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2018 Day 16 - various

Another day off from the "looks familiar" countdown, as we check on those Football League sides who have avoided playing us in a competitive game so far.

No less than 21 former members of the Football League fall into this category as follows:

Aldershot, Ashington, Barnet, Barrow, Bootle, Boston United, Dagenham & Redbridge, Darlington, Durham City, Gateshead, Kidderminster Harriers, Leeds City, Maidstone United, Merthyr Town, Nelson, New Brighton, Rushden & Diamonds, Scarborough, Stalybridge Celtic, Thames & Workington.

Moving on to the current FL, the following seven sides are yet to face us competitively:

Crawley Town, Fleetwood Town, Forest Green Rovers, Macclesfield Town, Rochdale, Wycombe Wanderers, Yeovil Town.

Macclesfield Town visited SJP in the Checkatrade/EFL Trophy earlier this month, but the format of that competition meant that the Silkmen faced our U21s, which opens up a whole can of worms...

Of the rest, most have risen up the pyramid since automatic promotion was introduced. And although we're yet to meet Crawley or Wycombe, our reserves are no strangers to their home grounds due to their use by Brighton and Reading respectively.

Rochdale remain the most elusive of clubs, with our only meeting since they joined the Football League in 1921 a wartime fixture at Spotland in 1941. 

That leaves the eternal question of Wimbledon and how to add that into our records. 

The last of our 23 meetings was in 2000. Since then, two different clubs have appeared and by fair means or foul, joined the Football League. We're yet to face either MK Dons or AFC Wimbledon.

Here's a random selection of sides we've faced in friendly action but not competitively as yet:

1989: Boston

Our belated FA cup exit at the hands of Watford in 1989 (after four meetings) left us with a free weekend in February and the opportunity to play a meaningless friendly to integrate new arrivals.

Nowadays we'd be jetting off to some Spanish golf resort, but twenty years ago things were rather more mundane (although we'd been to Bermuda a few years earlier) and manager Jim Smith fixed up a kickabout at former club Boston United, then of the Conference.

Just over 3,500 fans were in York Street to see Frank Pingel score the only goal of the game and some of the away support that day have tales to tell;  some southern-based ones almost causing the game to be called off after "borrowing" Newcastle shirts from the dressing room and others dealing with assorted lunatics who'd travelled from across Lincolnshire for a ruck. 

PS: Newcastle returned to this part of Lincolnshire in July 2004, when a pre-season friendly pitted our reserves against a Boston first XI including ex-Magpies Paul Gascoigne and Chris Holland.

The outcome was an embarrassing 0-4 defeat when Tommy Craig's side were woeful - and such was the lack of entertainment for away followers that we were moved to wonder whether the operational windmill visible from the away end was unique in the Football League. The intervening years and the mushrooming of wind farms has rendered that line even more irrelevant.... 

1984: Darlington I

24 hours after rounding off their promotion season with a 3-1 home win over Brighton, some bright spark had agreed to Newcastle providing the opposition to Darlington at Feethams in a benefit game for SJP old boy David Barton.

Wearing their silver change kit, United won 3-0 in blazing sunshine, with raging hangovers on and off the pitch....

2009: Darlington II

Now the province of some local eggchasers - with the current incarnation of the Quakers playing on another site outside the town - the eccentric and egotistical George Reynolds was responsible for Darlington's ill-advised move to a massive new stadium, nicknamed the Combover Arena.

Facing them there at reserve level, United's senior debut then came in July 2009 as they debuted the yellow striped away kit and continued preparations for second tier football with a 7-2 win. 

It would be our pre-season visit to the Reynolds Arena/Northern Echo Arena two years later that grabbed the headlines though, a pitch invasion following Sammy Ameobi fulfilling the request of the terrace ditty, "if Sammy scores, we're on the pitch."

1995: Rushden

Newcastle travelled to rural Northamptonshire in July 1995 to face non-league "superclub" Rushden & Diamonds, who were progressing thanks to the spending power of Doctor Marten boot owner Max Griggs, responsible the building of their smart new Nene Park ground.

There was a first sight of David Ginola in a Newcastle shirt, while Les Ferdinand scored his first goals for the club and reserve propsect Paul Brayson netted for the second game running.

Rushden's rise and fall would be rapid though, promoted to the Football League in 2000 but then relegated six years later and ceasing to exist by 2011. Nene Park was then levelled in 2017.

August 1990: Yeovil

For a club who have specialised in bonkers pre-season schedules (thankfully we weren't going when they visited Iran), the 1990/91 one was worthy of note. Eight games over 19 days saw United play games in Leicestershire Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hungary, Scotland and Yorkshire.

The second of those took Newcastle to a sun-drenched Yeovil as the Glovers officially opened The New Huish Stadium. FA Chairman Bert Millichip and Football League President Gordon McKeag did the honours on the pitch before kick-off, along with a priest and a parachute display team. Obviously.

McKeag was of course also there in his capacity as NUFC Chairman and many of the 250 travelling fans barracked him throughout over the club's lack of investment in talented players.

On the field, Newcastle ran out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Mark McGhee and John Anderson.

PS: This seems as good a place as any to log our random observations of NUFC in the FAC.

Three of our 25 most opposed teams have avoided us in this competition for many a long year, namely the smoggies (last met in 1900/01), West Ham (1914/15), the mackems (1955/56).

Other familiar foes we haven't met in the FA Cup for a significant period of time include Leeds United (1932/33), Cardiff City (1938/39), Oldham Athletic (1949/50) Huddersfield Town (1954/55) and Fulham (1960/61).

And despite having faced them in competitive matches no less than 28 times, Newcastle have never played Bristol City in this competition.  

In terms of the clubs we've been drawn against most often*, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest lead the way with 10 pairings each, while our forthcoming tie against Blackburn will be the ninth meeting with them, one ahead of a clutch of sides on eight, namely; Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Southampton.

* no account of replays is made in these totals.

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Page last updated 16 December, 2018