender Rob Evans and midfielder Craig Milligan are also key while Jordan Nadat is a danger in attack, another with 19 goals, and Tom Weale also provides real threat going forward.
Q: Shields have former Premier League star Julio Arca in their ranks? Any famous players in the Coleshill squad or famous ex-players?
MP: Coleshill’s squad is full of players who are well respected at non-league level in the Midlands but, perhaps, not too well known further afield.
Ex-Coleshill striker Marvin Johnson is currently plying his trade with Oxford United.
Q: Coleshill have been on a great run. What is their style of play?
MP: They have gained a reputation as an attacking side and have scored goals for fun in recent seasons. They have 82 league goals to their name so far this season, the most of any team in the Midland Premier.
Q: How confident are the club of reaching Wembley?
MP: The club knows the size of the task in hand, but I don’t think they are over-awed.
They are happy being underdogs but the players really want this and won’t give up the chance of a Wembley appearance without a fight.