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The biggest story of the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round, and maybe even of the FA Cup for this year, is the outstanding achievement of Midland Football League Premier Division side Westfields.
Not only did this Step 5 (level 9) club beat a team two levels above them, the high-flying, unbeaten Leiston who are leading the Isthmian League Premier Division, but it was also the Fields’ sixth FA Cup win of this season. Six wins. The eventual FA Cup winners, most likely from the Premier League will only win six FA Cup matches in order to lift the famous trophy.
It is not an unprecedented feat that a team who started their FA Cup campaign way back at the beginning of August should now be in a position to be drawn against a club seven levels above them, but it is rare enough for it to be considered significant (Leiston themselves did it as an Eastern Counties League Premier Division side in 2008).
The last time it happened was six years ago when both Tipton Town (Midland Football Alliance) and Hythe Town (Kent League Premier Division) fought their way through to face Carlisle United and Hereford United respectively.
A Kind of FA Cup Magic
Westfields’ achievements are fantastic, but they weren’t the only club creating FA Cup history. The victory over Leiston has taken the Fields into the 1st Round Proper for the first time ever in what is their golden jubilee season and their 17th FA Cup campaign, but it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that three other clubs have also achieved this feat, and two of them have had to wait a darn sight longer to get there.
Northern Premier League Division One South Stamford first entered the FA Cup in 1911 and two seasons later made it as far a the 5th Qualifying Round. The Daniels have had to wait 103 years before finally making the step into the 1st Round Proper after a terrific 3-2 extra time win at National League club Wrexham, three steps above them in the pyramid, all the more remarkable as the victory came in extra time after Wrexham had scored two very late goals in normal to temporarily deny them the win.
Formed in 1892 Isthmian League Premier Division side Merstham first entered the FA Cup as a London Senior League Premier Division club in 1982 and have finally made it to the 1st Round Proper at their 33rd attempt after defeating the higher National League South side Ebbsfleet United.
In 2007 two clubs with long standing FA Cup histories, Solihull Borough and Moor Green, merged to form Solihull Moors taking their place in the Conference North. The Moors have competed in the FA Cup every year since then and have finally made it all the way through to the 1st Round Proper after a 3-1 home win over Southern League Premier Division side Kettering Town. Interestingly, both of the former clubs’ best FA Cup run was to twice reach the 1st Round (Solihull Borough in 1992 and 1997, Moor Green in 1979 and 2003) so a win for the Moors in the next round would create even more history for the club.
Another club also known as The Moors as making their FA Cup Proper round bow this season, too, although many would argue they have been there before. Spennymoor Town were formed out of the ashes of Evenwood Town and Spennymoor United in 2005, both of whom had appeared in the Proper Rounds of the FA Cup before their demise (Evenwood 1st Round 1956, Spennymoor United 17 times including a 3rd Round appearance in 1936/37). This is the 12th campaign of Spennymoor Town and it’s now their turn to make some great FA Cup memories.
Do You Remember the First Round?
Taunton Town from Southern League Division One South and West will appear in the 1st Round proper for the first time in 35 year after winning 1-0 in their replay at Hemel Hempstead Town of National League South, two divisions above the Peacocks.
By producing an FA Cup upset and winning 2-1 at National League Aldershot Town, National League South club Eastbourne Borough are into the 1st Round of the FA Cup for the first time in eight years. It is the fourth time The Sports have made it this far in the competition and is the furthest the club has ever gone in the past.
Also making the 1st Round for the first time in 8 years is National League North side Curzon Ashton who produced a Cup upset by winning 2-1 against National League side York City in their replay to condemn the Minstermen to a sixth successive season without an FA Cup win.
Another Cup upset sees Isthmian League Premier Division side Harrow Borough progress to the 1st Round Proper for the first time in six years. The Borough won 2-1 in a replay at Margate from National League South.
FC Halifax Town will participate in the 1st Round Proper for the fourth successive season after winning 2-0 at fellow National League North club Harrogate Town. It will be the fifth appearance in total for The Shaymen in the 1st Round, but they too have yet to further.
Braintree Town are competing in the FA Cup for the 59th time and their terrific 4-2 comeback victory over fellow National League side Bromley means they will be appearing in the 1st Round Proper for the fifth successive season and the sixth time overall. Could this be the first time in those 59 campaigns that The Iron finally make it through to the 2nd Round?
Ryan Bird struck four times for National League Eastleigh as they romped to a 6-0 win over North Leigh from Southern League Division One South and West, the biggest margin of victory for The Spitfires in the FA Cup and the biggest margin of defeat for The Yellows.
National League North side Kidderminster Harriers also ran out 6-0 winners at home to lower league opposition in the shape of Southern League Premier Division club Weymouth.
Another National League North side Brackley Town won 5-0 at Beaconsfield SYCOB from Southern League Division One Central to inflict a personal worst for SYCOB, whilst National League Dover Athletic also won 5-0 away to inflict the biggest FA Cup defeat on Isthmian League Premier Division side Burgess Hill Town.
Despite that heavy defeats for Beaconsfield SYCOB and North Leigh the players from both clubs can be proud in the knowledge that they have set a new personal best for the club in the FA Cup by reaching the 4th Qualifying Round. North Leigh were in their 18th FA Cup campaign and had only set their previous best of the 3rd Qualifying Round last season, whilst SYCOB were competing in the FA Cup for the 20th time and had only gone as far as the 2nd Qualifying Round in the past.
Despite their heavy defeat, The Hillians’ players can also be proud of equalling their club’s best ever FA Cup run to the 4th Qualifying Round for the fourth time. Equally the players from Egham Town and Potters Bar Town can be proud of reaching their personal best for the second time, whilst North Ferriby United will feel frustrated at going out in their record equalling 4th Qualifying Round for the fifth time, and fourth year on the trot, as The Villagers only entered the competition at this stage this time.
Players from four other clubs can also hold their heads high despite exiting the competition this weekend as they have helped take their club to the 4th Qualifying Round for the first time in some years. Northern Premier League Division One South Lincoln United had waited seven years, Isthmian League Premier Division side Tonbridge Angels nine years, Northern League Division One club Bishop Auckland 17 years and Northern Premier League Premier Division side Matlock Town had waited 27 years to get this far. Hopefully they won’t all have to wait so long for the next time.
Don’t Want to See You Again
Many clubs were facing opponents who had knocked them out of the FA Cup in the past, but only National League side Maidstone United exacted revenge for their previous defeat to Isthmian League Premier Division club Billericay Town.
National League South side Wealdstone lost to Dagenham and Redbridge from the higher National League for the second time but just 3-1 this time as opposed to the 6-1 defeat 24 years ago. The aforementioned Potters Bar Town, Kettering Town, Harrogate Town, Burgess Hill Town, Beaconsfield SYCOB and Bishop Auckland all lost to their opponents for the second time as well, with the Bishops from Step 5 going down 2-0 at National League North club Stockport County, the same score as when the two clubs met at the same venue in the 2nd Round Proper in 1960.
National League North side Alfreton Town have only had to wait three years to return to the 1st Round Proper, but they got there with a terrific 3-2 away, after extra time, replay, Cup upset victory over National League club Gateshead, their second victory out of two over the Heed.
Tranmere Rovers lost to fellow National League club Barrow for the third time in three FA Cup meetings, whilst previously mentioned Tonbridge Angels lost to their Kent neighbours Dartford from National League South for the fourth time in as many FA Cup clashes.