A Rich Tapestry
It’s the Preliminary Round of The FA Cup this afternoon, which sees 332 teams taking part for a place in the First Qualifying Round of the competition. There are, as ever, some names that everyone remembers from some point in the past if you jog their memories hard enough. The ludicrously-named FC Halifax Town, who formed during the summer when Halifax Town AFC went into liquidation, play their first ever match in the competition against Silsden, as do Nuneaton Town, who formed after the closure of Nuneaton Borough during the summer. Both of these clubs have caused the occasional upset in the past. The original Halifax Town beat Manchester City 1-0 in 1980, whilst those of you with shorter memories will remember Nuneaton Borough’s last minute penalty to earn a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough in the Third Round in 2006.
They’re not the only clubs taking part at this stage with a serious FA Cup pedigree. Aylesbury United are still homeless – they’re ground-sharing with local rivals Chesham United this season while the arguments continue over whether they can find a new site within Aylesbury itself – but in better times, they knocked out Southend United & Northampton Town, and featured in a Third Round match against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road . Chasetown, also of the Southern League, held Oldham Athletic to a 1-1 draw three years ago and had their best ever FA Cup run last season, beating Port Vale after a replay before losing to eventual finallists Cardiff City in the Third Round. Ware FC had an outstanding run from this stage of the competition last season, and made it to the First Round of the competition last season before losing at home to Kidderminster Harriers. They’re at home against Sporting Bengal United.
Such is the occasionally transient nature of non-league football that there are fallen giants everywhere one looks at this level. Kingstonian, who share the Kingsmeadow stadium with AFC Wimbledon, make their entrance in the Preliminary Round this year with an away match against Shoreham. As recently as 2001, they beat Brentford and Southend United on the way to an appearance in the Fourth Round of the competition, in which they beaten 1-0 by Bristol City after a replay, with City having required an injury time equaliser in the first match. Those who describe AFC Wimbledon as the first fans breakaway club have it wrong. The first club to lose all their supporters because of the atrocious behaviour were Enfield FC. Enfield finally folded during the summer of 2007 and inexplicably reformed as “Enfield 93″, but the breakaway team, Enfield Town, are still going strong in the Ryman League Division One North. In 1981, Enfield beat Port Vale and Hereford United on the way to a Fourth Round replay defeat by Barnsley, and the following season beat Wimbledon before narrowly losing to Crystal Palace in the Third Round. During the period between 1977 and 1997, they also beat Exeter City, Northampton Town, Leyton Orient, Aldershot, Cardiff City, Torquay United and Chesterfield, whilst also (as recently as 2000) holding Preston North End to a 0-0 draw before losing the replay. Their opponents this afternoon are Hillingdon Borough, who knocked Luton Town out in 1970.
This stage of the competition is peppered with great names from the past that have fallen upon hard times. Slough Town, another club to have been badly mistreated down the years, are away against Abingdon Town. They beat Millwall in the First Round in 1983 and, as recently as 2005, beat Walsall at the same stage. I could go on. These clubs, all still proud names that have fallen on hard times, should serve as a stark reminder to those currently living the high life or spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in the pursuit of what they perceive as “glory” that the good times don’t always last forever. You can keep up to date with this weekend’s FA Cup results courtesy of the ITV Football website.