the real fa cup

The Magnificent Seven

There are so many fantastic stories regarding non-league team performances in this season’s FA Cup 1st Round that it is extremely difficult to know where to start. The players and management of Worcester City, Warrington Town, Maidstone United, Dover Athletic, Chester, Aldershot Town and Southport should quite rightly feel immensely proud of overcoming League opposition, in some cases beating teams playing week-in and week-out at a significantly higher level than themselves. Special mention, too, to Blyth Spartans who beat a fellow non-league side from a higher level in the pyramid, and fingers crossed for Concord Rangers who will have the opportunity to create another League casualty after their fantastic draw at Mansfield Town.

After 21 seasons Concord Rangers will be hoping to join five other clubs who will be experiencing the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history. Chester (3 seasons), AFC Telford United (11), Maidstone United (13), Warrington Town (35) and Eastleigh (38) have all set new FA Cup records for furthest round reached.

Northern Premier League Division One North side Warrington Town are not only the lowest ranked team remaining in the competition but they have also won six ties already to get to the Second Round having entered back in August in the Preliminary Round. To put that into perspective, a Premiership team that goes on to win the Trophy itself will have to win just as many ties to do so.

Norton United were another side that had entered this season’s competition at the Preliminary Round stage and had reached the 1st Round for the first time in their history, but their exceptional FA Cup run finally came to an end at home to Conference side Gateshead, themselves equalling their best ever run in 37 seasons due to this win. After overcoming fellow non-league side Bromley, Dartford has made it in to the 2nd Round for the first time since 1985, whilst Southport (1999) and Worcester City (1983) will both be hoping to make the 3rd Round for the first time this century.

Despite departing this year’s competition several non-league teams can still be proud of what they’ve achieved. Gosport Borough reached the First Round for the first time in 59 seasons, whilst Hemel Hempstead Town, East Thurrock United, AFC Fylde and FC Halifax Town all equalled their best ever FA Cup runs. Braintree Town also equalled their best run, the third successive year of doing so. It was the best run for Weston-super-Mare in eleven seasons whilst it is 13 years since Altrincham went further and 69 seasons have gone by for Bromley since they did any better than this year.

Conversely to the positive fortunes of non-league clubs, several League sides have not performed so well creating unwanted records. Exeter City’s defeat to Warrington was their fifth consecutive First Round exit. Barnet, Dagenham & Redbridge, Portsmouth, Swindon Town and York City have all been knocked out at this stage on the last three occasions, some this time by non-league sides. Worcester City’s outstanding defeat of Coventry City has subjected their near neighbours to their worst FA Cup performance since 1960 when they were last knocked out in the First Round. Losses to non-league sides were the sixth consecutive tie lost for both Exeter City and Portsmouth with Pompey never having won an FA Cup tie since beating Tottenham Hotspur in a 2010 semi-final match.

Finally, but for a last gasp strike by Ben Strevens for Eastleigh, Lincoln City would have continued their amazing run of consecutive FA Cup ties requiring a replay to nine. As it is they will have to temper the taste of defeat by being content with holding that peculiar record at eight.

Click here for all Phil’s Round reviews.

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

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