the real fa cup

From Smallthorne to Big Time

Norton United has won through an incredible five ties to earn the right to host Conference side Gateshead in the team’s first ever ‘Proper’ Round FA Cup match. Remarkably, in 11 previous years, the Smallthorne club (pop. @ 4,200) had only ever played FA Cup matches during summer months!

Three other clubs, who have also earned the right to face league opposition for the first time in their histories, do so against teams which have previously graced the Quarter Finals. Gosport Borough has waited 59 years for the opportunity and will take on League One Colchester United in the 1st round. It’s taken 35 campaigns, but Warrington Town will finally take on a league club, League Two’s Exeter City, a team playing a full four divisions higher up in the pyramid. And Concord Rangers travel to Mansfield Town for their first taste in 21 seasons of ‘Proper’ Round FA Cup experience, the Beach Boys also outperforming their local rivals Canvey Island once again. Maidstone United and Chester both make their bow in the 1st Round since their respective re-formations, and both are drawn away to League Two opposition, Stevenage and Southend United respectively.

Hemel Hempstead Town has reached the 1st Round for only the second time in its 94 FA Cup season history, not participating this far since 1939 when they were still playing under the previous guise of Apsley FC. Isthmian League side East Thurrock United has also reached the 1st Round for only the second time, and The Rocks got here in fine style with a thumping 7-1 win over Bath City from the higher Conference South. This is the 27th time Bath City has been eliminated in 4th Qualifying Round, now just one exit behind Bishop Auckland at the top of this list. Gainsborough Trinity (24), Weymouth (23) and Kidderminster Harriers (21) all climb up this top ten, too.

Hampshire based side Eastleigh is another club in the 1st Round for only the second time. The Spitfires’ only other foray this far in 38 seasons was in 2009/10. Braintree Town has equalled its best Cup run with a third successive year in the 1st Round, their fourth time throughout 57 seasons of FA Cup participation. Three ‘new’ clubs are also sure to at least match their previous best cup run. AFC Telford United, AFC Fylde and FC Halifax Town are all hoping to go that little bit further this time.

For three tier nine sides who entered the FA Cup in the Extra Preliminary Round back in the middle of August, getting to the First Round Proper has proved to be one win too many. Northern League side Shildon came oh so close to taking on local comparative giants Gateshead, whilst players of Greenwich Borough and Willand Rovers can congratulate themselves on setting an FA Cup record for their club by reaching the 4th Qualifying Round. Witham Town and Spennymoor Town can also look back on 2014/15 with satisfaction setting a new benchmark for their clubs, too. Others departing the competition but matching their previous best Cup runs are Burgess Hill Town, North Ferriby United, Barwell and King’s Lynn Town.

On the flip side, the 2014/15 season will be remembered by Torquay United for all the wrong reasons as it will be the first time since 1928 that the Devon club has not participated in the First Round Proper. Macclesfield Town will be absent from the 1st Round for the first time in 19 years, whereas it’s 24 years since Chorley last progressed beyond the 4th Qualifying Round.

And another record breaker is Lincoln City … Lincoln have had eight consecutive FA Cup ties go to a replay! And here are those results.

Finally, with six all Non-League First Round ties there will at least be a good representation of ‘Real FA Cup’ teams in the Second Round at the beginning of December.

Click here for all Phil’s qualifying reviews.

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

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