A Numbers Game
Half of the 736 clubs who will participate in the 2019-20 FA Cup will begin their campaigns on the second weekend of August in the Extra Preliminary Round.
This means twice as many clubs than the total number of Football League and Premier League sides will see their FA Cup dreams dashed before most people have returned from their summer holidays.
The Extra Preliminary Round is made up of 19 clubs from Step Four in the non-league pyramid, 277 Step Five club, and 72 teams who currently compete at Step Six, also known as Level Ten (Premier League is Level One) in the overall pyramid.
Success and Failure
Amongst their number are two clubs, Northwich Victoria and Chatham Town, who both reached the last eight of the competition way back in the nineteenth century. They are two of fifty-seven clubs in this year’s Extra Preliminary Round who have tasted ‘proper’ round FA Cup football in the past. The most recent example being current Hellenic Premier League side Westfields who made the First Round just three years ago after starting at this same Extra Preliminary Round stage.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those clubs who’ve yet to win an FA Cup match. Twenty-five clubs can justify having that record as they are making their debuts in the competition, but 15 other clubs have actually participated in the FA Cup before yet have failed to win a Cup game so far.
Sunderland Ryhope Colliery Welfare have had four FA Cup campaigns without a win since Ryhope Colliery Welfare and Sporting Club Vaux came together in 1988, but club members will point to the First Round ‘proper’ appearance of the club formed in 1892 as evidence that Cup victories have been achieved in the past.
United Counties League Division One side Wellingborough Whitworth, however, have no such contested history to fall back on, and will be participating in the FA Cup for the fifth time this season looking to secure their first victory.
As a quirky aside Sunderland Ryhope Colliery Welfare is the only club competing in this year’s FA Cup whose name contains all the letters of the words ‘FA Cup’. They have also been drawn against fellow Northern League Division One local rivals Sunderland Ryhope Community Association for the second successive season, a tie where there are a record 67 letters in the two collective names.
The shortest combined names of clubs facing each other in the Extra Preliminary this season is thirteen, the clash between Western League Premier Division sides, Street and Odd Down.
All 25 FA Cup debutantes have been kept apart in the Extra Preliminary Round draws and some have tougher ties on paper than others.
Bradford based side Campion have been drawn away from home against City of Liverpool, a recently promoted Step Four club who have never failed to win their Extra Preliminary Round ties in the past, albeit they are only competing in the FA Cup for the third time.
Staffordshire side Stone Old Alleynians have been drawn to travel to Worcester City, a club with 102 FA Cup campaigns under their belt, including within their history a trip to the Fourth Round ‘Proper’ after a famous victory over Liverpool in 1959.
The debut club with arguably the most difficult Extra Preliminary Round tie is Leicestershire based side Melton Town. They’ve been drawn to travel to Worksop Town, a club competing in the FA Cup for the 112th time and one which has faced and beaten five other clubs playing in their first FA Cup match. The glimmer of hope for Melton is that their more seasoned opponents have exited the FA Cup in the Extra Preliminary Round three times in the last five seasons.
One of the twenty-five debut clubs is Coggeshall United. For 137 seasons the small Essex town of Coggeshall had never had a club compete in the FA Cup, but the Weavers now make it two clubs from the town in the last two seasons following the debut of Coggeshall Town last year. The Seed Growers were the last debut club standing last season. Can the Weavers emulate that feat?
Like Coggeshall United, Ilkeston Town were formed in 2017, but unlike the Essex based side’s home town, the town of Ilkeston has been represented many times in the past in the FA Cup. In fact the Robins will be the third ‘Ilkeston Town’ to play in the competition. Both previous ‘Ilkeston Town’ clubs won their debut FA Cup matches, as did two clubs who competed under the name ‘Ilkeston’. So can the current Derbyshire club make it five debut wins out of five for the town of Ilkeston at Loughborough University?
Two clubs making their FA Cup debuts this season were actually formed in the nineteenth century, although neither has had to wait the 140 years after formation that the aforementioned Coggeshall Town had to do so before making their FA Cup bow.
Kent based Sutton Athletic were formed in 1898 so have waited just a mere 121 years to participate in this famous old competition! However, formed 10 years prior to that is Norwich CBS, formed originally as the works team of Norwich Union Insurance. They’ve had a couple of name and location changes in the intervening 131 years (CBS = County Building Services) and now compete in the Eastern Counties League Division One North.
Same Old, Same Old
Obviously those sides drawn against debut clubs will be facing new opponents in the FA Cup. However, many clubs (fans) at this stage of the competition often bemoan the fact that they face familiar foe every season, either because they are members of the same league, or because they get drawn against each other time and time again.
There is some sympathy for the former reason, but there are two things to consider. Firstly, just about a quarter of clubs in the Extra Preliminary Round will face opponents who they will meet twice in their League campaigns, which isn’t that many. Secondly, when the third round draw is made, Premier League and Championship sides are far, far more likely to be drawn against opponents from the same division.
There is a myth surrounding being drawn against the same opponents every season in the FA Cup. At the extremities of the country this is more likely to happen, to North-east and South-west clubs, but even so, out of 184 Extra Preliminary Round ties this season, just 19 pit together two teams who have met in the competition before. And the most frequently meeting two sides have done so just three times in the past.
Plymouth Parkway have a two-to-one head-to-head victory ratio over their opponents Buckland Athletic in their past FA Cup encounters, but for two other three-time past meetings, the history is decidedly in favour of one side over the other.
Northern Counties East League Premier Division side Garforth Town will be hoping to win their first FA Cup encounter against Northern League Division One side Shildon at the fourth attempt, but history shows that Northern League clubs tend to win more often than not against NECL clubs in the competition.
Similarly, Pagham of the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division will try at the fourth attempt to beat fellow Step Five side Tunbridge Wells who compete in the Southern Counties East League Premier Division.
Records to Protect
Several clubs appearing in this year’s Extra Preliminary Round have never actually been eliminated from the competition as early as this round. Most of them have only had two or three campaigns, but a few have competed in the FA Cup many times before.
Bishop’s Cleeve are competing in the FA Cup for the 16th time, and Steyning Town Community for the 21st time. It’ll be the 40th campaign for Fleet Town. Burscough have had 72 previous FA Cup campaigns, whilst Kendal Town are participating in the FA Cup for the 89th time. And not one Extra Preliminary Round exit amongst them.
Rugby Town will be taking part for the 44th time and will travel to Sporting Khalsa making their seventh venture into the competition. Neither of these two sides, either, has tasted defeat at this stage of the competition before, so one of them will suffer an unpalatable new sensation this season.
What about the Minnows?
Seven Extra Preliminary Round ties involve two clubs who both are members of Step Six Leagues. The winners of the Hackney Wick versus Framlingham Town all-Step Six tie will at least equal their best FA Cup run to the Preliminary Round.
Other Step Six sides have not been so fortunate in the draw and will pit themselves against clubs from two levels above them in the non-league pyramid, and away from home. But which of City of Liverpool (4) vs Campion (6), Worksop Town (4) vs Melton Town (6) or Willand Rovers (4) vs AFC St Austell (6) is likely to result in an FA Cup ‘Cupset’?
It All Kicks-off
The 184 Extra Preliminary Round ties take place over the second weekend of August with the majority of games occurring on the Saturday. However, there are matches scheduled on the Friday and the Sunday, too, with Skelmersdale United vs Penistone Church (at Prescot Cables) and Bexhill United vs Eastbourne Town (at the Saffrons) two of the Friday night games.
Will any of these 368 clubs still be going by the time EFL clubs join the competition in November?
Author: Phil Annets writing as FACupFactfile. Do follow @philannets & @FACupFactfile on Twitter