Bromley and their successive runs to FA Cup Second Round

No. 5 in an occasional series.

Bromley played the first of their 105 seasons of FA Cup campaigns in the Nineteenth Century when as an original Kent League member they drew 3-3 at West Norwood in 1898 before winning 3-0 in the replay, beating West Croydon 1-0 in the First Qualifying Round before exiting the competition 3-2 at the hands of Metropolitan Railway in the next.

This initial run to the Second Qualifying Round wouldn’t be bettered until 1907 when as a Spartan League side the club beat Depot Battalion Royal Engineers 1-0 to face Maidstone United in the Third Qualifying Round to whom they lost by six goals to two. The Fourth Qualifying Round was reached two seasons later when Bromley were playing in the Isthmian League this time going down 8-1 at Southern League side Watford. This was still two rounds away from the ‘Proper’ Rounds, but the club almost made the step up in 1914-15 season when reaching the Sixth Qualifying Round. This time a 5-1 defeat at Luton Town was their undoing.

The Lilywhites came close to breaking into the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup in each of the first two seasons after World War I, but they would have to wait until almost the onset of the Second World War before they’d actually crack it. Playing in the Athenian League in 1937-38 the club’s FA Cup run began in the Extra Preliminary Round with a 4-0 home win over Beckenham, a Kent Amateur League Western Premier League side who would eventually be absorbed into the Bromley club 30 years later. Darenth Park from the same League were beaten 4-1 in the Preliminary Round, and Aylesford Paper Mills from a league below were despatched 3-0 in the First Qualifying Round. London Paper Mills was next winning 4-2 before facing Sittingbourne in the Third Qualifying Round winning that tie by two goals to nil. Isthmian League side Wimbledon stood between Bromley and the First Round, but the Lilywhites had a comfortable 3-0 win to cap six victories with a grand total of 20 goals scored.

There was to be no Football League opposition now that Bromley had finally made it to the First Round, but their scoring spree continued winning 4-0 away at Eastern Counties League outfit King’s Lynn. Again the club wasn’t rewarded with League opposition in the Second Round coming up against Scarborough from the Midland League. This time it was Bromley on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat.

As a consequence of making the Second Round Bromley was exempted from participating in the Qualifying Rounds the following season. Again they were to be drawn against non-league opposition in the First Round at home to Spartan League side Apsley (Hemel Hempstead Town) who they beat with a tight 2-1 victory. The Second Round sent the club to Football League opposition for the first time at last in the shape of Lincoln City from Division Three North. As it turned out the wait wasn’t to be worth it as the League side romped to an 8-1 victory.

Following the Second World War Bromley began their FA Cup campaign in the First Qualifying Round. They started with a 5-1 win at Sheppey United, followed by a 2-0 home win over Gravesend United, a 4-3 away win at Lloyds (Sittingbourne) and finally a 2-0 home win over Short’s Sports from Kent in the Fourth Qualifying Round to advance to the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the third successive time.

The FA Cup ‘Proper’ Rounds in the 1945-46 season were played over two legs because the Football League programme hadn’t resumed. However, Bromley were drawn against Slough United from the Corinthian League. The first game was abandoned because of fog with Bromley leading 2-1 after 80 minutes, a fortuitous event as it turned out because they went on to win the re-arranged first leg 6-1, losing the second 1-0 to progress on goal aggregate. Bromley were then drawn to play a Football League side for only the second time, Watford, ostensibly from the Third Division South. A terrific 1-1 second leg result at Vicarage Road was only marred by the 3-1 loss at home in the first leg.

Bromley would make the First Round on 11 more occasions facing League opposition on nine of those occasions, but they have yet to match that run of three successive Second Round appearances either side of World War II.


Blackburn Rovers and their runs to FA Cup Final in 1928 and 1960

No. 4 in an occasional series.

Blackburn Rovers has an FA Cup record about which any club and its fans would be rightly proud. Six times FA Cup winners and twice runners-up makes Blackburn Rovers the eighth best team in FA Cup history. The club is also the last side to date to win the trophy in three successive seasons, a feat only achieved by one other club, the long since defunct The Wanderers side. The problem for current Blackburn Rovers fans is that all this Cup glory happened before any of them were even born, and their last appearance in the Final itself is so long ago that there would only be a handful of septuagenarians and older who might have first-hand recollection of it.

Blackburn Rovers was formed in 1875 and five years later entered the FA Cup for the first ever time, along with 19 other clubs including another FA Cup trailblazer, Aston Villa. The Rovers won their first ever FA Cup match 5-1 at home to a club called Tyne Association in the First Round of the 1879/80 competition, before beating Darwen 3-1 in Round Two and then losing 6-0 at Nottingham Forest in Round Three. Just two seasons later, though, the club made it all the way through to the Final itself beating Blackburn Park Road, Bolton Wanderers, Darwen, Wednesbury Old Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday on the way. Blackburn Rovers was the first Northern club to make the final where they faced FA Cup stalwarts and previous winners, Old Etonians. On this occasion the old school won through 1-0 courtesy of a Reginald Macauley goal, but glory for the North and for Blackburn Rovers would not be far away.

A now defunct fellow Blackburn side, Blackburn Olympic, beat Old Etonians in the following year’s Cup Final, but then it was Blackburn Rovers turn, and for a while it appeared they would be FA Cup winners for evermore. From a 7-1 win over Southport Central in 1883 through to a 2-0 replay defeat at home to Scottish club Renton in 1887, Rovers won through 24 Rounds in the FA Cup, scored 87 goals, and won the FA Cup three times, twice beating Scottish amateurs Queen’s Park, and once beating West Bromwich Albion after a replay, the first FA Cup final not to contain a Southern amateur club. Those three FA Cup wins were quickly added to with two more consecutive triumphs in 1890 and 1891, thrashing The Wednesday 6-1 in the former and beating Notts County in the latter. This fifth win equalled the highest number of times any team had won the competition, and for the next 25 years Blackburn Rovers would hold the record as the best team of the FA Cup.

However, aside from five Semi-Final appearances, the club never came close to adding to their tally for almost 30 years during which time their great FA Cup rivals Aston Villa had secured the mantle of best FA Cup team. But that was all about to change in the 1927-28 season when once again Rovers would taste FA Cup glory. Blackburn were, at best, a mid-table Division One side whilst recent FA Cup runs had been chequered, and despite a healthy 4-1 Third Round win over Newcastle United, who had won the competition four seasons earlier and were reigning League Champions, only the most ardent of supporters would have expected the club to go on to win the Trophy. And that glory day at Wembley would have felt even further away after the club’s Fourth Round 2-2 draw at Third Division South side Exeter City. The lower league Devon side held their Division One opponents to a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes in the replay and only finally succumbed 3-1 after extra time.

A Fifth Round draw at home to Port Vale from Division Two should have been more straightforward than the 2-1 victory suggests, but Rovers had a more comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Division One strugglers Manchester United in the Quarter Finals thanks to a Syd Puddefoot brace. Blackburn Rovers were in the Semi Final again and now starting to believe the glory days would return. But ahead of them lay Arsenal, the previous season’s surprise beaten finalists, and a club on the cusp of their first period of dominance. The Semi-Final was played at Filbert Street in Leicester and Jack Roscamp scored the only goal of the game to see Rovers into their first FA Cup final for 37 years. In the Final they were to face the ‘Team of the 20s’ in the shape of Huddersfield Town who’d only just set their own record of three successive League Championships. But Blackburn took the game to Huddersfield with Roscamp scoring what was at the time the fastest goal scored in a Wembley Final after just 55 seconds to set up the 3-1 victory. Blackburn Rovers won the FA Cup for the sixth time, matching their rivals Aston Villa, and looked forward to more Cup success in the imminent future.

But that success was not forthcoming. FA Cup disappointment would quickly be followed by League disappointment as the club were relegated out of the top flight for the first time in their history at the end of the 1947-48 season. Bizarrely, the club did make the FA Cup Semi Finals twice whilst languishing as a Second Division club losing 2-1 to Newcastle United after a replay in 1952 and by the same score to Bolton Wanderers in 1958. Rovers didn’t let their Cup exploits distract them during that 1957/58 season and by the end of the year the club had secured its place back into Division One. And within two years of their return they would find themselves at Wembley once again.

A Third Round tie against fallen giants Sunderland, now playing in Division Two for the first time in their history, was won 4-1 after the two sides drew 1-1 at Roker Park. In Round Four fellow Division One side Blackpool were also beaten after a 1-1 draw, this time Rovers winning 3-0 at Bloomfield Road. Rovers were then drawn away at up-and-coming Tottenham Hotspur, a side on the verge of dominating both League and Cup the following season. However, Blackburn progressed without the need of a replay winning the tie 3-1 to set up a Quarter Final tie against Burnley who would go on to win the League Championship at the end of the season. An entertaining 3-3 draw at Turf Moor brought the two teams back to Ewood Park where Blackburn triumphed 2-0 to take the side into the Semi Finals for the third time in eight seasons.

In the Semi Final they faced Sheffield Wednesday at Maine Road in Manchester where a Derek Dougan double saw Rovers win the tie 2-0 and return to Wembley for the first time in 32 years. In the Final they faced arguably the best team in the land at the time. Wolverhampton Wanderers had won the League Championship in each of the previous two seasons and had only just missed out on a treble being pipped at the post by a point to the title by Burnley, and so it was no real surprise when Wolves ran out comfortable 3-0 winners on the day, Blackburn’s cause not helped by being reduced to ten men owing to Dave Whelan breaking his leg.

But this Cup Final appearance wasn’t to lead to another golden age for Blackburn Rovers and the club has never yet appeared in the Final again, with just two Semi-Final appearances in the first ten years of the Twenty-first Century the closest the club has come to repeating former glories.

Croydon and their run to FA Cup Second Round in 1980

No. 3 in an occasional series.

There have been many clubs representing the Croydon name in the FA Cup since the competition began in the late Nineteenth Century, but only one has ever made it as far as the Second Round Proper, the current Croydon club formed in 1953 as Croydon Amateurs.

Croydon Park was the first of these clubs entering the 1893-94 competition but being on the wrong end of a 10-0 scoreline in their only match at home to 2nd Scots Guards in the Second Qualifying Round. West Croydon from Southern Suburban League Division One came next in 1899 losing 1-0 at home to Bromley in their only match that year in the First Qualifying Round, and not winning an FA Cup match until two seasons later a 5-0 home win over West Norwood. The club made the Third Qualifying Round in 1902-03 season after wins over Bromley (2-1), Godalming (1-0) and Richmond Town (2-1) before losing 3-1mto Lowestoft Town and disappearing from the FA Cup altogether.

Croydon Wanderers were next, entering in 1902 and making five appearances in total, reaching the First Qualifying Round three times before scratching in 1906 and disappearing altogether. A 3-2 win over Godalming the club’s only FA Cup victory. The first club playing under the name Croydon entered the FA Cup in 1903 season for the first time. Playing variously in the Southern Suburban League, the Mid-Surrey League and the Southern Amateur League, this club entered the FA Cup on 14 different occasions reaching the First Qualifying Round on half of these occasions before folding at the start of the 1922-23 season. Ironically the club’s first win was a 2-0 victory of Croydon Wanderers.

The first Croydon team of note entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1907, Croydon Common of the Southern League. The club were formed in 10 years prior to their first entry and folded 10 years after it, but in that time the club appeared in the First Round Proper on six separate occasions. However, apart from a couple of draws with Woolwich Arsenal and one with Leicester Fosse (City), the club never actually managed to win a ‘Proper’ Round FA cup match. But they had plenty of wins in the Qualifying Rounds: 10-1 over Farncombe, 9-0 over 1st Grenadier Guards, 7-0 over London Caledonians, before folding during World War I, the only Southern League club not to return after the Great War.

A Croydon Rovers club entered the FA Cup in 1951 but scratched before playing their Preliminary Round match at Dorking. Croydon Amateurs was formed at the end of the following season and entered the FA cup in 1966 as an Athenian League side. That first game ended in a 2-1 home defeat to fellow Athenian League side Hornchurch. The club’s first FA Cup win came two seasons later, a 4-0 win at Staines Town before going out in the Second Qualifying Round to the original Brentwood Town. The club dropped the Amateur moniker in 1973 and joined the Isthmian League Division Two the following season. A season later they made it all the way to the Fourth Qualifying Round to set a new club record. Wins over Erith and Belvedere (3-1 after a replay), Bromley (2-1) and Molesey (4-0) saw them face Wycombe Wanderers in the Fourth Qualifying Round. Unfortunately, following a 2-2 draw, Croydon was thwarted in their attempt at making the First Round by losing 5-2 in the replay.

By the 1979-80 season Croydon were an Isthmian League Premier Division side. A 2-0 win against Sussex County League side Bexhill Town on neutral territory in the First Qualifying Round was followed by an identical 2-0 win at Southern League Ashford Town in the next round. Another Southern League side, Bognor Regis Town, was beaten 1-0 in the Third Qualifying Round before fellow Isthmian League Premier Division side Leatherhead were despatched 3-0 after a 1-1 draw to take the club into the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the first and so far only time.

As often happens in the FA Cup the club’s First Round opponents were Wycombe Wanderers and an opportunity for the club to exact revenge for that earlier Fourth Qualifying Round defeat to the same club a few years earlier. Despite having to travel to Loakes Park Croydon won the match comfortably 3-0 with goal each from Rod and Andy Ward and one from Constable. That win was rewarded with a home draw to Football League opposition in the shape of Division Three Millwall. The tie was switched to be played at Selhurst Park and in front of almost 10,000 people Croydon held their League opponents to a 1-1 draw thanks to another Rod Ward goal. The replay three days later couldn’t separate the two sides after 90 minutes with Constable scoring twice for Croydon and Millwall eventually winning the match 3-2 after extra time.

Two Fourth Qualifying Round appearances in 1985/86 (4-1 defeat to Bath City) and 1987/88 (3-0 loss to Merthyr Tydfil) are the closest the club has got to reaching the ‘Proper’ Rounds again. Still this is one round further than local rivals Croydon Athletic ever reached in their 23 FA Cup campaigns and AFC Croydon Athletic has yet to win an FA Cup match in three attempts.

Darlington and their run to FA Cup Fifth Round in 1958

No. 2 in an occasional series.

The 1957-58 season would result in the last major shake-up of the Football League constitution before the advent of the Premier League, 70 years after it began as a 12 team league in 1888. The Football League had expanded from that original dozen teams to the more familiar 92 clubs, and Darlington had been amongst them since Division Three North was established in 1921. Darlington’s FA Cup history, though, goes back to three years before the Football League was formed, having first entered the competition just two seasons after their own formation.

Darlington’s early foray into the FA Cup was less than spectacular having been progressed along with their opponents Walsall Swifts from the First Round in 1885/86 season only to be soundly thumped 8-0 by Grimsby Town in Round Two (still a record FA Cup defeat for the club). These pre-Football League days of the FA Cup didn’t have Qualifying Rounds and after being beaten 3-1 by Horncastle in their second season, Darlington finally won their first FA Cup match 3-0 at Gateshead Association in the First Round the season after that. The Quakers also beat Elswick Rangers 4-3 after extra time in the Second Round before going down 2-0 at home to Shankhouse in the Third.

When the Football League started the following season Darlington would have to play in the Qualifying Rounds, becoming a Northern League founder member the following year but not making the ‘Proper’ rounds again until 1910-11 season by which time they had transferred to the North Eastern League. Victories over two League sides, Division One Sheffield United 1-0 in the First Round and Division Two Bradford (Park Avenue) 2-1 in Round Two, took Darlington to their record equalling Third Round where they lost 3-0 at home to Swindon Town.

Even after they helped form the original Division Three North, Darlington still had to compete in Qualifying Rounds until the FA Cup was restructured in 1925 to resemble something close to, but not quite the same as, how it operates today with League clubs exempted until the First Round ‘Proper’. Darlington were promoted to Division Two after winning the Division Three North title in 1925 (only one team got promoted in those days), and two seasons later were exempted until the Third Round of the FA Cup where they defeated Rhyl Athletic from the Welsh National League 2-1 to make the Fourth Round for the first time ever. In that Fourth Round the club would face another Welsh side, this time in the shape of historic eventual winners Cardiff City from Division One, who ran out 2-0 winners.

Darlington were relegated back to Division Three North at the end of that 1926/27 season where they would remain until the aforementioned re-structure at the end of the season, the season that would be remembered by the club for their historic FA Cup run in 1957/58. The club twice made the Fourth Round again in the intervening years losing 2-0 at home to Division Two side Chesterfield in 1933 and 3-2 away to Division One side West Bromwich Albion in 1937. It was announced by the Football League at the beginning of the 1957/58 season that the bottom two divisions would be split into Division Three and Division Four with the clubs in the bottom half of the current North and South Divisions forming the Fourth Division. But it was the FA Cup that was to focus the hearts and minds of The Quakers’ faithful that season.

A Ron Harbertson double would see Darlington safely through the First Round away at fellow Division Three North side Rochdale, a club with the unenviable record of being knocked out of the FA Cup in the First Round a record 51 times. Harbertson scored twice in the Second Round alongside a hat-trick from Dave Carr thus avoiding a banana skin at home to Midland League outfit Boston United, although the 5-3 scoreline suggests the club were made to work for their win. There would be no glamour tie in the Third Round as Darlington were sent to Norwich City currently playing in Division Three South. Darlington had only played the Canaries once before in the FA Cup, a resounding 5-0 win in the Sixth Qualifying Round when both sides were still non-league clubs the first season after World War One. This time it was much tighter with Darlington eventually prevailing 2-1 with Harbertson once again on the scoresheet alongside Tommy Moran. And then The Quakers were drawn against Division One opposition in the Fourth Round away at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

Chelsea of the late 1950s may not be regarded on a par with 21st Century Chelsea sides, but just three years previously they had been crowned Champions of Division One and had a respectful FA Cup record with one Final appearance and five other Semi Finals appearances under their belt. Darlington were not to be overawed by their more illustrious opponents and stormed into a three goal lead with Harbertson (again), Carr and Keith Morton scoring the goals. Chelsea, containing a young Jimmy Greaves in their side, fought back and eventually managed to secure a 3-3 draw, and would have expected to go on to win the tie having dealt such a blow to their lower league opponents. The replay was held four days later and another 90 minutes couldn’t separate the two sides as Tommy Moran’s opener was cancelled out by The Blues. Three quick goals in extra time from Moran, Keith Morton and Ron Harbertson and there was no coming back from three goals down this time for the higher league side, so Darlington won the tie 4-1 to progress to the Fifth Round for the first time ever.

In the Fifth Round the Quakers were drawn away to Wolverhampton Wanderers who would go on to win their first of two consecutive League Championships at the end of the season. Unfortunately Harbertson was unable to add to his impressive seven goal FA Cup haul and Darlington were unable to replicate their heroics of the previous round going down 6-1 with Harold Bell netting their consolation goal. Darlington would never make the Fifth Round again, coming close on just two further occasions in successive seasons in the 1980s when first Plymouth Argyle and then non-league Telford United ended their dreams in the Fourth Round. That 1957-58 season, though, will be long remembered by the Darlington faithful, although the season did end on a bit of a low with the club finishing the campaign in 20th position and being ‘relegated’ to Division Four in the shake-up.

However, the club can still boast to this day that they hold an unbeaten FA Cup record against the Blues of Chelsea.

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FA Cup 2015/16 5th Round Review

Blog to be updated as ties are settled

Shrewsbury Town 0 v 3 Manchester United

Premier League Manchester United finally end Shrewsbury Town’s best FA Cup run in 25 years to book a place in the Quarter Finals for the 41st time, matching Arsenal in joint second place in that ranking. That’s eight Quarter Finals now in the 12 years since Man Utd last won the FA Cup.

Chelsea 5 v 1 Manchester City

Chelsea comfortably see off a second string Manchester City to reach the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup for the 34th time. Chelsea halve the deficit against Man City in FA Cup victories, now standing at 2-4, with a first win in the competition over the Citizens in 101 years. City are now clear out on their own in second spot for most FA Cup exits in Fifth Round with eighteen.

Tottenham Hotspur 0 v 1 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace progress to the FA Cup Quarter Finals for the first time in 21 years and now lead Spurs by three-to-two in terms of FA Cup victories. Crystal Palace FA Cup trend is to progress one round further in each of the last four years.

Blackburn Rovers 1 v 5 West Ham United

Despite going behind early on in the match the Premier League club comfortably progressed to the Quarter Finals for the 20th time, whilst Blackburn are knocked out of the competition at the Fifth Round stage for a record 19th time. West Ham now hold a 4-3 win record over Rovers in the FA Cup.

AFC Bournemouth 0 v 2 Everton

The Cherries were made to rue a missed first half penalty in their first appearance in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup in 27 years as Everton went on to win the match with two second half goals. This win puts the Toffees into the Quarter Finals for a record 45th time.

Reading 3 v 1 West Bromwich Albion

Reading came back from a goal behind to beat West Bromwich Albion for the fourth successive time in the FA Cup. Reading were also the last lower league side to knock the Baggies out of the competition, and by the Royals making the Quarter Finals this year it means it is now 10 successive seasons that there has been at least one non-Premier League side in the last eight.

Watford 1 v 0 Leeds United

In this first ever FA Cup meeting between these two sides an unfortunate own goal settled the tie in favour of the more dominant Premier League outfit. It’s Watford’s third 1-0 win in this season’s FA Cup and takes the club into the Quarter Finals for the first time in nine years and for the tenth time in total.

Leave the FA Cup Alone!

The FA Cup is the single, most important football competition in the world. It is the oldest football competition still contested and the best, and is loved the world over by players and fans alike.

The FA Cup attracts 736 clubs to take part (and this number would be even greater if it were not for FA imposed restrictions) across 10 levels of the English football pyramid from Arlesey Town to Arsenal, from Liversedge to Liverpool and from Mangotsfield United to Manchester United. It has produced thousands, if not millions of unforgettable memories, whether they be unbelievable giant-killing feats, winning the trophy outright or just seeing your name in an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round programme.

It doesn’t have the same financial reward as Premier League and Champions League competitions do, but what it lacks in monetary return it more than makes up for in individual reward. Ask anyone who has ever played football one question. An FA Cup winner’s medal or a chance to play in the Champions League? The answer is FA Cup medal almost every time. Ask fans, even fans of Premier League clubs. Would you prefer an FA Cup run to a top four finish in your League? And the answer? Well, you already know it.

And yet there are some who would like to see the FA Cup marginalised even more than it is already. The FA Cup Final used to be the showpiece end of season event. That was played around with, but at least that has since been restored, although the traditional kick-off time has been replaced by a more income generating 5.30pm kick-off. And the reason? Money. Yes, it comes as no surprise that decisions to marginalise the FA Cup are all made based upon wealth generation and nothing to do with what is best for football. Wealth for the diminishing number of already wealthy clubs. Wealth for the already money-grabbing media. Wealth for the not-interested in football owners. And sod all to the rest.

Now those self-same ‘money first, football nowhere’ individuals and organisations want to diminish the FA Cup’s standing even further. There’s too many fixtures, they cry. Let’s do away with FA Cup replays, they demand. Let’s play FA Cup matches during the week and leave the weekend free for when the global viewing figures are at their peak. It’s funny how none of these leeches are asking for the Champions League to be re-organised, a major contributor to fixture congestion guaranteeing as it does six games to be played as a minimum for all participants. The FA Cup, by contrast, usually only involves six games as a maximum if you win the Trophy, replays aside.

Of course the Champions League is where the money’s at so no-one is going to try to marginalise that. Any proposals that might be put forward for that competition would be to increase the number of fixtures and make it an exclusive competition for the elite few. More fixtures, more television rights, more money. The formula is simple.

However, the Champions League is for the small minority, and if anything in football can be changed for the better it’s going to take the silent majority to do something about it. Recent mass fan action in response to hefty ticket price proposals forced Liverpool FC to make a U-turn (even though, like all other money grabbing clubs, they’d been getting away with price hikes and fleecing their fans for years), and a similar mass action by football fans (and players) nationwide may be needed to prevent the FA from kowtowing to these profit maximising accountants and keeping the FA Cup as it is.

I urge all fans of Premier League clubs to petition their club’s board members to go to FA Cup matches played in August through to December. Talk with their counterparts at those clubs, speak with the thousands of volunteers who keep these clubs going, converse with the players and fans involved in these games, and find out what the FA Cup means to them. Yes, finance will be central to their response, but finance to stay afloat, finance to repair the clubhouse, finance to fund away travel, not finance so that their player’s Bentley can be upgraded to the latest model. But financial benefits aside, there will be something else that will be evident from spending time speaking with those involved in these clubs, and that is passion and pride by the bucket-load.

For a non-league or lower league club player, to even just participate in the FA Cup is something to tell the grandchildren. To win a Cup game or score the winner in an FA Cup tie, this is what dreams are made of. For fans, beating local rivals, hosting (and beating) a so-called giant, winning against the odds with a last-minute screamer, these are the sort of things that make their hearts swell. They’re never going to see their club’s name etched on the famous trophy, but FA Cup glory takes many shapes and sizes.

For the money men of Premier League clubs, it would do them the world of good to be exposed to the emotion of that lower level FA Cup experience, and maybe then when future decisions about the game are made, it will be for the benefit of football in general and not just benefit of their wallets. Maybe then they will realise that by promoting the FA Cup, rather than marginalising it, that that is the right way forward.

So I have one message to the FA, to the media and to the richest clubs in the country -leave the FA Cup alone!

Club Focused FA Cup Specials

No. 1 Matlock Town and their run to FA Cup Third Round in 1977

Nineteen seventy-seven was a memorable year for the whole nation. Anyone who was alive at the time can remember with fondness the wonderful celebrations and street parties that took place for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The nation also came together on a sporting front to support Virginia Wade as she became what was to become the last British women’s champion to date of Wimbledon. But in one Derbyshire town, 1977 was a made a memorable year for a third, and more special reason, as the local football club Matlock Town made it all the way to the Third Round of the FA Cup for the first and only time in its history.

The Gladiators were formed in 1878 and played simply as Matlock up until the First World War. The club entered the FA Cup in 1885-86 season, one of 22 teams to enter the competition for the first time in that season. In those pre-Football League days of the competition there were no Qualifying Rounds and for three successive seasons, the club appeared in and were knocked out in the First Round losing 7-0 to Stafford Road Works (Wolverhampton) in their inaugural FA Cup match, followed by a 6-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers and a 3-2 home defeat to Rotherham Town in the next two seasons.

Once the Football League began in 1888, clubs like Matlock had to participate in Qualifying Rounds, as would eventually become the case for all Non-League sides over time. It wasn’t until the 1890-91 season that the club finally registered their first FA Cup victory, a 1-0 home win over Derby St Luke’s, and it would be another 69 years before they appeared in the First Round once again. In that 1959-60 season the club was playing in the Central Alliance Division One North and lost 1-0 in a replay to Crook Town from the Northern League.

By the 1974 season though, Matlock Town were a regular Northern Premier League club. In those days this league was one step below the Football League, although promotion into the exclusive club was nigh on impossible in the days before automatic promotion and relegation, with the 92 members of the Football League almost acting like a closed shop. In that 1974-75 season The Gladiators made it to the First Round once again where they faced a League club for the first time ever in the shape of Division Three side Blackburn Rovers, but went down 4-1 at home. They made the First Round once again the following season but succumbed to fellow Northern Premier League side Wigan Athletic by the same 4-1 scoreline. But things were to be oh so different the next season, a season full of FA Cup firsts for the club.

In the Fourth Qualifying Round of the 1976-77 FA Cup competition, Matlock Town was drawn away to Telford United, a Southern League Premier club, playing at a level purportedly on a par with the Northern Premier League, but who had entered the competition three rounds earlier scoring nine goals in their three victories. However, Matlock had no trouble overcoming The Bucks running out 5-2 winners and making the First Round of the FA Cup for the third successive season, a feat not achieved since those first three seasons in the late nineteenth century. But this time things were to be very different.

Matlock was drawn at home to their previous year’s conquerors, Wigan Athletic, just two seasons before their opponents were to become a Football League side. However, The Gladiators were able to exact revenge for that defeat with Tom and Nick Fenoughty scoring a goal apiece to give Matlock a 2-0 victory and take the club into the Second Round of the competition for the first time ever. The draw for that Second Round sent the club to Third Division Mansfield Town, a club with no particular FA Cup pedigree, but one that had been a Football League club for over forty years, one who had made the Fifth Round of the competition just two seasons previously (and the Quarter Finals six years before that), and one who were not only plying their trade two divisions above Matlock, but were leading that Division at the time.

Matlock Town made a mockery of the difference in League status to run out 5-2 winners, thanks in part to another Nick Fenoughty double, to record the club’s first ever victory over Football League opposition and to take the club into the promised land of the FA Cup Third Round for the first time in their history, with the potential opportunity to face a top flight club. As it happens the draw didn’t throw up a romantic trip to a Division One side, but instead sent The Gladiators to Division Two club Carlisle United, a club on the wane from their own brief historical run to the top of Division One and an FA Cup Quarter Final just two years earlier. This time it was not to be for Matlock as Colin Oxley scored their only goal in a 5-1 defeat.

Another 13 seasons would pass before Matlock Town would make their final appearance to date in the FA Cup First Round, another 4-1 defeat to Division Four side Scunthorpe United. But that 1976-77 FA Cup run and solitary Third Round should be fondly remembered by all those associated with the club, rightly able to feel proud of that achievement in the knowledge that over 2,800 other clubs who have entered this illustrious competition over the years have never ventured that far in their own histories.

This article has been re-produced on the Matlock Town official website –

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