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A quarter of all clubs involved in this year’s FA Cup 2nd Round are Non-League clubs, and each and every one of them has been drawn to face an EFL side. There would have to be an amazing plethora of Cup upsets to match or better the highest ever number of Non-League clubs to appear in the 3rd Round in the same season, then. Eight Non-League clubs made it through nine years ago, whilst you have to go back to the 1950-51 season for the last time there were no Non-League clubs in the 3rd Round. Either outcome is possible, although somewhere in between is more likely.
The lowest ranked club left in the competition is Isthmian League Premier Division side Leatherhead who travel to EFL 2 side Wycombe Wanderers looking to make the 3rd Round of the competition for only the second time in the club’s history. FA Cup fans of a certain age will never forget the ‘Leatherhead Lip’ Chris Kelly, who correctly predicted he would knock Brighton and Hove Albion out of the FA Cup, and came very close to delivering against a similar prediction made against Leicester City.
The two other Level 7 clubs remaining in the competition, Southern League Premier Division sides Slough Town and Hereford, both face EFL 1 clubs four levels above them in the football pyramid. Arguably Hereford have the tougher task having to travel to Fleetwood Town whilst Slough Town have home advantage in hosting Rochdale.
Hereford is the only club left in the competition who had never appeared in the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup before this season and are one of just three clubs appearing in the 2nd Round for the first time ever, albeit in only the club’s second FA Cup campaign. AFC Fylde has made it this far in the FA Cup for the first time in ten attempts and they host the most recent winners of the FA Cup competing in this Round, Wigan Athletic. National League side Guiseley is competing in the FA Cup for the 51st time and the Lions will travel to Mansfield Town having finally made the 2nd Round of the competition for the first time ever following the club’s seventh 1st Round appearance. That victory removed the club from near the top of the list of teams with the most 1st Round exits without ever having gone any further.
Slough Town are one of four other clubs who have never made it as far as the 3rd Round before and will be hoping to break that duck in what is the club’s 73rd FA Cup campaign. Defeat for the Rebels, though, would be a seventh such loss at this stage of the competition and would put the club top of the list of those clubs with the most FA Cup 2nd Round exits without ever going any further. Boreham Wood will also be hoping to progress to the 3rd Round for the first time ever after falling at this stage twice before. The Wood travel to EFL 2 side Coventry City.
Maidstone United is appearing in the FA Cup 2nd Round for only the second time since re-forming in 1992 and a victory at EFL 1 club Milton Keynes Dons would mean the current club would emulate the feat of the original Stones who made the 3rd Round five times. Oxford City is appearing in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup for only the second time in what is the club’s 109th FA Cup campaign, and will travel to EFL 2 club Notts County. The last time City made the 2nd Round was 38 years ago and this season also marks the first time in 67 years that Oxford City has gone further in the competition than their near neighbours Oxford United have done.
Aforementioned Rochdale will be competing in the FA Cup for the 100th time, as are Exeter City who travel to Forest Green Rovers who are one of six clubs for whom a victory in this year’s 2nd Round would result in the club at least equalling their best ever FA Cup run. The other clubs hoping for a chance of creating history with a victory are Gateshead, Morecambe, Fleetwood Town, AFC Wimbledon and Newport County (since re-forming in 1989).
Another club celebrating an FA Cup milestone this season is Crewe Alexandra who are competing in it for the 125th time. Crewe travel to Blackburn Rovers who haven’t been knocked out of the FA Cup as early as the 2nd Round since the 1972-73 season. The club that knocked Rovers out that season? You guessed it, Crewe Alexandra. (That has got to be ‘Stat of the Round’, yes?).
Blackburn Rovers versus Crewe Alexandra is one of just five FA Cup 2nd Round ties involving clubs who have faced each other in the competition before. Blackburn and Crewe have one win apiece against each other whilst Scunthorpe United has won both previous meetings with Doncaster Rovers. EFL clubs Shrewsbury Town and Morecambe face each other for only the second time in the competition, having last met 14 years ago with Shrewsbury winning 4-2 when both teams were Non–League clubs. When Swindon Town last met Stevenage in the FA Cup 20 years ago, their opponents were also a Non-League club using the name Stevenage Borough, but the Robins were still on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline. Likewise Forest Green Rovers were a Non-League side when they faced Exeter City 15 years ago, but on that occasion the League club won through 2-1 in a replay.
Bradford City and Plymouth Argyle are facing each other in the FA Cup for the very first time, which is quite remarkable given both clubs are long-standing members of the Football League and are both competing in the FA Cup for the 105th time. EFL 1 side Peterborough United travel to National League club Woking in the knowledge that their opponents have already knocked out one EFL 1 club. That 3-0 win by the Cards over Bury in the 1st Round represents the club’s biggest margin of victory over a League club in the FA Cup.