Just the 196 teams left in this year’s FA Cup of which 116 haven’t even participated in it yet. Of the 620 who have competed, there are a handful of clubs still going despite starting their FA Cup campaigns beginning way back in the middle of August. So with four FA Cup wins each already under their belt stand up Whitley Bay from the First Division of the Northern League, Coleshill Town and Sporting Khalsa, both competing in the Midland Football League Premier Division, Hartley Wintney from the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League, Hoddesdon Town from Spartan South Midlands Premier Division, Eastbourne Town playing in the newly re-named Southern Combination League Premier Division, and two clubs from the Wessex League Premier Division, Blackfield & Langley and Brockenhurst.
Each of those eight clubs mentioned will have to dispose of opponents from higher up the footballing pyramid if they want to achieve further glory, with five of them pitted against National League North or South Clubs, the equivalent match-up of a League Two side being drawn against a Premier League outfit. Those five ties represent what would be the biggest cup upset of the round should any of the Step 5 clubs come through. Whitley Bay, Brockenhurst and Blackfield and Langley at least have home advantage over Chorley, Wealdstone and Maidenhead United respectively, but Coleshill Town and Hartley Wintney have to try to do it the hard way with away trips to AFC Fylde and Eastbourne Borough.
Several of these clubs are in the 3rd Qualifying Round for the first time in quite a while. It’s been 11 years since Brockenhurst last equalled their best ever Cup run, whilst Hoddesdon Town hasn’t been this far in 46 years and for Eastbourne Town it’s been 47 years. For the Hertfordshire based Lilywhites, they haven’t played an FA Cup match beyond this round since the 1884/85 season, when they actually appeared in the First Round, but in those days there weren’t any qualifying rounds anyway. One hundred and thirty one years is a long time to go since setting your personal best in the FA Cup, but Uxbridge has gone 11 years longer still since they made their best Cup run to the Second Round. And it’s even 71 years since the club went beyond the 3rd Qualifying Round.
There are several other clubs as well as Brockenhurst equalling their best ever Cup performances by making it to the 3rd Qualifying Round although none with as many campaigns as The Badgers who are in their 30th campaign. Some come close including Wingate and Finchley who are in their 25th FA Cup campaign, Salford City in their 26th and Truro City competing for the 29th time, along with another half a dozen other clubs with shorter FA Cup histories.
However, there are actually three clubs who are making their debut in this round. The aforementioned Sporting Khalsa had only previously ever made the Preliminary Round in their two FA Cup campaigns to date, whilst Petersfield Town had also only made it as far as the Preliminary Round across a total of six previous campaigns. However, despite having appeared in the 2nd Qualifying Round in the past, Middlesex based Hanwell Town are appearing in this round for the first time ever even though they have competed sporadically in the FA Cup since 1924/25 season with a total of 28 campaigns.
There are 10 clubs with an extra incentive to get through to the next round, as that would equal their best ever Cup run. Two of these types of clubs are guaranteed to achieve their goal as they are involved in ties with two other clubs trying to do the same. Northern Premier League Premier side Barwell take on King’s Lynn Town from the same level in the Pyramid buy who are in the Southern League Premier Division, whilst Didcot Town are the hosts to the previously mentioned Step 5 club Eastbourne Town.
Nuneaton Town have a proud record to defend having only once in their FA Cup history being knocked out as early as the 3rd Qualifying Round and that was in their first ever season in the competition in 2008/09.
Of the 40 ties in this round only nine pit two teams together who will face each other in League action, whilst just eight matches involve clubs who have met before in the FA Cup, although none have met more than twice and those have resulted in one win apiece for each side.
They might not have made it this far in this year’s competition but Worksop Town will maintain their lead at the top of the table of those teams who have been knocked out of the 3rd Qualifying Round the most. The Tigers have been defeated 24 times at this stage (although they have won 22 Q3 Round ties, too). The closest of those still on this year’s competition is Gainsborough Trinity who have lost 21 times at this stage in the past and will be keen not to add to that tally.