The Emirates FA Cup has something special about it. As I wrote in a previous Back Page Football article, Why the FA Cup is such an important part of the English football calendar, the FA Cup is one of the most unique domestic cup competitions in the world.
Teams in the lower echelons of the non-league pyramid coming up against established Football League sides is a sight to behold – this season is no different. But which ties should we look out for in the first round and which ones will be televised in the UK?
Premier League teams enter this competition in the third round which usually takes place after the new year, however, the competition actually starts a long time before that. Teams in the lower echelons of the non-league pyramid enter at the extra preliminary round and those teams would have to win six games before reaching the first round
Some non-league minnows have progressed into the first round before despite having to play a host of games before which makes their story even more special. Teams from the Vanarama National League, the fifth tier, enter at the fourth qualifying round stage and the prize fund then starts to ramp up.
In the fourth qualifying round, Anstey Nomads of the Uhlsport United Counties League Premier Division North, the ninth tier, faced former FA Cup semi-finalists Chesterfield of the National League. The Nomads had the BBC cameras on show for their game but Chesterfield spoiled their party with a dominant 4-0 victory. Wrexham were held to a 1-1 draw away at Blyth Spartans but they progressed to the next round after a thrilling 3-2 replay win at The Racecourse Ground.
One of the shocks of the round came at Notts County as Coalville Town scored an 86th minute winner which meant they progressed to the next round. Some of the other upsets included South Shields, managed by former Sunderland and Aston Villa striker Kevin Phillips, who beat Scunthorpe United. Additionally, Dagenham & Redbridge thrashed Isthmian League South East Division side Beckenham Town 7-0.
Now into the games to look out for in the first round – ties will be played from November 4 to 7. Hereford will face former Premier League side Portsmouth on the November 4 which will be broadcast live on BBC Two. After beating Scunthorpe United of the National League, South Shields come up against Forest Green Rovers of League One on BBC One the following day.
At the time of writing, Torquay United sit bottom of the National League but they will come up against Derby County at home on ITV on November 6. The Monday night clash will see Bracknell Town play Ipswich Town live on ITV4. The teams that will be involved in these televised games will receive £50,000 which will be a huge boost for the non-league clubs that have their game televised.
Some of the other intriguing ties include Needham Market who travel to Burton Albion as well as Taunton Town of the National League South playing MK Dons at Stadium MK. Following their entertaining win over Notts County in the previous round, Coalville Town face another tough test as they will play Charlton Athletic of League One. Cheltenham Town will play hosts to Alvechurch and Farnborough will be going to play Sutton United – and that is just a handful of the exciting first round matches.
This round of FA Cup action could be one of huge upsets and teams progressing to the second round, one win away from a potential match-up with Premier League opposition. In previous seasons, teams like Marine have progressed to face Tottenham Hotspur while Sutton United faced Arsenal in 2017. This competition is one of great opportunity and one that is needed to shine a light on non-league football. But which FA Cup first round ties will you be looking out for?