FA Cup First Round: Where will the shocks come?
Background image: DS Pugh, CC BY 2.0
The FA Cup First Round draw is always a date to circle on the English football calendar. Once again, it didn't disappoint. The draw took place two weeks ago, setting the stage for the drama to unfold this weekend. League One and League Two sides enter the competition, upping the stakes for the non-league sides who have reached this stage.
Eighth tier survivors
Two sides remain from the eighth tier. When Bury were expelled from the EFL, an odd number of teams remained, mandating a bye for the ball not plucked from the pot. Lowest-ranked, Chichester City turned out to be in the wrong place at the right time. The Lilywhites proceed directly to Round Two and collect £36,000. In a fantastic gesture, the West Sussex club pledged a donation to Bury.
Leyton Orient (4th tier) v Maldon and Tiptree (8th)
Maldon and Tiptree are the other step eight side still in the competition after winning 1-0 away to seventh tier Royston Town in the previous round. The Jammers travel to Leyton Orient who returned to the Football League last season. Maldon already find themselves several rounds deep into new territory. Can they continue to write history?
Someone had to get the bye, maybe after 6 wins already we deserved it?
💚 #UpTheChi | #EmiratesFACup
Four ties have been picked for live coverage across BBC and BT Sport starting on Friday night. Each pits a non-league side at home to an EFL club.
Harrogate Town (5th tier) v Portsmouth (3rd)
This was always going to be a TV game. Harrogate fly high in the National League after reaching the playoffs in their first season at that level last year. Portsmouth struggle for traction in 2019/20 after playoff heartache last year. Harrogate striker Mark Beck is proving a handful for opponents. Pompy defenders must corral him.
Dulwich Hamlet (6th tier) v Carlisle United (4th)
South London-based Dulwich Hamlet play in the National South but attract comparatively large crowds for that level, averaging 1,900 at Champion Hill. Fifteenth in the table after a home defeat to Bath at the weekend, the Hamlet survived three ties to reach this stage. Carlisle United are 19th in League Two but picked up a confidence-boosting victory at home to Macclesfield Town on Saturday.
Dover Athletic (5th tier) v Southend United (3rd)
National League Dover fancy their chances against struggling Southend United. The two South Coast teams face off with Dover mid-table in non-league's top flight while Southend nestle second-bottom in League One with a meagre five points from 16 games. The Shrimpers own two wins in all competition and seven defeats in their last eight. It's an understatement to say new boss Sol Campbell's side is vulnerable.
Hayes and Yeading (7th tier) v Oxford United (3rd)
Eighteenth in the Southern League South, Hayes and Yeading are one of the lowest-ranked sides still in the competition. In part, their league woes are down to playing far fewer games thanks to their cup run. Progressing represents a challenge. Until now, the Beaconsfield Road denizens faced players from the same or lower levels. Oxford are League One's surprise this season, sitting fourth. The division's second-top scorers, hayes and Yeading's defence must adopt a siege mentality for this one.
Seventh tier heaven
Aside from Hayes and Yeading, four sides from the seventh tier. Three drew other non-league sides. One wasn't so lucky.
Stourbridge (7th tier) v Eastleigh (5th)
Stourbridge hail from the Southern League Central division. The Glassboys haven’t lost a game since mid-September and only twice this season in all competitions. Can they continue the run against National Premier outfit, Eastleigh? The Spitfires won't be pushovers. They lie mid-table in the National League after beating promotion chasers Harrogate on Saturday.
Nantwich Town (7th tier) v Fylde (5th)
Northern Premier League side Nantwich already caused two shocks and seek a third before the home fans at Weaver Stadium. The Dabbers knocked out Telford and King’s Lynn Town from the National North, one division higher. Big spenders Fylde were one step away from the Football League in May but lost the National League playoff final to Salford City. The Coasters were expected to challenge for promotion again this season, but are fifth-bottom, leading to long-time boss Dave Challinor's sack. The question is whether they're easy pickings or will play like a cornered beast for new boss Jim Bentley?
Macclesfield Town (4th tier) v Kingstonian (7th)
League Two’s Macclesfield Town will be hoping to avoid a shock when they host Kingstonian. The Silkmen are 15th in League Two despite their struggles away from the pitch. With only one side due to go down after the Bury debacle, they should be comfortable this season. Kingstonian inhabit the Isthmian League's lower reaches but shocked National South Dartford 3-2 in the final qualifying round.
Carshalton Athletic (7th tier) v Boston (6th)
Carshalton play in the same division as Kinsgtonian but are currently eighth. Like their division rivals, they produced a shock in the last round, ousting the National League's Dagenham and Redbridge. The Robins last reached this stage of the competition in 1998 when they lost to Stevenage Borough. National North's Boston United jostle in the crowd just outside the playoff places. Both sides enter the match unbeaten in nine. Here's hoping respect doesn't spoil a promising affair.
Other all non-league ties
With 32 non-league teams in the competition and several drawn against each other, a handful will join Chichester in the Second Round. At least one National League North club will advance after York City and Altrincham face off. The Minstermen continued their fantastic start to the season in the last round, knocking out National Premier side Stockport County in front of the BT Sport cameras. Elsewhere Oxford City host Solihull Moors, Maidstone United play Torquay United, Ebbsfleet United take on Notts County and Yeovil Town face Hartlepool United.
First out of the hat were Ipswich town. Several smaller sides would have loved that tie but fellow League One denizen Lincoln City drew the chance. Non-leaguers looking for a payday were disappointed again when Gillingham drew a trip to the Stadium of Light to cross Sunderland's path.
- League Two side Walsall are pointless in six and host National North Darlington, unbeaten in seven.
- Gateshead, also from the National North, host Oldham Athletic, a potential upset television ignored despite the Heed's recent turmoil.
- National League Wrexham take on League One Rochdale
- National South Chippenham Town play League Two Northampton Town.
Always one of the biggest weekends in UK football, the First Round will be no different this year. It all gets underway when Dulwich Hamlet host Carlisle United tonight. Enjoy.