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The Non-League Football Paper

NLP Verdict: Our views on the FA Cup first round

(ON THE MARCH: Haringey Borough celebrate their victory over Poole Town in the previous round which earned them a tie against AFC Wimbledon. PICTURE: TGSPHOTO)

Alex Narey, editor

If there is going to be one shock made by a Non-league club, then where will it be?
I do think Salford will relish a visit to Shrewsbury. Being one of Non-League’s big spenders the club will want to go there and give everything to show those above just what they could be facing in seasons to come.

Let’s face it, Salford don’t need the money that comes with a lucrative FA Cup run and they are throwing everything at getting out of the bottleneck that is the National League, but the players, a lot of whom have come from the higher level, will want to prove their class and even if they field a weakened team, those coming in will want to stake their claim.

I guess some would argue it wouldn’t even be an upset, but with two divisions and 30 places separating them at the time of writing it would be.

There are a number of all Non-League ties. A few clubs will be just one game away from round three…
Clubs are just desperate to land that one big tie – it’s all about the revenue that one game brings in. But if you look at some of the ‘all Non-League’ ties there is a great opportunity to move that one step closer to the third round. The likes of Woking or Torquay United (who face each other) have an excellent opportunity to progress.

Has the FA Cup’s marketing now become more focused on the early rounds and Non-League involvement these days?
I would suggest it has because in the later rounds you just don’t see the upsets as much anymore. By that I mean proper upsets like Woking beating West Brom in 1991 or Wrexham turning over Arsenal a year later.

The strength in depth of Premier League and Championship clubs makes them more than equipped to deal with the smaller squads down in League Two or the National League – even with the Cup not being high on the priority list top managers want to win it because it is their get-out-of-jail card if other objectives aren’t being met. Yes I know Lincoln beat Burnley two years ago but it’s becoming such a rarity. The bigger upsets now tend to happen in these earlier rounds.

Give us five Non-League teams who will be in the hat for the next round…
Salford City, Stockport, Aldershot, Hartlepool and Maidstone United.

 

Matt Badcock, chief writer

The Cup was lacking some Non-League magic last year after Lincoln’s exploits in 2017. What’s going to be different this time around?
After 67 years of continuous Non-League representation in the third round proper, maybe a blip was going to happen eventually. Some jumped on the stat as a sign Non-League is getting weaker but it’s likely an anomaly. Plus Football League clubs may been inspired by Lincoln City’s run to the quarter-finals and approached their games differently believing they too could do something special.

The increase in prize money will motivate clubs at all levels but Non-League will bounce back to show the magic hasn’t gone anywhere.

 Has the FA Cup’s marketing now become more focused on the early rounds and Non-League involvement?
There has been much more focus by the FA themselves on selling the unique stories in Non-League. Each round they’ve picked out a couple of clubs in different parts of the country and taken the FA Cup trophy along for pictures with the local community. It means so much for people to see the famous cup in person and grab a snap.

The BBC also deserve huge credit. Their continued commitment to streaming a game in each round has been great for the game.

 The FA have increased prize money this year – some say they should increase more, but it’s a start, right?
To double the prize fund straight off the bat was a significant move and has been absolutely crucial to many clubs already. The addition of money for losing teams in the preliminary rounds is greatly welcomed with the cup the perfect avenue for redistributing money made from the TV deals. It’s a move we could see in the other FA competitions in the future.

Of course, the cash pool is deep, but it is important to accept it’s the Premier League clubs who bring in so much of the cash. They need their slice of the pie to keep the competition credible.

 Give us five NL teams who will be in the hat for the next round…
Stockport, Wrexham, Ebbsfleet, Maidstone, Hampton & Richmond.

Jon Couch, news editor

Every Non-league club was crying out for Sunderland, but did the draw produce any real big ties?
It did, yes, plenty of them too with several Non-League clubs playing host to Football League opposition. Portsmouth and Peterborough United go into the round as the two highest-ranked sides in action and both make tricky trips to National League clubs, Maidenhead United and Bromley respectively.

Haringey Borough, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, have a tasty home London derby in front of the TV cameras against League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon. Chorley versus Doncaster Rovers and Hampton & Richmond Borough against Oldham Athletic also have plenty of appeal.

Let’s be honest – if there is going to be one shock made by a Non-league club, then where will it be?
I particularly like the look of Aldershot Town v Bradford City, which has strangely gone under the radar with the TV companies. The Shots love a big FA Cup clash at home and, being home to the British Army, really pull out the stops on Remembrance weekend to make it an occasion to savour.

Bradford are a big club, steeped in history, but are currently bottom of League One and struggling for form. The Bantams will not relish taking on Gary Waddock’s men, who have claimed all but four of their 21 National League points this season on home soil.

Haringey v AFC Wimbledon was the first out of the hat and is the first game being played next Friday… can you see the Borough doing anything here?
It’s going to be tough for Borough against League One opposition but their 3G surface at Coles Park will certainly act as a leveller. The Dons’ recent history against Non-League clubs is not too clever, having drawn 0-0 to Sutton United on the only other occasion when they’ve played on an artificial surface in 2016-17, before losing 3-1 in the replay.

The previous round, they went to Curzon Ashton and found themselves 3-0 down before pulling themselves back to win 4-3 in a thriller. Haringey may be struggling themselves in Bostik Premier this term but proved in their FA Trophy tie against Leyton Orient last season that they can rise to the big occasion.

Give us five Non-League teams who will be in the hat for the next round…
Maidstone United, Aldershot Town, Ebbsfleet United, Hampton & Richmond Borough and Guiseley.

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