Three hundred and sixty eight teams contested 184 FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round ties which have consequently resulted in twice as many clubs being eliminated from the competition by mid-August than the number of teams exempt from playing in it until at least late November.
Whilst 20 clubs were making their bow in this illustrious competition, Essex Senior League side Clapton was making its 120th appearance, the most of any club competing at this stage, but unluckily the club exited at this early stage for the 13th time. Of those 20 first timers, half of them were victorious as AFC Bridgnorth, Andover Town, Bexhill United, Hanley Town, Hinckley AFC, Risborough Rangers, Rochester United, Seven Acre & Sidcup, Spelthorne Sports and Wincanton Town all have more FA Cup wins under their belt already than 10 clubs who’ve previously experienced FA Cup football.
To be fair to clubs such as Chinnor, Harrowby United, Hythe & Dibden, and Wellingborough Whitworths, they’ve only had one previous bite of the cherry, whereas other clubs have failed to register an FA Cup victory on several occasions. AFC Croydon and Team Solent have three campaigns each, Amesbury and Fawley have four, and Barnoldswick Town have competed five times without success. However, topping this unwanted table is Holyport, the Hellenic League Premier side failing to progress for the sixth successive time of asking.
There are also many clubs who do actually know the taste of FA Cup victory at this stage of the competition, but who are increasingly having to rely on their ever fading memories to remember what it tasted like. More than 40 clubs have had between three to seven successive campaigns without an FA Cup win, whilst two others top this list with eight. Diss Town has been eliminated in the Extra Preliminary Round every year in the last eight seasons, not actually having won an FA Cup tie since beating Needham Market 5-2 in a Preliminary Round match in 2005. Likewise, Sawbridgeworth Town has seen eight successive FA Cup campaigns end in Extra Preliminary Round defeat, but this spans over 11 seasons and the club’s last victory in the competition was a 1-0 win over Wisbech Town in the Extra Preliminary Round in 2004.
Many clubs this season have taken themselves out of the running for most consecutive Extra Preliminary Round defeats by registering their first victory in a while. Twenty Four clubs had had between two to five successive FA Cup campaigns without seeing Preliminary Round action, but Alsager Town had not appeared in that round since 2007/08 season, seven successive defeats halted by a 1-0 win over Athersley Recreation.
One club who are more used to Extra Preliminary Round defeats than any other is Wolverhampton Casuals, whose 1-0 defeat at the hands of newcomers AFC Bridgnorth was their 21st such exit at this stage of the competition, extending their lead at the top of this particular unwanted statistic. In fact the club has only not been eliminated this early in five other campaigns.
Two clubs have registered their first wins in the competition for the first time in more than half a century, but in both cases this is due to the fact that they have not regularly been competing in the Cup. Heaton Stannington returned after an absence of 39 years to beat Norton and Stockton Ancients 3-1, their first win since a 3-2 replay victory over Lynemouth Welfare in 1954. But Peterborough Sports has had to wait considerably longer for its second win in the competition. As Brotherhoods Works, the club competed in the FA Cup in the last four seasons following the end of World War One, registering just one official victory in that time, their first match 1-0 win over Bourne Town in 1919. And now, a mere 96 years later the club can celebrate its second FA Cup win, this time another 1-0 victory over Eynesbury Rovers. This 96 year gap between FA Cup wins may well be a record, but if my investigations prove to be correct, I think I’ve identified another club who had a 102 year gap between successive FA Cup wins! Watch this space.
By winning their Extra Preliminary Round ties, several clubs will this season at least equal their personal best performance in the competition. Some clubs have only had two or three seasons of FA Cup involvement, others like Newton Aycliffe (5 seasons), AFC Liverpool (6), Holmesdale and Kirby Muxloe (both 7) have had a few more, but with 17 FA Cup campaigns under its belt already, Hullbridge Sports will be the keenest of this bunch to go at least one round further.
There were many clubs competing in the Extra Preliminary Round this season nervously worrying that like Worksop Town last season they would be exiting the competition at this stage for the first time in their history. Particularly breathing a sigh of relief will be Stourport Swifts (in their 24th campaign), AFC Hayes (22nd) and Ashford Town (Mdx) (21st), but the club most mightily relieved is Eastbourne Town with an unblemished 66 previous FA Cup runs avoiding such an early exit to protect. I could hear the collective ‘phew’ at Colliers Wood at full time even though I was at Nelson FC.
Other clubs weren’t so fortunate. Several have had only a handful of FA Cup campaigns without tasting defeat at this stage, whilst Horndean has been knocked out in this round for the first time in 16 seasons. However, with 78 previous campaigns already, all avoiding an Extra Preliminary Round exit, it is Brigg Town who are suffering the most following the club’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of Cleethorpes Town. There are also many clubs who’ve not been knocked out of the Cup so early for quite some time. Two, in particular, last tasted Extra Preliminary Round defeat in the 20th Century. Rainworth Miners Welfare, then known as Rufford Colliery, lost 5-3 to Bourne Town in 1949 before 66 years later losing 5-1 to Bottesford Town in a replay this year. However, Clevedon Town goes back even further since last tasting Extra Preliminary Round defeat. This year it’s been a 3-0 loss to Buckland Athletic, back in 1932 it was a 5-4 defeat to St Phillips Marsh Adult School. With their 1-0 win over Lancing in this year’s competition, Horsham avoided an even worse gap, not actually having lost in the Extra Preliminary Round since 1924, a 3-0 defeat to Worthing.
Some clubs by progressing to the Preliminary Round give themselves an opportunity to go one step further for the first time in a long while. No team does this apply to more than to Washington, who hope to make an appearance the First Qualifying Round for the first time since the 1979/80 season.
There were some high scorers in this year’s Extra Preliminary Round. AFC Emley, Deal Town (in a replay) and Horley Town all scored seven; Ashford Town (Mdx), Consett (in a replay) and Shoreham all hit eight; AFC Liverpool scored nine times away from home; but the highest marksmen were Coleshill Town netting 11 times without reply against Ellesmere Rangers, a feat made all the more remarkable considering they would not have been expected to top last season’s 10-0 win over Nuneaton Griff at the same stage last year. The two matches between Sunderland Ryhope Community Association and Guisborough Town produced a total of 13 goals, whilst Bedfont & Feltham only progressed through their match with London Tigers courtesy of an 8-7 win on penalties.