Note: Two 1st Qualifying Round ties still to be resolved
6-2, 6-2, that’s the sort of thing you hear in tennis, not football, but in this year’s FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round, 6-2, 6-2 is very appropriate as it relates to two Cup ties each pitting a Step 6 team up against a Step 2 side in what has the potential to be the biggest giant killing acts of the round.
So step forward South West Peninsula League Premier side Bodmin Town and Hellenic League One West outfit Hook Norton who take on National League South clubs Bath City and Weston-super-Mare respectively. This is the potential giant killing equivalent of those two National League sides each taking on a club from The Championship.
If neither of those two matches produce a shock result, (or one other tie involving a Step 6 side detailed below), then the winners of Brockenhurst versus AFC Portchester would be guaranteed to represent a lowest level league still in the Cup being as they are both currently competing at Step 5 in the Wessex League Premier Division.
Hook Norton are amongst 10 clubs who are competing in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history. The Oxfordshire based side, along with Phoenix Sports from Isthmian League Division One North, had only one Extra Preliminary Round defeat to their name before this season’s campaign. Step 6 side Hinckley AFC, playing in the Midlands Football League Division One, are in their inaugural FA Cup run and having already despatched another Step 6 side, a Step 5 side, and Step 3 club Redditch United, now face a Step 4 club Chasetown from Northern Premier League Division One South.
Step 5 clubs Bradford Town (6 campaigns), Dunkirk (8) and Kidlington (10) have all made it as far as the 1st Qualifying Round before, but are all now in uncharted territory (Kidlington having got here via 3 successive away draws with a fourth against Gloucester City to come), whilst four other clubs have only ever made it as far as the Preliminary Round before so already have experience this season of coming through the unknown. Midlands Football League Premier Division outfit Sporting Khalsa are in their 3rd campaign, Newton Aycliffe from Northern League Division One is in its 5th, Petersfield Town is competing in its 7th FA Cup campaign, but Essex League Premier side Hullbridge Sports are tasting life in the 2nd Qualifying Round for the first time ever in 17 seasons.
There are also 10 clubs who by virtue of reaching this season’s 2nd Qualifying Round will at least equal their best ever FA Cup run. Some clubs such as Larkhall Athletic, Kirkley & Pakefield and AFC Portchester have 10 or fewer FA Cup campaigns under their belt, whilst St Ives Town and Stanway Rovers have both entered the Cup 13 times, Deeping Rangers and Ipswich Wanderers both 14 times, and North West Counties League Premier side Abbey Hey are in their 15th campaign returning to this Round for only the second time in their history.
Middlesex based club Hanwell Town has had to wait 18 years before returning to play in the 2nd Qualifying Round a worthwhile wait as it equals the club’s best Cup run in 28 campaigns since first entering the competition in 1924. However, eclipsing both this length of hiatus from the 2nd Qualifying Round and the number of FA Cup campaigns without going any further is Nottinghamshire based Basford United who haven’t competed at this level for 62 years with a total of 40 campaigns under their belt, starting as far back as 1908 when the club was playing in the Notts Alliance League.
Also having had to wait a long time before reaching this Round again are Armthorpe Welfare, Cogenhoe United and Deal Town (all 10 years), Wimborne Town (12 years), Hoddesdon Town and Ipswich Wanderers (both 14 years), Holbeach United (15 years) and Northern League Division One outfit Washington who have had to wait 36 years before appearing in the 2nd Qualifying Round again.
The Northern League side has also never ventured beyond the 2nd Qualifying Round since 1970/71 season 45 years ago. However, it is 46 years since Hoddesdon Town won a Cup match at this stage in the competition (a 1-0 at Baldock Town) and 47 years for Southern Combination League Premier side Eastbourne Town (a 2-1 win at Southwick on the club’s way to best Cup run of 4th Qualifying Round).
Getting beyond the 2nd Qualifying Round seems to be a problem for hordes of clubs with Holbeach United (33yrs), Armthorpe Welfare (29yrs), Wimborne Town (22yrs), Consett (19yrs), Deal Town (18 yrs), Horsham YMCA, Oadby Town, Taunton Town (all 16yrs), Mildenhall Town, Uxbridge (both 15 yrs), Croydon (14yrs), Bideford, Herne Bay (both 13yrs), Congleton Town, Harlow Town (both 12yrs), Brockenhurst (11yrs) and Cogenhoe United (10yrs), all failing to progress further in the competition that this Round for quite some time.
For others the opposite is true, it has been some time since they were knocked out of the FA Cup as early as the 2nd Qualifying Round, and each of them will be keen to keep that record going for at least another year. For Buxton it is 10 years, for Ebbsfleet United 16 years and for National League North side Tamworth it is 20 years since they tasted defeat at this stage (a 2-1 home defeat to Hednesford Town). But all these periods of time avoiding defeat so early pale into insignificance to how long it has been since Stockport County were last knocked out this early in the competition, actually a 1st Qualifying Round 1-0 home defeat to Lancashire League outfit Stalybridge Rovers 113 years ago in 1902/03 season despite being a Football League Division Two side at the time. Admittedly The Hatters have not had to compete in this Round very often over the last century or more, but the club will still want to keep that particular record intact.
Of the 80 ties to be played this Round only 27 of them involve clubs who have faced each other in the Competition in the past. Most notable of these repeat match-ups is the Lincolnshire derby between two National League North rivals Gainsborough Trinity and Boston United who have been drawn together for the eighth time. Trinity won all three of their match-ups in the 19th Century (with a 14-3 goals aggregate), but Boston United won all four of their meetings in the 20th Century (with an 18-4 goals aggregate). So who will be top dog in the 21st Century?
Are some distinct sequences FA Cup sequences to be continued? Skelmersdale United has been eliminated at this stage in each of the last 3 seasons, whilst it is four consecutive 2nd Qualifying Round exits for Bideford. The last three Cup exits for Lancaster City have been 1st Qualifying Round followed by 2nd Qualifying Round then 3rd Qualifying Round. If that sequence keeps up the club can look forward to an exciting season in 2025! Finally, watch out for Didcot Town, three-nil down at Wantage Town in Preliminary Round going on to win 4-3 with a last minute winner, followed by another 4-3 win in their replay against VCD Athletic in the 1st Qualifying Round with another last minute winner. Stop that, Northwood, if you can.