The First Round proper of the 2011/12 FA Cup promised a lot for the non-league teams involved. For the clubs lower down the pyramid, it is a chance to draw a league one or two clubs while at the top end of the non-league spectrum, there are clubs dreaming of that plum Third Round tie. With £18,000 prize money for the winners, and the chance of the bigger attendance boosted by a good draw, this is again an important day for everyone involved. Whereas normally clubs share 90% of the gate receipts (with the rest going to the FA), non league clubs get an extra 5%, which can often help keep clubs afloat for the rest of the season.
Although there were a few good chances for upsets, there was little to get too excited about with only four non league teams going through at the expense of higher league opposition. Redbridge were the lowest ranked team left in the trophy going into the weekend, and they still have a chance to make it through to the Second round after a goalless draw at home to Oxford City, with a non league team ensured of a place in the next round. Luton Town managed to secure a win against local rivals and League Two side Northampton Town with a single goal enough to secure the Hatters place in Round Two. Substitute Adam Watkins scored a late goal for the win. In another shock Blue Square South side Chelmsford beat the BSP opponents 4-0 in a one sided game at Melbourne Park. Dave Rainford scored a brace following goals from Aiden Palmer and Craig Parker to put the Clarets in the hats for the next round. Fleetwood managed an upset even though they had been reduced to ten men for the second half of their home tie against Wycombe Wanderers. Andy Mangan and Jamie Vardy scored and the Cod Army held on despite Richard Brodie’s red card. Sutton United beat higher opposition as Craig Watkins scored the all-important goal to cause the upset. The Poppies response to this was to place their entire squad on the transfer list.
The performance of the day was at the Testwood Stadium as Evostik South league Premier Division side AFC Totton ran riot against Bradford Park Avenue. Richard Marshall was given his marching orders before Jonathon Davies and Michael Gosney put Totton on their way. Adam Clayton pulled a goal back before Michael Charles made it 3-1 at the break. Gosney then added another before Stefan Brown grabbed himself a hat trick and Davies rounded off a historic day for Totton. Stourbridge almost had a dream result at Home Park but a late goal made sure both teams have to replay this tie to see who progresses. Warren Feeney put Plymouth ahead but Aaron drake and Ryan Rowe put the Glassboys into a surprise lead. Carl Fletcher and Sean Gebbis scored for each side to leave Stourbridge within 8 minutes of glory, but a late equalizer from Onismor Bhasera earned argyle another chance.
Also heading for a replay are Hinckley and Tamworth who drew 2-2, Port Vale and Grimsby (0-0), Dagenham & Redbridge and Bath City (1-1), Cambridge and Wrexham (2-2) as well as Maidenhead and Aldershot (1-1).
In the other ties featuring non-league teams, Barnet overcame Southport at Haig Avenue with Charlie Taylor netting the late late winner for Barnet. Gateshead beat another local rival and finished Blyth Spartans hopes of another cup run winning 2-0 at Croft Park. Barrow missed out a chance of an upset after taking the lead through Paul Rutherford. Lewis Grabban scored a brace to secure Rotherams progress. Terry Gornell scored for Shrewsbury as they ended Newport’s hopes for another year. Four goals in twenty minutes ensured Carlisle progressed at the expense of Alfreton Town. Fc Halifax Town’s run also came to an end after losing 4-0 at home to Charlton athletic. Salisbury beat Arlesey and Bristol Rovers beat Corby both by the same 3-1 scoreline. Brentford’s Sam Saunders scored the only goal against Basingstoke, Leyton Orient eased past Bromley with a 3-0 win. Macclesfield also won by three goals away at East Thurrock and the MK Dons managed an impressive 6-0 win at home to Nantwich.
The Second Round draw threw up a few interesting ties. With Fleetwood vs. Yeovil, AFC Totton vs. Bristol Rovers and Sutton United vs. Notts County all chosen for TV coverage and the perfect exposure to upset another big team. If Stourbridge can get past Plymouth, a home tie against Stevenage awaits. Chelmsford meet Macclesfield and the winner of Redbridge and Oxford City face a trip to Crawley Town. Luton will host Cheltenham and the winner of the replay between Cambridge and Wrexham will travel to Brentford. Bath will face Exeter or Walsall at home, providing they get past Dagenham & Redbridge. Gateshead will play Hinckley or Tamworth in the only non-league tie that will ensure there will be at least one non-league team in the next round. A trip to Hillsborough awaits the winner of the Maidenhead vs. Aldershot replay. In those ties there are good chances for a few names to go into the hat for the Third Round draw, and the dram of a plum tie against a big Premier League team.