The amazing FA Cup adventure is finally over for Midland Football League Premier Division side Westfields who bowed out of this year’s competition at their seventh hurdle losing 3-1 to National League North club Curzon Ashton. What an adventure it has been. Seven rounds, two giant-killings, 25 goals and thousands of FA Cup memories, setting new records for the club in terms of FA Cup round reached and home attendance. Almost going unnoticed is the fact that the win for Curzon Ashton means they will at least equal their best FA Cup run.
The biggest celebrations though in this year’s FA Cup 1st round will have been at three other Non-League grounds: the Avanti stadium, Braintree on Saturday; Damson Park, Solihull on Tuesday; and St James Park, Brackley on Wednesday.
First up was Braintree Town produced a club record equalling 7-0 win to progress to the 2nd Round for the first time in the club’s history, in what is their 59th FA Cup campaign. This is the fifth successive season The Iron have competed in the 1st Round, but I’m sure the past frustrations will all now be forgotten.
Next up was Solihull Moors from the National League who matched EFL 2 club Yeovil Town over 210 minutes before finally defeating the Somerset League club on penalties to take their place in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever. Neither of the clubs who merged together to form the Moors, Solihull Borough and Moor Green, ever made it beyond the 1st Round.
Then it was the turn of National League side Brackley Town. The Saints had only ever made the FA Cup 2nd Round once before, just three years ago, and by a strange twist of FA Cup fate, it was EFL 1 side Gillingham that they beat after a replay to get there. History repeated itself on Wednesday night as Jimmy Armson scored a hat-trick to give Brackley yet another famous victory over the Gills. Brackley Town are now also the second highest goalscorers in this year’s competition with 20 goals, and the highest scorers of those clubs still competing in it.
There was another Non-League club creating a Cup upset on Tuesday noght as the Spitfires of Eastleigh ran out convincing winners in their FA Cup replay as EFL 1 club Swindon Town. This is the third season on the trot that Eastleigh have made the FA Cup 2nd Round.
Another Non-League club celebrating is Stourbridge from Northern Premier League Premier Division who created a minor upset with a convincing 3-0 replay victory over National League South side Whitehawk. The Glassboys have equalled their best FA Cup reaching the 2nd Round for the 4th time in six seasons. Because of results elsewhere, Stourbridge are now the lowest ranked club left in this year’s FA Cup.
Before the replays, upsets in this year’s first round had been few and far between with National League side Macclesfield Town having been the only non-league club to defeat league opposition, with a 1-0 victory at EFL One club Walsall, a repeat scoreline from the clubs’ last FA Cup replay of 10 years ago. The only other surprise result had been EFL Two side Accrington Stanley winning 2-1 at EFL One club Bradford City.
That aforementioned 7-0 win for Braintree Town was the biggest of the 1st Round and also represents the equal biggest defeat for the side Braintree beat, Eastbourne Borough, although you have to know your club histories to realise as both were competing under different names at the time; Braintree were known as Crittall Athletic and Eastbourne were playing as Langney Sports. Even though Sports were defeated the players of the club can at least console themselves that they have equalled the club’s best run in the FA Cup.
Other big wins of the round include EFL One side Northampton Town who beat Isthmian League Premier Division side Harrow Borough 6-0, the same scoreline as between EFL One side Sheffield United and EFL Two club Leyton Orient. That 6-0 win by The Blades amazingly represents the club’s best ever FA Cup win despite it being their 188th campaign, despite having won the competition four times, and despite having taken part in over 380 FA Cup matches.
The biggest aggregate score of the round came at Darenth Road where the visitors Sutton United eventually ran out 6-3 winners against their hosts, Dartford. Oxford United also won heavily away from home with a 5-0 victory for the EFL One side at Isthmian League Premier Division side, Merstham.
The Moatsiders can take consolation in their defeat, not only from the kind gesture by their opponents for them to keep the EFL One side’s share of the gate receipts, but also because the players can be proud of taking the club two rounds further in the FA Cup than it had ever been before in all 32 previous campaigns.
Northern Premier League Premier Division club Spennymoor Town also set a new FA Cup personal best of reaching the 1st Round following their spirited 3-2 defeat at EFL One side Milton Keynes Dons after having gone three goals down in the first half. Stamford, from a league lower than The Moors, also exited the FA Cup in the 1st Round for the first time ever in what is the club’s 93rd FA Cup campaign. A terrific effort by the level 8 club.
Southern League South and West 1st Division side Taunton Town equalled their best FA Cup run 35 years after they were last in the 1st Round, but finally bowed out of this year’s competition in their sixth tie losing 2-1 at National League outfit Barrow.
There’ll be celebrations in one part of Surrey as National League club Woking won 4-2 at Stockport County who play in the Northern section of the National League. This win means that The Cards are into the FA Cup 2nd Round for the first time in 11 years.
Conversely there are several clubs who have avoided yet again being knocked out in the 1st Round this year (although many of those clubs have not competed in it too often in recent times). Sheffield United have now gone 35 years since they last lost a 1st Round tie. For Bolton Wanderers it is 27 years, Millwall it is 11 years, for Charlton Athletic, MK Dons and Oldham Athletic it’s six years, and for Oxford United and Chesterfield it is five years.
The Spireites have an additional reason to be celebrating as they avenged a defeat by their 1st Round opponents Colchester United that happened in the FA Cup 58 years ago, the longest any club had had to wait in this year’s 1st round to get that satisfaction. Plymouth Argyle beat Mansfield Town 29 years after the Stags had beaten the Pilgrims. Sutton United had waited 28 years to get their own back on Dartford, and Lincoln City had waited 18 years to avenge their defeat to Altrincham in the two clubs’ only previous FA Cup meeting.
Millwall had lost to Southend United twice in the FA Cup in the past so will consider their 1-0 victory this time around as third time lucky. (It was also the third successive year the Shrimpers have gone out of the FA Cup in the 1st Round, not a brilliant way to celebrate your 100th FA Cup campaign). Accrington Stanley got a revenge of sorts over Bradford City as 110 years ago the Bantams had knocked out the original Accrington Stanley club from the competition.
For other clubs revenge was not forthcoming and they will be hoping to avoid drawing their 1st Round opponents in the foreseeable future. Stevenage lost 1-0 to Port Vale as they did the last time the two clubs met in the competition, Crawley Town lost to Bristol Rovers in a replay again just three years after last doing so, Scunthorpe United lost to Charlton Athletic 55 years after they were last beaten by the Addicks, and Leyton Orient’s loss to Sheffield United was even heavier than the 4-1 scoreline the only previous time the two clubs faced each other in the FA Cup.
Exeter City lost for the third time in three meetings against Luton Town, the two previous times occurring in the 1960s, whilst Grimsby Town lost for the fourth time in four meetings at Bolton Wanderers. The Mariners and the Trotters first met in the FA Cup 120 years ago, and it is even more appropriate that the winner this time was scored by Liam Trotter!
Several clubs are making a habit of being knocked out of the FA Cup in the 1st Round. Crawley Town and Southend United go out in this round for the third year running; Morecambe, Gillingham and Crewe Alexandra for the fourth consecutive time (and 46th time in total for Alex); whilst Swindon Town have exited the competition at this stage for the fifth successive season.