Normally these FA Cup Qualifying Round reviews begin with positive stories of how teams from the lower rungs of the football ladder have defied the odds to progress to a new personal best in this famous competition, and whilst there will be plenty of mentions of such achievements, it would be amiss not to focus on the biggest news story of the FA Cup so far.
In 1902 Football League Division Two side Stockport County were knocked out of the FA Cup in the First Qualifying Round, losing 1-0 at home to Stalybridge Rovers, a team playing their football in the Lancashire League. Over the following 113 years The Hatters did not again suffer the ignominy of losing an FA Cup tie at such an early stage in the competition, only 10 times not being in the so called ‘proper’ rounds. Not until this season that is, as a similar 1-0 defeat to fellow National League North side AFC Fylde sees them dumped out of this year’s competition.
So whilst Stockport are licking their wounds, on the flip side of the coin there are a handful of clubs who have made it beyond the 2nd Qualifying Round for the first time in their history. Sporting Khalsa and Southern League Central side Petersfield Town had both only previously made the Preliminary Round in their short FA Cup histories (third and seventh campaigns respectively). Whilst Hanwell Town and Brockenhurst have actually appeared in the 2nd Qualifying Round before, they both have had many more FA Cup campaigns spread over several years than the other two history makers. Hanwell are in their 28th FA Cup campaign, actually first entering the competition in the 1924/25 season, whilst The Badgers of Brockenhurst are in their 30th campaign, having first entered the Cup in 1982/83 season.
Other clubs will be appearing in the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time after some quite considerable time. Southern League Central side Uxbridge overcame National League opponents Dartford to reach the next stage for the first time in 16 years. However, two other clubs have had to wait considerably longer before going beyond the 2nd Qualifying Round again, namely Hoddesdon Town (46 years) and Eastbourne Town (47 years).
By virtue of winning their 2nd Qualifying ties there are six clubs who will at least equal their best ever Cup runs. Coleshill Town are in their 11th FA Cup campaign, whilst Dunstable Town are in their 15th campaign since being re-formed and the Blues will be looking to try to emulate the previous Town club who made it as far as the First Round. The current Brentwood Town is in its 16th campaign and the previous incarnation of their club actually made it as far as the Third Round. Oxfordshire based North Leigh are on their 17th FA Cup run, Salford City are in their 26th campaign, whilst top of this list is Truro City actually partaking in the FA Cup for the 29th time with 3rd Qualifying Round the furthest they have progressed in that time. Can any of these teams set new personal bests in two weeks’ time?
All three remaining Step 6 clubs failed to progress into the 3rd Qualifying Round and many of the Step 5 clubs fell at this 2nd Qualifying Round hurdle, too. But some Step 5 clubs do survive to play their fifth FA Cup tie of the season. The aforementioned Brockenhurst (Wessex League Premier), Hoddesdon Town (Spartan South Midlands Premier), Eastbourne Town (Southern Combination League Premier) and Sporting Khalsa (Midlands Football League Premier) are joined by the last representative from the Combined Counties League Premier division, Hartley Wintney who disposed of Merthyr Town from two levels above in the pyramid. Also joining this select band is Wessex League Premier side Blackfield and Langley who had an outstanding 6-1 win at Wimborne Town from Southern League South and West, Whitley Bay (Northern League Division One) and Coleshill Town (Midlands Football League Premier) who overcame Stamford from two levels above them.
The three step 6 clubs of Hinckley AFC, Hook Norton and Bodmin Town will all have very fond memories of this season’s FA Cup, especially the Leicestershire based Hinckley in their first ever FA Cup adventure. Second Qualifying Round at your first attempt is no mean feat. Hellenic League One West side Hook Norton smashed their attendance record as 533 spectators saw them come close to taking National League South side Weston-super-Mare to a replay. The 25 yard screamer equaliser from Joe Eyre immediately after the visitors scored a penalty, and the jubilant celebrations both on and off the pitch, will live long in the collective memory of the club. Additionally, they can also congratulate themselves on achieving their best ever Cup run having only one previous taste of FA Cup football in an Extra Preliminary Round tie, a record shared by Phoenix Sports of Isthmian League One North who have also set a personal best. Newton Aycliffe reached two rounds further than they had ever done before over five campaigns, before going down to National League North side North Ferriby United in a replay Bradford Town may have narrowly lost their Wiltshire derby against Chippenham Town but they too have set a new best Cup run in what is their 6th campaign, whilst Nottinghamshire based Dunkirk in their 8th FA Cup season and Hellenic League side Kidlington in their 10th season, both improved their personal best by one round. Eclipsing these clubs in terms of number of seasons competed in the Cup and setting a new personal best by reaching the 2nd Qualifying Round is Essex Senior League side Hullbridge Sports who had only gone as far as the Preliminary Round in some of their previous 16 campaigns.
Several clubs exiting this year’s FA Cup at the 2nd Qualifying Round stage can console themselves in the knowledge that they have at least equalled the club’s best ever Cup run. Abbey Hey (15 seasons), Deeping Rangers, Ipswich Wanderers (both 14 seasons), St Ives Town, Stanway Rovers (both 13), Larkhall Athletic (10), Kirkley and Pakefield (9) and AFC Portchester (5) all fall into this group of teams, but eclipsing them all is Nottinghamshire based Basford United who have had 40 FA Cup campaigns in total and last reached the 2nd Qualifying Round 62 years ago.
Other clubs have departed this year’s competition with continued frustration at having not gone beyond the 2nd Qualifying Round for quite some time. Oadby Town, Mildenhall Town, Croydon, Herne Bay, Bideford and Congleton Town have at least tasted FA Cup football in the 3rd Qualifying Round this century, but Horsham YMCA & Taunton Town (both 16 years), Deal Town (18 years), Consett (19 years), Wimborne Town (22 years), Armthorpe Welfare (29 years), Holbeach United (32 years), Washington (35 years) and St Neots Town (37 years) have all had to wait considerably longer to experience victory in this round.
Whilst Bath City and Eastbourne Borough both breathe a sigh of relief at once again avoiding defeat in the 2nd Qualifying Round as they have the last nine years, Bideford and Skelmersdale United have both experienced defeat at this stage in successive seasons, five consecutive times for the Devon based Robins and four successive times for the Northern Premier League Premier side.
Bideford were also unfortunately on the wrong end of the biggest scoreline of the round losing 7-0 at National League South outfit Gosport Borough. Not quite as big a scoreline was Harrogate Town’s 1-0 over Workington, but it was significant as the two sides were unable to muster a goal of any sorts in 210 minutes of FA Cup football the last time they met in the 2008/09 season.
By winning 3-1 Oxford City avenged last season’s defeat to Shortwood United at the same 2nd Qualifying Round stage, whilst Hednesford Town laid an even older spectre to rest winning 2-0 against Bedworth Town after losing 3-0 in each of their three previous FA Cup meetings. The most common match-up of the 2nd Qualifying Round was the Lincolnshire derby between Gainsborough Trinity and Boston United. Trinity had won all three of their FA Cup contests in the 19th Century whilst Boston had won all four of their meetings in the 20th Century. By winning 2-0 Gainsborough will be hoping that they have set in motion an unbeatable record against their local rivals in FA Cup matches for the rest of the 21st Century.