the real fa cup

Big Team Beckons For Bravest Of The Brave

540 clubs have now exited this year’s FA Cup, but two of those still standing will not only face each other in the 3rd Qualifying Round, but will both be in extremely unchartered territory, neither having ever been further than the 1st Qualifying Round before. When Runcorn Town from the North West Counties League take on Northern Premier League outfit Norton United next Saturday one of them is guaranteed to be in the hat with giants from the Conference National. And who’s to say that an appearance in the First Round Proper isn’t out of the question?

Runcorn Town actually started its FA Cup run in the Extra Preliminary Round, and is one only of six survivors of the 368 clubs that began their campaigns way back in mid August. Joining Runcorn in the ‘four match victors’ club are Willand Rovers, in the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time ever, Greenwich Borough, reaching this far for only the second time in its history, Flackwell Heath, Shildon and Winchester City. Could one or more of them continue all the way to November and beyond?

Many clubs departing the competition at this 2nd Qualifying Round stage can hold their heads up high having registered personal bests in the competition. The full list includes Leverstock Green, Ardley United, Larkhall Athletic, London Tigers, Farsley and Dorking Wanderers, but special mention goes to Combined Counties Premier League outfit Raynes Park Vale who reached this round for the first time in 16 attempts.

Other clubs equalled their best FA Cup performances – Abingdon United, Beaconsfield SYCOB, Blaby and Whetstone Athletic, Faversham Town, Scarborough Athletic, VCD Athletic and Norwich United, who hadn’t been this far in the competition since entering it for the first time in 92/93.

Banbury United and Glossop North End recording their best run since 2007, with the latter of these two clubs having not been any further any year this century. Trumping that is West Midlands based side Tividale who has never progressed further than this round since 1982.

Three sides netted seven goals as they progressed to the 3rd Qualifying Round. Gosport Borough beat Larkhall Athletic 7-0 in a replay; Ebbsfleet United won 7-1 against Hythe Town; and Halesowen Town who won 7-1 at 1st Qualifying Round heroes Ellistown and Ibstock United, the East Midlands Counties League side being one of the last three remaining FA Cup virgins, along with Cleethorpes Town and FC Romania, all to be gallantly knocked out at this stage.

Three sides are getting used to being eliminated at this 2nd Qualifying Round as Skelmersdale United with three consecutive seasons, Bideford and Farnborough both with four, all depart at this stage yet again. Hayes and Yeading United and Solihull Moors both registered their worst equal performance since becoming merged teams, whilst Barrow’s defeat to the lowest remaining side Runcorn Town was their earliest exit since 2005. Stalybridge Celtic and Thurrock have never done this poorly in the FA Cup since 1991.

One final stat: it’s the first time both clubs from Harrogate have been knocked out in the same round since they both were eliminated in the 1st Qualifying Round in 2001.

Words: Phil Annets
Phil is an FA Cup historian, the designer of Whirred PLAY and is on Twitter @PhilAnnets.

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