the real fa cup

Hit The North

HIT THE NORTH

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After getting a bit of grief for our rather South-centric ITV preview in the previous round, we thought we’d redress the balance a little here and head a bit further North in pursuit of interesting games to big-up. And, for no other reason than Twitter comments from Danny Last and Huddo Hudson, I thought we should go for an 80s music theme this week. And believe me when I say that the rest of the links are considerably less cool than the headline link.

Workington .v. Shildon
Not to put too fine a point on it (not quite an 80s reference, hold steady), Shildon are going rather well in the STL. 2nd place, unbeaten since early September and a stack of goals to boot. Similarly, the Blue Square North’s home side have been doing the same. Having said that, all but one of Workington’s wins have been by a single goal and they got spanked 4-0 by Boston  a few weeks back. As ganningaway’sHuddo insists, this game  has the potential for cup shock. We’ll go with him, we see where he’s coming from but as we’ve seen neither side play this is all bluster from us.

As a former league side and home of self-styled Duke of Workington, rag-and-bone man Freddie Cairns , Workington, are favourites here. They’ve played, and only narrowly lost to, Liverpool, Manchester United and Forest in the FA Cup in years gone by. They’ve also lost to Shildon before and the interesting bit about that is that it was not that long ago and was also Shildon’s best ever run in the cup when they eventually lost in the first round to Notts County.

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With both town’s railway connections, if this tie was a late 80s pop soul track it would be ‘Riding On A Train’ by the Pasadenas.

Buxton .v. AFC Telford
The Shropshire Bucks, perhaps unsurprisingly, have a small cup hex over the Derbyshire Bucks. A 3-0 win in a 1982 1st Qualifying Round tie was preceded by an FA Trophy win ten years earlier. As we said, it’s not really surprising, Telford have made regular appearances in the propers over the last 40 years and regular feature as teams that nervous managers want to avoid.

Telford are clearly the more established power, their current form is good and they are 3rd in the Blue Square North so are going to be tough to beat. They also have an enviable away support. We’ve seen them play twice before at Hendonand Southend United and in both (away) games their fans were a credit. Against Hendon they sang most of the way through half time while everyone else was grabbing a pie and a pint and the big fella with his 30 foot flag pole waved and waved and waved and waved some more.

But this game is anything but a foregone conclusion, Buxton are themselves flying in the league, albeit in the league below.  They are underdogs but that’s why we hope they get through. And they have previous, they’ve made the propers a few times themselves, most notably back in the 50s when they beat Macclesfield and Aldershot en route to a 2-0 3rdround defeat at Doncaster.

This should be a good game but the football isn’t the only reason to head to the Peak District this Saturday. Buxton is, of course, the go to town in the … errr … Peak District!  Fount of much loved spring water it maybe but their Silverlands ground is also reputedly the most elevated in the football pyramid at 1000ft above sea level. As an aside, West Brom have the highest league ground!? Wasn’t expecting that.

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Obviously Bucks Fizz, obviously. Less obviously, under rated Euro pop classic ‘Piece of the Action’.

Lincoln Moorlands Railway .v. Mossley?
The Moors arrive in Q3 via a mixed set of circumstances. After a routine extra preliminary round win, a hatchet job on Glapwell (6-0) and a leaden booted struggle past Gresley, they welcome Mossley off the back of an old-school ‘bye’ in the previous round. We all know why, if not see our last preview, so we won’t add further grief to the deceased by bringing it up again.

Because of their cup commitments and those of others, LMR have been restricted to just five league games in two months, half the games played by the team one place below them in 18th place. A few others have played nearly as few but, in theory at least, The Moors could go 2nd if they win all their games in hand.

Mossley’s season has picked up a little since we last touched on them a few rounds ago, although not that you would have noticed by reading the brilliant Mossley80 blog, one of our favourite non-league blogs. It has to be said they travel in style, four away wins on the spin could bode well.  The Moors, on the other hand, would rather be driving away from home because their last win at the Moorlands Social was in FA Cup’s Extra Preliminary Round back in the middle of August. The mysterious Mossley80, known only to us as ‘Steve’, will not be in attendance at LMR so an away win is almost inevitable.

This one has to be Paul Young’s ‘Every Time You Go Away’ you will beat Lincoln Moorlands because their home form is diabolical. Or something.

 

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Token Southern Tie – St Albans .v. Kingstonian
As a soldier of fortune and circumstance, Simon is off to this one as it affords quality time with chums and has the added bonus of seeing the fabulous Ks fans again.  A report on the classic 2nd Qualifying Round match the Ks & Margate served up is over here. We’ve mentioned the Ks in some details so won’t harp on – the home team however are draw specialists, most difficult to beat (6 draws) but have managed victory just twice this season, last time in the previous round.

Historically, St Albans have managed a giant killing just once (Brentford) many, many years ago but they will be forever famous in my head as the team who scored seven FA Cup  goals and yet still lost! Twice in St Albans history has a player hit a double hatrick in the FA Cup. Steve Clark did so most recently in an 11-1 victory over Hillingdon Borough but the first one was in the aforementioned loss. On that day Wilf Minter scored all seven goals, a record in a losing side, as St Albans lost 8-7 to our chums Dulwich Hamlet in what must have been one of the most entertaining games of all time.

If only Dr Alban had been around in the 80s… oh well, it must be time for home counties, coffee table favourites Spandau Ballet! Or as Ipswich Town fans might say “ALAN LEE! [pause] GOAL, always believe he will score, you’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible…”.

Sheffield FC .v. Frickley Athletic
If I wasn’t going all Spanglish this weekend and Simon wasn’t Hertfordshire bound, we’d almost certainly be heading north to Derbyshire, yes, Derbyshire, for Sheffield FC’s monster tie with Frickley Athletic. Gifted purveyors of fine FA Cup runs of yore, Frickey pose a serious threat to Sheffield’s 2010 FA Cup run. Not that Sheffield haven’t been there and done that themselves but it’s been a while. Quarter Finalists on three occasions two centuries ago in football’s amateur years, Sheffield haven’t exactly troubled the historians, or the 1st round proper, since 1880!

Saturday will be Sheffield’s 6th FA Cup game this season and standing in the doorway of a 7th looms Frickley Athletic from the league above. However, Frickley are struggling and, Northwich, a side 3rd in their league were  nudged aside by Sheffield in the previous round.

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The oldest existing football club in the World, Sheffield have not had the best start to the league season but, between the middle of September and middle of October they play only Cup games which, so far, they have got through with an excuse me and a little shove.

Sheffield’s Operations Manager, Ian Feeley, told us “Cup Month has been a nice break from the league and the team is starting to gel. In the first half last night [Tuesday, against Rainworth Miners Welfare in the FA Trophy], the football we played was tremendous.”  “The game couldn’t have fallen on a better weekend, international weekend” and Ian posed a fair question for those bereft of their usual football outlet; “where else will you get entry, a programme and pie and peas for £10?” With prices having remained static for three or four years at Sheffield, we’d be surprised if there were many places. Their average crowd of 350 is likely to be swelled for this tie, so don’t miss out because, as Ian said, “for teams like Sheffield every game from now on is a final”.

Part of the reason the team is starting to come together is the new players, or returning players. “Jordan Eagers is back, a dynamic player in midfield who knits everything together, also Dave Graham back from Ilkeston [after their sad demise] looking fitter and sharper ”.  When they do return to league action, it would be a good bet that Sheffield will be rising up the league with fresh confidence and their rivals will see a different team.

Like so many clued up non-league clubs, everything about Sheffield that we’ve encountered, which is admittedly mostly other people’s words and a quickish chat with Ian, shows a welcoming club, comfortable with themselves and their approach to ‘the game’. Some clubs just seem to happily exist as an entity, beyond what happens on the pitch: Notts County are the oldest League club in the World and inspiration from Juve’s famous shirts, you can’t take that away no matter what questionable owners do.  Sheffield FC are the World’s Oldest Football Club and opposition fans seem to genuinely love visiting as much for who they are playing as much as watching their own team.

 

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Embracing their history means they get a lot more interest than clubs around them, this could breed jealousy but there seems to be little antipathy towards Sheffield, even from the 2nd or 3rd (depending on who you believe) oldest club down the road. Indeed, over the summer, the other pensioners of football, Cray Wanderers and Hallam FC, popped over for a mini ‘heritage’ tournament to celebrate the latter two’s 150th anniversaries.  Cray won on penalties.

But, at the end of the day, Sheffield are not a charity and it’s cold hard cash in the bank that gets you through the season and a good cup run is worth so much more. “The money you get from these cup games is very important, £2k from the FA Trophy win”, says Ian, explaining that that the money has already been put to use.  “Last week we had to hire a generator, the radiator developed a hole”. They had to get the floodlights working for the evening game.

The need to get finance is balanced with a sense of fairness, “Average crowd is 350 but prices have been the same for 3 or 4 years and we don;t put them up for the big games”. Ian’s example was the visit of FC United of Manchester whom he said were glad that, unlike some other teams, they didn’t hike the prices for the game to make a killing on a big away support. This is actually evident on FCUM’s forum.

But of course, there is pragmatism with it,  “If we do get through hopefully we can either get a big conference side or a lower team we should be able to beat”. It was said with no expectation, just in hope, but the financial imperative is clearly balanced with fairness and Ian said “he likes to think they do things properly and other clubs/fans get on with us because of it”.

While fans of the big teams still have the FA Cup to come and can dream of the finals, even for Sheffield “Going all the way, is what it’s all about now. For teams like Sheffield every game is a final from now on”. From this round on all funds are a  bonus and getting to the propers can fund a club for up to 5 years.

Where to start? Sheffield tastic. Here we go … Lead us not in to temptation

Full ist of fixtures at the FA and pop over here to the itv football site to see a little extra piece about Lewes’ tie this weekend.

*Front page ‘Scrabble’ image copyright of Andy V Byers 2009.

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