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The Non-League Cup Final
If Midland Football League Premier Division side Westfields and Northern League Division One club Bishop Auckland were Premier League or Championship teams then the two of them would be facing each other in a showpiece final at Wembley. They have both already won five FA Cup ties, the same number need by a team entering the competition in the Third Round to be a Wembley finalist.
Herefordshire based Westfields have despatched Stourport Swifts, Tividale, St Ives Town, Highgate United and now Walton Casuals, scoring 21 goals and conceding just six to make it to the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time in their history, in what is the club’s 17th FA Cup campaign.
County Durham based Bishop Auckland have defeated Thornaby, Nelson, Ossett Albion, Trafford and Farsley Celtic to make it to the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time this Century. And like Westfields they have beaten higher league sides on the way. Perhaps it would be fitting if the two were to meet in the Fourth Qualifying Round to create that Non-League Final.
Calling Norris McWhirter
So Westfields’ players have created history for their club by making it to the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time in their history, but three other sets of players have achieved the same feat for their clubs but over a longer period than 17 campaigns.
Southern League Division One South and West side North Leigh equalled their personal best last year, but in this, their 18th FA Cup season, they have now gone at least one round further. For Beaconsfield SYCOB of Southern League Division One Central it is their 20th campaign and reaching the Fourth Qualifying Round is two rounds further than the club has ever been before.
But trumping them all are the players from Merstham who compete in the Isthmian League Premier Division, who have taken their club to the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time in their history in what is the club’s 33rd FA Cup campaign.
The players of fellow Isthmian League Premier Division club Burgess Hill Town have the opportunity to go even better by creating history for their club in what is their 45th FA Cup campaign, as making the Fourth Qualifying Round equals the club’s best performance throughout those years. Northern Premier League Premier Division side Spennymoor Town have equalled their best FA Cup run in the 12th year since the club’s formation.
Worth the Wait
Bishop Auckland’s first appearance in the Fourth Qualifying Round for 17 years has been eclipsed by Southern League Division One South and West Club Taunton Town who are re-appearing in the final qualifying round for the first time in 18 years. This is superseded by Egham Town from Southern League Central Division One who’d waited 26 years and Matlock Town of the Northern Premier League Premier Division who had waited 27 years. Southern League Division One Central side Potters Bar Town reach the 4th Qualifying Round for the first time in 10 years. For Isthmian League Premier Division sides Billericay Town and Tonbridge Angels it is nine years since they last appeared in the Fourth Qualifying Round, it is seven years for Northern Premier League Division One South club Lincoln United, and six years for Leiston from Isthmian League Premier Division.
The Third Qualifying Round win for Leiston that ended their wait was one of several giant-killing acts in the round and by winning 4-1 at National League South club Hungerford Town they achieved the biggest away win of all those clubs causing an upset.
The Peacocks of Taunton Town created the equal biggest upset of the round winning 2-1 at home to Hampton and Richmond Borough who play two leagues above them in the National League South. The Scholars of Potters Bar Town matched them with a 4-3 penalties win over National League South side Bath City after the clubs were level at one each after extra time in the replay.
The aforementioned Westfields, Bishop Auckland and North Leigh all beat clubs one level above them in the pyramid, as did Kettering Town from Southern League Premier Division who won 2-0 at home to National League North club Boston United. That win for the Poppies means it is now four wins apiece for the two clubs in FA Cup matches between them over the years. The clubs first met in a Fourth Qualifying Round tie in 1959, also won 1-0 by Kettering.
Hope We Never Meet Again
Merstham’s 5-1 victory over Thamesmead Town from the lower Isthmian League Division One North was the second time the Moatsiders had beaten the Mead by that scoreline in the FA Cup. National League South side Dartford beat Southern League Premier club Slough Town for the second time in two FA Cup meetings, Egham Town beat Isthmian League Division One South side Faversham Town also for the second time, as did Hendon from Isthmian League Premier Division who defeated Northern Premier League Division One South side AFC Rushden and Diamonds for the second time in three seasons.
But the club who will hope never to be drawn against their Third Qualifying Round opponents again is Banbury United from Southern League Premier Division whose 2-1 defeat at the hands of National League South club Wealdstone was the fourth time in fourth FA Cup meetings that they have lost to the Stones.
Scoring for Fun
National League South side Ebbsfleet United won 7-0 at home to Isthmian League Premier Division side Havant and Waterlooville to equal their best ever FA Cup victory last achieved 21 years ago when the club was still known as Gravesend and Northfleet. The result also represents the heaviest FA Cup defeat for the Hawks.
Adam Coombes smashed in a double hat-trick for National League South side Welling United as they equalled their best FA Cup win with a 7-1 victory over Swindon Supermarine of Southern League Division One South and West. The Wings last recorded such a margin of victory 31 years ago whilst it’s the first time Marine have conceded seven goals in the FA Cup.
The current top scorers in this year’s FA Cup (and still in the competition) are Westfields with 21 goals, followed by Beaconsfield SYCOB (18), Tonbridge Angels (16) and Bishop Auckland and North Leigh (both with 15).
Out and Proud
Players of several clubs who’ve exited the FA Cup in the Third Qualifying Round can counter their disappointment of losing with the knowledge that they have helped set a new personal best for the club in the competition.
For clubs such as Northern Counties East League sides AFC Mansfield and Handsworth Parramore, and Hellenic League club Brimscombe and Thrupp, this feat has been achieved with a relatively short FA Cup history, just two or three campaigns. Northern Premier League Division One North side Farsley Celtic were in their fifth campaign and Western League Premier Division side Cadbury Heath were in their tenth, although spread over 85 years.
The Seasiders of Eastern Counties League Premier Division side Felixstowe and Walton United were in their 15th FA Cup campaign, but the players of Thamesmead Town have set a new personal best after the most campaigns with this year being the Mead’s 23rd FA Cup run. This was eclipsed by the players of Faversham Town, though, who reached the Third Qualifying Round for the first time in their 39th FA Cup season after previously falling at the previous Second Qualifying Round on seven separate occasions.
Special mention goes to the players of Hadley who have achieved an FA Cup run three rounds further than the club has ever been before in what id their seventh campaign. The club had only won two FA Cup matches before this season, now they have won six.
The players of Walton Casuals equalled their clubs best FA Cup run in their 17th campaign, and those of Merthyr Town from Southern League Premier Division achieved the same in what is that club’s seventh campaign since forming.
Despite exiting the competition in the Third Qualifying Round several clubs posted their best Cup run for a while. Swindon Supermarine achieved their best for six years, the players of Northern Premier League Division One South side Bedworth United achieved their best for seven years, for Folkestone Invicta it had been nine years since last reaching this far, and Banbury United it had been 11 years.
Northern League Division One side Morpeth Town eclipsed all these by reaching the Third Qualifying Round for the first time in 17 years.
On the other side of the coin, by exiting the FA Cup in the Third Qualifying Round, the Tigers of National League North side Gloucester City have gone out of the competition before the final qualifying round for the first time in six years.