2015/16 FA Cup Preliminary Round Review

There are always contrasting emotions after the dust has settled on any FA Cup Round and this Preliminary Round is no different. Carshalton Athletic breathed a huge sigh of relief for yet again avoiding being knocked out of the FA Cup at this stage, it’s 62 years since they last tasted defeat in the Preliminary Round. Conversely Stafford Rangers will be extremely disappointed as the club has been eliminated this early in the competition for the first time since 1970. Elsewhere two matches proved an emotional rollercoaster for those involved. Didcot Town scored four goals in the last 18 minutes to complete a 4-3 comeback win at local rivals Wantage Town, but Midland Football League Premier side Westfields went one better coming back from 4-0 down at half time in their replay at Kidsgrove Athletic to finally win the match 6-5 with a last minute penalty in extra time.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold and both Thackley and Chasetown will be feeling satisfied that their own particular hoodoos have been put to rest. Thackley faced Ashington for the fourth time in the Cup having lost 1-0 in each of their three previous meetings, but five years after the last of those defeats Thackley finally turned the tables with a 2-1 victory. Chasetown were facing Evesham United also for the fourth time and the three previous meetings had all been won 2-0 by The Robins, but seven years after the last of those defeats, Chasetown finally get to celebrate with aptly a 2-0 win of their own.

Two clubs are in the middle of trends that might suggest they will go a bit further in this year’s competition. Over the last three seasons Southern League Central outfit Barton Rovers has improved its Cup run by one round every year from 1st Qualifying Round three years ago to 3rd Qualifying Round last season. Former Quarter Finalists Glossop North End has been eliminated in a later round every year for the past four season, losing in the Extra Preliminary Round in 2011/12, through to going out in the 2nd Qualifying Round last year.

One of last season’s giant killing stars have been on the wrong end of a giant killing of their own this season. The Yellows of Warrington Town went all the way to the Second Round last season famously beating Exeter City in the First Round ‘live’ on TV, but this year the Northern Premier League side has been dumped out of this year’s competition by Abbey Hey from the North West Counties League, a club that has only once before gone beyond the 1st Qualifying Round in their 14 previous FA Cup campaigns.

Several clubs have made it through to the 1st Qualifying Round for the first time in 10 years or more. It’s 16 years since Farnham Town has made it beyond the Preliminary Round and the club now travel to Tooting & Mitcham United, a side they have faced just once before in the Cup, a 4-0 defeat in the 1949/50 season when competing as a Surrey Senior League outfit. However, the club with the longest wait to progress beyond the Preliminary Round is Washington from the Northern League, with The Mechanics competing in 17 FA Cup campaigns across 26 years between 1st Qualifying Round matches. Additionally to these teams’ long waits, by beating the world’s oldest club, Sheffield, in a replay, Goole AFC has ended a sequence of eight successive seasons of being knocked out in the Preliminary Round, and won its first ever away FA Cup match in the process.

There are many clubs making it into the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever. Several of these have only entered the competition over the last three or four years, but Petersfield Town has taken seven years to emulate the Hampshire town’s predecessors, Petersfield United, achievements of going beyond the Preliminary Round. Essex side Hullbridge Sports, however, has been competing in the FA Cup every year of the 21st Century but this will be the club’s first taste of Cup football at this level when they face fellow Essex Senior League side Basildon United. Special mention also to Ryman League Division One North side Phoenix Sports going at least two rounds further than the Extra Preliminary Round the club made in its first FA Cup foray last season, and to Hook Norton as the Oxfordshire side had had only one previous experience of the FA Cup five years ago and were then knocked out in the Extra Preliminary Round, but are still going this season.

There are two clubs in their debut FA Cup season who continue their first adventure in the competition. Midland Football League Division One side Hinckley AFC are up against Redditch United from the Southern League Premier Division, three levels higher, but can take heart that the higher league club has exited the competition in the 1st Qualifying Round in each of the last four seasons. Fellow debutant Rochester United from the Southern Counties East League face Isthmian League Division One outfit Herne Bay and may be pleased to learn that The Bay has not progressed beyond the 1st Qualifying Round since 2007/08 season. Eleven other first-timers found their inaugural FA Cup journey came to an end in this Preliminary Round, but they can take comfort in the knowledge that in just this one season they have progressed further than 200 other clubs ever did.

Several clubs being knocked out in the Preliminary Round have actually equalled their best ever FA Cup run. This list includes Bromley based side Holmesdale and Leicestershire outfit Kirby Muxloe both in their 7th season and Yorkshire side AFC Emley taking part in their 9th FA Cup campaign. But there are two sides who will be celebrating despite being knocked out of the competition as they have both registered their best ever Cup performance.

Brimscombe & Thrupp and East Midlands Counties League side Radford, returning to the competition after a six year hiatus, had just one Extra Preliminary Round defeat under their belts, but this season broke their FA Cup ducks. During Radford’s Cup absence Dorset based outfit Verwood Town competed in the Cup every year only to fall at the first hurdle, but this year saw The Potters make it to the Preliminary Round for the first time ever and even though they lost 3-1 at Almondsbury UWE, the club will be happy to get that particular monkey off its back.

There are many clubs that by virtue of winning their Preliminary Round tie will be in a position to at least equal their best ever Cup run, and maybe go even further than before. Holwell Sports, Kidlington, Biggleswade United, Padiham, Alsager Town, and AFC Blackpool all have ten or more FA Cup campaigns to date, but with 15 previous attempts to get into the 2nd Qualifying Round Chessington & Hook United head this particular list of clubs. However, Peterborough Sports may have had only five FA Cup campaigns in total, but it is 96 years since they last appeared in the 1st Qualifying Round. Additionally there are several clubs now given the opportunity to reach the 2nd Qualifying Round for the first time in quite some time. It is 62 years since Basford United achieved that feat, but the Nottinghamshire side is only in its fourth campaign since then. Bridport has waited 40 years Washington 36 years and Pagham 25 years for the chance to do the same.

Bedfont & Feltham, Clipstone and AFC Rushden & Diamonds can all proudly boast that they have never been knocked out of the FA Cup as early as the Preliminary Round, but they have only taken part in two or three campaigns. However, AFC Hornchurch is in its 11th season of FA Cup football and have always managed to go beyond the Preliminary Round on every occasion. Along with the aforementioned Carshalton Athletic, two other clubs have gone some time since being eliminated in the Preliminary Round, neither exiting this early this Century. Folkestone Invicta last tasted Preliminary Round defeat in 1998/99 season, whilst it is 23 years since the same happened to Burscough. Clubs on the flip side of that coin, i.e. they have failed to progress beyond the Preliminary Round for a long time, include Corinthian (21 years and 8 campaigns), North Shields (23 years, 11 campaigns), AFC St Austell (24 years, 3 campaigns), Thetford Town (24 years, 7 campaigns) and Whitton United (56 years, 8 campaigns). Pontefract Collieries, however, have had 18 FA Cup campaigns since last progressing beyond the Preliminary Round.

Ossett Town (13 years) and Banbury United (12 years) had gone some time since last tasting defeat in the Preliminary Round (not as long as Stafford Rangers, of course), but several clubs are on unwanted runs of consecutive knock outs at this stage of the competition. Cheshunt, Egham Town, Godmanchester Rovers, Great Wakering Rovers, Mossley and Walton Casuals have all exited at this stage in each of the last five campaigns, but top of this particular list is Northern Counties East League side Barton Town Old Boys with six successive Preliminary Round eliminations.

No club matched the goal-scoring feat of Coleshill Town in the Extra Preliminary Round, but South Park went close winning 10-1 at Holmesdale. Other high scorers were Molesey and  North Leigh both netting seven times, and Aveley, Bradford Town, Dorking Wanderers, Hinckley AFC, Runcorn Linnets and St Ives Town and Westfields (both in a replay) all hitting six goals each.

Finally, several clubs were nervously worried about adding to their already high number of exits in the Preliminary Round, but Whitstable Town (2nd in this list) and Chatham Town (3rd) both will be relieved to have won their respective matches. West Auckland Town, however, has climbed the top 10 of this list up to joint 6th place with their 32nd Preliminary Round exit, but top of this unwanted table is Marlow who, by losing 2-1 in extra time to Godalming Town, have been eliminated from the FA Cup in this round for a record 43rd time.

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