The draw for the second round of the world’s oldest club competition saw 18 Non-League teams go into the hat. Four succumbed during the first-round replays, leaving 14 to fight for the lower leagues’ honour over the weekend of the 29th, 30th November and 1st and 2nd December. Of those three forced a replay, ten failed to make it over the line, and just one successfully made it through to the third-round draw.
Round three for the vast majority of Premier League teams is seen as either a wanted or an unwanted distraction from the meat and drink of the league. They will be far more concerned with their chances of winning the league, getting in the top four or six, or (at the very least) securing their place in the EPL next season. It is a different matter altogether for the Non-League teams, where progression and the ball they are drawn with could be the difference between getting a new player in or not, investing in new training facilities or even surviving or not.
The non-league’s sole definite representative in the third round came from the round’s all Non-League game, where Kingstonians hosted AFC Fylde. The Coasters were looking to go one better than their cup exploits two years ago when they reached the second round, and they got off to the perfect start when Jordan Williams fired in from the edge of the box on 9 minutes. The versatile forward doubled their lead in first half stoppage time. The Ks rallied in the second half, but it wasn’t to be for the Isthmian League Premier side, and the score remained 0-2.
Those who will go again
Eastleigh earned a replay against Crewe, courtesy of a late Marcus Barnes equaliser. Barnes came off the bench and scored the dramatic leveller with practically his first touch of the game, which prompted joyous scenes at the Silverlake Stadium, where the crowd had witnessed a thrilling cup tie.
Two goals in the space of seven second-half minutes saw Hartlepool deservedly grab a chance to play Exeter at Victoria Park in the replay. Despite Boston coming away from League One outfit Rochdale with a goalless draw and the chance to do it again, they will feel like they could, and maybe should, have won the game. Still, they will be confident of finishing the job at York Street.
The Best of the Rest
Although they failed to manage making it into the hat, there were some creditable performances form several lower-tier sides that certainly warrant a mention. The last tie of the round saw an incredible match at Damson Park, where Solihull Moors took on a Rotherham side 46 places above them in the league. They took a two-goal advantage into half time, and when Jimmy Ball made it three just after the hour mark, you could forgive Moors fans for dreaming of a third-round tie against the footballing glitterati. Rotherham had other ideas, however, and staged an improbably comeback. Goals in the 76th, 79th and 88th minutes saw them draw the tie level, before Chiedozie Ogbene broke Solihull hearts with the Millers’ fourth goal in 14 minutes.
Second-round heroes Maldon & Tiptree couldn’t repeat their earlier heroics, but they can certainly be proud of their efforts—and it took a stoppage-time winner from the head of Newport’s Padraig Amond to deny them at least the chance of a replay.
The Third Round
AFC Fylde’s prize for beating Kingstonian is an away game at EPL’s Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s side have begun life in the top tier incredibly well. With the threat of relegation not as prevalent as perhaps they thought it could have been, it may mean that the Blades take the FA Cup a lot more seriously. Either way the National League side will have their work cut out for them, but they can look forward to a financial bonanza.
If Eastleigh can overcome Crewe, then a home tie against Championship strugglers Barnsley awaits. Hartlepool will go to Oxford United if they beat Exeter in their replay, while Boston have a plum tie at home to Newcastle as the carrot to beat Rotherham. The full draw can be found here