For the past 145 years, it has brought disruption to predictability, astonishment to the expectant, success to the unfortunate and sheer joy to the watching masses. The oldest cup competition in world football returns this weekend – the First Round of the famous FA Cup, writes Jack Watson.
Charlton Athletic vs Scunthorpe United (Prediction League fixture)
The Iron get their cup campaign underway against division rivals Charlton in one of just three all-League 1 fixtures for their second meeting of the season. Back in September, The Addicks travelled to Glanford Park and put a stop to Scunthorpe’s free scoring attack in a tidy 0-0 draw – a reminder that, despite their differing fortunes in the league, they’ll be no pushovers.
Charlton’s confidence would benefit from victory in this one, but Graham Alexander should be keen to get his side on a bit of a cup run to go with their scintillating league form and I fancy them to do just that.
Iron boss Graham Alexander revealed that Scott Wiseman is likely to be fit after sustaining a knock in Saturday’s match with Swindon Town, as is Kevin van Veen, who has trained all week following his second half withdrawal. Long term absentees Jordan Clarke and Luke Williams are both back in training and could return to the squad.
Hartlepool vs Stamford
Thanks to that incredible 3-2 win at Wrexham, Stamford deservedly find themselves in the First Round and have been rewarded with a trip up north to Hartlepool’s 7,856 capacity stadium Victoria Park. 94 places in the English football league ladder separate the two but Stamford would just love to prove, once again, that that counts for nothing in the FA Cup.
Since that famous win, they’ve been on poor form in the league though, currently on a three game losing streak and sitting three points above the drop zone. League Two Hartlepool aren’t exactly flying either. Graham Drury will no doubt tell his Stamford lads to forget all about their troubles, make the most of this chance and show the world what they can do, so let’s hope another giant-killing is on the cards.
Merstham vs Oxford Utd (Prediction League fixture)
This is why we love the FA Cup. Merstham, currently sit nicely in 17th place in the Isthmian Premier League, England’s 7th tier, after promotion last season. Oxford United, on the other hand, once consigned Sir Alex Ferguson to defeat in his first game as Man Utd manager and now find themselves in League One. Despite Oxford dropping from the top tier back then, they still sit 94 places above their opponents from Surrey and this would be the First Round’s big fairytale if Merstham win. Those of you with BT Sport 1 will be able to enjoy it as well, with kick-off at 12:30pm on Saturday 5th November.
I can’t possibly predict they will, but the atmosphere will be rocking in the 2,000 capacity Moatside, the pitch will be tricky to play on and in this competition there’s always a chance the football gods may just bestow upon us another day of sheer joy. I’ll have everything crossed.
Eastleigh vs Swindon
I’m sure plenty of people from Eastleigh will be watching BBC 2 at 7.55pm this coming Sunday as their side take on another former top-flight team Swindon Town. 35 places below their opponents, however, isn’t quite as drastic as a lot of others and the side based in East Southampton will be up for it. Currently 8th in The National League, and with Swindon in the relegation zone in League One, this is the sort of game where form, home crowds and pure adrenaline can be enough to drag teams over the line against more illustrious opponents and I fancy a surprise here at the Silverlake Stadium.
Westfields vs Curzon Ashton
The lowest team in the football league pyramid to make the FA Cup First Round, Westfields, celebrate 50 years as a football club in style this year by making their debut in the First Round proper. It’s all win when that happens as well – they either get a big tie away at a big stadium, a big tie at home (gate receipts), or they get drawn, home or away, against someone entirely beatable. That’s how they’ll feel against Curzon Ashton. The Manchester side are three leagues higher than Westfields, but at that level of the league system anything really can happen.
Westfields are 3rd in the Midland’s League Premier Division, but with a number of games in hand and the joint best attack in the division with league leaders Alvechurch, who have played 6 games more. There’s nothing for Westfields to lose, and they’ve won their last 6 games in all competitions. Curzon Ashton, however, are unbeaten in 5 and won’t go down without a fight. This one gets my pick of the round and should be a tasty game.
MK Dons vs Spennymoor Town (Prediction League fixture)
An interesting matchup between these two teams, between them, they’ve only been around for 23 years. In 2004 MK Dons were dragged from the ashes of what was Wimbledon FC, while Spennymoor Town only became a club in 2005 as a result of Evenwood and Spennymoor Utd combining to avoid going completely bust.
Since then, the two clubs have done well. MK Dons’s most famous recent win was a 4-0 smash and grab against none other than Louis van Gaal’s Manchester Utd, and they presently reside in League One, teetering above the relegation zone by goal difference. Spennymoor, conversely, are doing well in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, 6th place but with at least three games in hand on everyone above on account of their cup run. Hopefully the financial fortunes of these two infant clubs continue to stabilise and we see much more of them both in this competition.
The FA Cup First Round Full Fixture List (all fixtures 3pm kick off unless stated)
Friday 4th November
Millwall vs Southend (7:45pm)
Eastleigh vs Swindon Town (7:55pm)
Saturday 5th November
Bury vs AFC Wimbledon
Braintree vs Eastbourne Borough
Bolton vs Grimsby Town
Bradford City vs Accrington Stanley
Cambridge vs Dover Athletic
Charlton vs Scunthorpe
Cheltenham vs Crewe Alexandra
Colchester Utd vs Chesterfield
Crawley Town vs Bristol Rovers (12pm)
Dagenham and Redbridge vs FC Halifax
Dartford vs Sutton Utd
Exeter City vs Luton Town
Gillingham vs Brackley Town
Merstham vs Oxford Utd (12:30pm)
Lincoln City vs Altrincham
Mansfield Town vs Plymouth Argyle
MK Dons vs Spennymoor Town
Northampton vs Harrow Borough
Oldham vs Doncaster
Peterborough vs Chesham Utd
Portsmouth vs Wycombe Wanderers
Port Vale vs Stevenage
Shrewsbury vs Barnet
Stockport County vs Woking
Walsall vs Macclesfield Town
Westfields vs Curzon Ashton
Whitehawk vs Stourbridge
Yeovil Town vs Solihull Moors
Sunday 6th November
Alfreton Town vs Newport County (2pm)
Blackpool vs Kidderminster (2pm)
Boreham Wood vs Notts County (2pm)
Hartlepool vs Stamford (2pm)
Maidstone Utd vs Rochdale (2pm)
Morecambe vs Coventry (2pm)
Sheff Utd vs Leyton Orient (2pm)
St Albans vs Carlisle (2pm)
Taunton Town vs Barrow (2pm)
Monday 7th November
Southport vs Fleetwood (7:45pm)