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Willand Grace …

Willand Grace Fourth Qualifying Round for First Time Ever

The players of Western League side Willand Rovers made history for the club on Saturday after coming from behind to progress to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round for the first time in their 68 year history, where they have a home tie against Conference South opposition in the shape of Gosport Borough. The club are joined in this last qualifying round by fellow Extra Preliminary entrants Greenwich Borough, themselves establishing a new record for ‘round reached’ in the FA Cup, but they have an away tie at Conference North outfit Worcester City. Along with Northern League Shildon, these two clubs have already won five matches in this season’s competition, a number of knock outs that would take a Premier League or Championship side to the Cup Final itself!

Also into the final qualifying round for the first time in their respective histories are Spennymoor Town, Witham Town and Norton United, all drawn at home and all hoping to progress to the First Round proper next month. In fact Norton United had never been beyond the First Qualifying Round in 11 previous FA Cup campaigns and take their place in this round after a 5-2 victory at Runcorn Town, themselves a side that had previously only travelled as far as the 1st Qualifying Round.

Several clubs that have made it through to the 4th Qualifying Round have never actually tasted ‘Proper’ round football before and so will have an extra incentive next Saturday. These include the 132 year old Burgess Hill Town, Concord Rangers, Barwell, Maidstone United, King’s Lynn Town, Gosport Borough, and both North Ferriby United and Warrington Town who face each other to guarantee at least one team from this group will be in the hat next month.

It’s never nice to depart the FA Cup, but. Waltham Abbey players can congratulate themselves on taking their club further than it had ever been in 15 previous attempts. Others matching their best ever FA Cup performances are Mickleover Sports, Wingate & Finchley and Chalfont St Peter, the Saints equalling their best effort throughout 38 FA Cup seasons.

Barton Rovers, Redhill and Winchester City are all now out, but this is the best cup run they’ve each produced this century. Redhill has to go back to the days of the Brotherhood of Man winning Eurovision for the last time it got so far, whilst the Henry Winkler supported Winchester City has to go back even further, to the period of his most famous character The Fonz, in 1957!

Unsurprisingly, it’s been a long time since either Redhill or Winchester City has gone further in the competition. The Surrey based ‘Lobsters’ beat Andover 2-1 in 1973 before losing to Hillingdon Borough after a replay in the Fourth Qualifying Round that year, whilst the Citizens, a Hampshire League Division One side the last time they appeared in the final qualifying round, lost to Wessex League opponents in the shape of Dorchester Town in 1955. Talking of Dorchester Town, they’ve drawn the plum tie of this year’s 4th Qualifying Round as they will entertain Bristol Rovers.

Other clubs that have set personal bests this century include Whitehawk, Frome Town and Aveley; all who last appeared in the 3rd Qualifying Round way back in the 1980s. Conversely, Ebbsfleet United has never performed so poorly in the competition since the year 2000.

Final stat of the round: this is the third consecutive year that local Tameside rivals Ashton United and Curzon Ashton have exited the FA Cup in the same round.

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

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