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There are 184 ties and 368 clubs in this year’s FA Cup EP Round, a recent standard format established by the FA based upon qualifying criteria of league position and facilities, enabling that organisation to better manage the 14 rounds required to syphon 736 clubs down to just one winner next May.
Twenty-one of the 736 clubs are entering the competition for the very first time with several clubs having to wait over 100 years since their formation before being able to taste FA Cup football. Wincanton Town has waited the longest having been formed in 1890, but Sun Postal Sports (117 years), Seven Acre and Sidcup (115) and Penistone Church (109) have all also had to wait many years.
Thirty-two clubs are returning to FA Cup action. Many have only been absent for 1-3 years due to their league finishing position during those years, but others have had to wait an age to return, with one team in particular not immediately realising they had played FA Cup football before. Peterborough Sports last participated in the competition in the 1922/23 season, the year of the White Horse final at Wembley, but played under a different name, Brotherhoods Engineering Works. That’s a 92 year wait, a hiatus that could well have been a record but for further investigation that identified that Holwell Sports had had a 94 year gap between FA Cup matches when returning in 2009. That club had previously entered the competition as Holwell Works in the final season before the First World War.
This means 53 clubs who competed in last season’s FA Cup will not be doing so this year. Many will be back, but for some it will have been their last foray due to the fact they have folded. This group includes Hereford United and Salisbury City, two clubs with long histories and a large enough fan base to elicit new phoenix clubs to be set up by those fans, namely Hereford and Salisbury respectively. No doubt both of these clubs will appear in future seasons, but the likes of Celtic Nation, Woodstock Sports and arguably the ‘team of 2014/15 FA Cup’ Norton United are unlikely to grace it ever again.
In this year’s EP Round there are six clubs who have made it at least as far as the glamorous Third Round in the past. Alvechurch (1973/74), Ashington (26/27), Clapton (25/26), Whitley Bay (89/90) and Worksop Town (55/56) all made it to the 3rd Round, but going one round further in 1954/55 season is Bishop Auckland who lost 3-1 to York City in the last 32 that year.
Bishop Auckland is also involved in the most common match-up in this year’s EP Round being drawn for the tenth time against Shildon who hold a five to four advantage in previous encounters. It’s a widely held belief that because of regionalisation in these early FA Cup rounds then clubs tend to meet each other over and over again. However, this year’s competition would suggest that is not necessarily the case with only 27 of the ties pitting teams against each other that have met in the competition in the past, and only five of those ties involve two clubs who have met more than once.
Regionalisation also suggests teams will face other clubs from their own league in these early rounds. Of the 184 EP Round ties, just 47 sees encounters between divisional opponents whilst 28 matches involve two teams from the same League but playing in different divisions, and 109 ties actually give clubs the chance to benchmark themselves with clubs from different leagues altogether.
Finally, there are 14 clubs in this season’s EP Round which have actually never been knocked out of the competition at such an early stage. Of these clubs, Brigg Town stand out the most having entered the competition 78 times since 1919/20. The club will want to avoid the fate of fellow Northern Counties East Premier League side Worksop Town who were eliminated at the Extra Preliminary stage of the competition last season for the first time in 107 campaigns.
Addendum: This blog has been translated into Russian – see link below