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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 15:50 GMT
Shildon live FA Cup dream
By Pete Oliver

Notts County's future will be decided on Tuesday
Notts County last won the FA Cup in 1894
Long-serving Shildon secretary Mike Armitage has waited over 40 years for the kind of day he will enjoy at Notts County on Sunday.

Not since 1961 have Shildon, who play in the Albany Northern League, reached the FA Cup first round.

Armitage watched Shildon's historic FA Cup appearance all those years ago and he will be at Meadow Lane on Sunday when the County Durham club look to spring the biggest surprise of the competition so far this season.

"It's something we have dreamed of," said Armitage.

"I remember the day we played Oldham 42 years ago. Me and my pals went down there as 14-year-old lads to watch the game.

"It was the days when you could stand behind one goal and then go to the other end in the second-half.

"There were 11,780 there and we actually took the lead but got beaten 5-2 in the end.

Shildon are one of the smallest clubs left in the draw and already had to battle through five rounds and one replay.

In the final qualifying round Ray Gowan's team beat UniBond League side Stocksbridge Park Steels 6-0 in front of a crowd of 1,046 at Dean Street.

It was Shildon's biggest crowd for 30 years, paying what are believed to be club record gate receipts of 4,320 to add to the 22,000 in prize money already accumulated from the competition.

One thing in our favour is that we have got lads in our team who can score goals at any level
Shildon secretary Mike Armitage
Seven club coaches will make the trip to Nottingham on Sunday taking between 800 and 1,000 fans.

"It's the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and now we are getting some tangible reward for ourselves and the fans," added Armitage, who has been club secretary for 32 years.

"We have had a tremendous support and our fan base has really grown. We have had a couple of successful seasons at our level and the interest in the town and the build-up has been great.

"We have had lots of messages of support and goodwill from clubs in our league. Darlington and Hartlepool and Sunderland have all offered us the use of their training facilities.

"Ray has never had a penny in wages for himself so this is a great reward for him as well."

Gowan, who has been in charge of the club for the last 11 years, has twice previously gone this far as a manager.

But they lost to Doncaster Rovers when he was in charge of Brandon United and then out to Chesterfield when boss of Spennymoor United.

Shildon will be no soft touch. Having been promoted to the First Division of the Northern League two years ago they won the League Cup last season and have been beaten just twice in the current campaign.

Top-scorer Gary Barnes already has 28 goals to his name. Alongside Barnes will be former Darlington, Leicester City and Crewe forward Lee Ellison, who has hit the target 18 times this term.

And another former Quaker, midfielder Nigel Bolton, who started out as a youth at Shildon, is close to double figures.

"We will be up against it but I think the lads have got a chance," said Armitage.

"The one thing in our favour is that we have got lads in our team who can score goals at any level. It's always possible that they can get a goal in any match."

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