27 January ~ On September 17, 2005, County Durham side Shildon drew 1-1 at home to Alnwick Town in the FA Vase. Five years, and 18 games later, they haven't played a Vase game at home since. There's nothing wrong with their ground, it's their luck that's the problem. Since that tie against Alnwick, Shildon have been drawn away 17 times in a row. Though, of course, the odds on being drawn away are one in two, the odds on a sequence of 17 away draws are one in 131,072. Shildon aren't quite one in a million, but, with three more away draws, they would be (or 1 in 1,048,576, to be precise). Has any team had a worse run of fortune?

Despite that, Shildon, who play in the skilltrainingltd Northern League, haven't done badly. In the past four seasons, in which they've entered the Vase in the second qualifying round, they've won at least two ties. This season, after five successful away matches, they're in the last 16 – away at St Ives, in Cambridgeshire, on February 6. The club are hopeful – quietly hopeful – of reaching Wembley for the first time. The team's Vase form is certainly improving. After narrow wins over Easington Colliery (1-0) and Leeds Carnegie (3-2) in the first two rounds this year, they've beaten Congleton, Crook and Stotfold comfortably enough.

Their list of opponents since 2005 hints at the Vase's appeal. The 17-game sequence started at Tow Law, a short drive from Shildon. Stotfold, where they've just played, was a 420-mile round trip to Hertfordshire. In between they've played at places like Thackley, Nantwich and Frickley (where the college team Leeds Carnegie play), places you'd be unlikely to visit without football. Every away draw is bemoaned as the games are harder to win. (Travel costs can be covered by gate receipts). But – as Shildon's 200-plus supporters at Stotfold proved – every game is an adventure and a chance to put a face, and a place, to a name. Still, if St Ives are overcome, a home quarter-final would be nice. Owen Amos

Shildon's FA Vase record from 2005 onwards:

2QR: Shildon 1 - 1 Alnwick Town
2QR replay: Alnwick Town 5 - 2 Shildon

2QR: Tow Law 3 - 5 Shildon
1R: Sunderland Nissan 3 - 4 Shildon
2R: Nantwich 3 - 4 Shildon
3R: Retford 4 - 3 Shildon

2QR: West Allotment Celtic 2 - 5 Shildon
1R: Washington 0 - 3 Shildon
2R: Salford 5 - 1 Shildon

2QR: Yorkshire Amateur 0 - 7 Shildon
1R: Crook 2 - 4 Shildon
2R: Thackley 0 - 1 Shildon
3R: Spennymoor 3 - 2 Shildon

2QR: Easington 0 - 1 Shildon
1R: Leeds Carnegie 2 - 3 Shildon
2R: Congleton 0 - 2 Shildon
3R: Crook 2 - 4 Shildon
4R: Stotfold 0 - 2 Shildon 

Comments (6)
Comment by nick harper 2010-01-27 16:39:33

Villa once had 12 consecutive away draws between 1993/94 and 1997/1998 until they were drawn at home to West Brom in the fourth round. This included a 3rd round game against Gravesend in 1996 when they elected to play the game at Villa Park.

This is one of a few unusual experiences Villa have had over the last few years including drawing Darlington who had already been eliminated in 1999 when Man United went to South America and a propensity to keep drawing United in the 3rd round during the noughties - 4 times in 7 years.

Comment by g77 2010-01-27 18:03:57

... and let us not forget that, during 'the FA Cup run that saved Sir Alex', Manchester United played away from home in every round of the 1989-90 competition. Only seven games, but seven games that would appear to have had a huge impact on post 1980s English and European football.

Comment by Why on Earth... 2010-01-28 00:08:56

Indulge me in some maths.

See, I think this is actually not that crazy a phenomenon. The FA's various knockout competitions involve a total of about 1500 clubs, and in a knockout competition the average number of matches played by each team is just under 2. If we look at a run of, say, 15 seasons, each team plays about 30 games. The chance of some team somewhere notching up a run of 17 away draws during that time seems to be about 15%, based on a simulation what I done. Which isn't [i]insanely[/i] improbable. I mean, it wouldn't be regarded as "significant" in a statistical sense.

(Sorry. Move on.)

Comment by canarly 2010-01-28 11:39:50

Thank you why on earth I'll buy you a pint if I ever see you . it saved me doing that !

Comment by frontier psychiatrist 2010-01-28 15:06:33

The semi-final, final and replay in 1990 were at neutral venues, as ever, so that's only four away draws, with a 1 in 16 chance

Comment by g77 2010-01-28 23:03:44

... didn't say 'away draws', said 'played away from home' :-)

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