FA Cup: Dream continues for ambitious Shaw Lane as Mansfield Town await

SHAW LANE AFC chairman Craig Wood believes the fledgling club being handed a home tie against League Two outfit Mansfield Town on their debut appearance in the FA Cup first round proves 'dreams really do come true in football'.

up for the cup: Former Leeds United midfielder David Norris is now plying his trade with the fast-rising Shaw Lane AFC, who face Mansfield Town in the FA Cup first round. Picture: Jon Gawthorpe.

The ambitious Barnsley club, only competing in the world’s oldest competition for a third time this season, have enjoyed a meteoric rise since starting life in the South Yorkshire Amateur League just seven seasons ago.

Five promotions have taken the Ducks to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division, where they sit third in the table and level on points with leaders Altrincham.

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It is the Cup, however, that has propelled Shaw Lane into the national spotlight courtesy of Sunday’s fourth qualifying round win over National League outfit Barrow.

Mansfield Town manager, Steve Evans - Picture: James Williamson

The reward for that 2-1 triumph is a meeting with Steve Evans’s Mansfield in a tie that must be a leading contender for live broadcast by either the BBC or BT Sport along with Hyde United versus Milton Keynes Dons.

“Being handed a home tie against Mansfield was my second shock in 24 hours,” said Wood, the club’s founder and chairman, to The Yorkshire Post in the wake of last night’s draw.

“First, we beat Barrow and then this. When we set out just a few years ago, we wanted to be knocking on the door of the Conference and in the draw for the FA Cup first round against a Football League team. And here we are.

“It shows dreams really do come true in football. This is going to be a hectic three weeks but what a fantastic three weeks it will be. I hope TV pick the game up, that would be great for the club’s profile. But, either way, we are looking at a sell-out.”

Mansfield Town manager, Steve Evans - Picture: James Williamson

Also making their bow in last night’s first round draw was Ossett Town, who will host Wycombe Wanderers if tonight’s replay at home to Solihull Moors can be safely negotiated.

“Just to be involved in the draw and there in person at Hyde was a great honour for the club,” said James Rogers, whose fourth anniversary of becoming Town’s chairman coincided with Saturday’s tie.

“I woke up at 4am on Saturday, feeling like a kid at Christmas. It was a good feeling when the final whistle blew but we still have a job to do. We start again.

“Solihull know more about us going into the replay – but then so we do we about them.”

Doncaster Rovers will also discover tonight their opponents on the weekend of November 3-5 when East Thurrock United and Ebbsfleet United meet in a replay that will decide who hosts Darren Ferguson’s men.

Elsewhere, Guiseley and Bradford City will host Accrington Stanley and Chesterfield respectively, while Rotherham United travel to Crewe Alexandra.

It is, however, Yorkshire’s remaining two non-League sides that most encapsulate the fabled romance of the Cup with Shaw Lane owner Wood admitting an untimely technology failure left him waiting to discover the identity of their opponents.

“I decided to go out for a meal with my wife to get away from everything,” he said. “We arrived at the restaurant as the draw was being made so stayed in the car with the iPad.

“Unfortunately, it froze just after we had been drawn as the home team. It felt like forever until it got going again and we found out it was Mansfield.”

Shaw Lane moved to the 2,000 capacity Sheerien Park, which it shares with landlord Athersley Recreation, during the summer.

The switch of home was made necessary by the swift rise that has fully justified Wood’s decision to set the club up. “I had started playing for a Sunday League team called Wilthorpe,” explained the owner of a club that started life as Shaw Lane Aquaforce due to his plumbing business’s sponsorship before having to drop ‘Aquaforce’ on joining the Evo-Stik under FA rules.

“Before I knew it, I was manager, main sponsor, secretary. We did well and I enjoyed my Sunday mornings. But a mate then said to me, ‘You won’t go anywhere in Sunday League, you can only progress if a Saturday team’. I thought about it and realised he was right.

“So, we started at the very bottom in the South Yorkshire Amateur League. I am not sure it has a level in the football pyramid but we have grown hugely since then.”

An indication of the Ducks’ ambition is the presence of former Leeds United midfielder David Norris in the squad along with Neil Austin (Barnsley) and Nicky Walker (Rotherham).

“We hadn’t won an FA Cup tie before this season,” added Wood. “We had entered twice before but went out in the extra preliminary qualifying round both times. So, this had already been special even before reaching the first round.”