The Non-League Football Paper - - NEWS - Gre­gor ROBERT­SON FOL­LOW GRE­GOR ON TWIT­TER @Gre­gorRobert­s0n

We run the rule over the FA Cup first round matches and pre­dict where the shocks may come from

I’ve been rack­ing my brains for a few FA Cup ca­reer high­lights this week, and I sup­pose my need to do that tells its own story!

In 15 years as a pro­fes­sional, a last-16 tie against Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, when I was a fresh-faced young­ster at Not­ting­ham For­est, was about as good as it got.

There was a visit to Ip­swich Town’s Port­man Road when I was at League Two Chester­field, but more of­ten than not dur­ing my ca­reer in the lower leagues my teams seemed for­ever des­tined to draw an op­po­nent from the same divi­sion – which yields about as much ex­tra ex­cite­ment as a trip to the den­tist.

That game against Spurs was the only tie I played in front of the TV cam­eras too. The point is, while we’re all used to see­ing the FA Cup rolling round to throw up its an­nual David v Go­liath clashes, the up­sets, fairy­tales and myr­iad mem­o­rable en­coun­ters, for most play­ers those mo­ments are fleet­ing and rare. In­deed, for many they never come around at all.

This week­end, three of the stand-out ties of the firstround proper of­fer the chance for three Non-League clubs and their play­ers to make mem­o­ries that will last a life­time – and maybe even cre­ate a lit­tle piece of his­tory along the way. Fur­ther­more they get to do it all with the eyes of the coun­try fixed on them, un­der the glare of the TV cam­eras who, let’s face it, only roll into town when the whiff of an up­set is in the air…

Haringey Bor­ough v Wim­ble­don (Fri­day, 19:55)

The re­ward for Haringey Bor­ough’s win over Poole Town was a place in the firstround proper against AFC Wim­ble­don and the draw could hardly have been kinder for them.

A Lon­don derby cou­pled with Wim­ble­don’s ded­i­cated away fol­low­ing prom­ises to make for a crack­ing at­mos­phere at Coles Park. Not only have they drawn the il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nent every club han­kers af­ter, but Haringey have been paired with a Dons side at their low­est ebb.

Erik Sa­muel­son, the club’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, re­leased a state­ment back­ing the man­ager Neil Ard­ley last week af­ter a dis­as­trous run of re­sults. But for the first time the na­tives are rest­less and con­fi­dence within the squad is lower than a snake’s belly.

First team-coach Si­mon Bassey said some Dons play­ers weren’t fit to wear the shirt af­ter the re­cent de­feat to Lu­ton. Bor­ough, mean­while, can ap­proach the game with noth­ing to lose and ev­ery­thing to gain.

What­ever peo­ple say about the qual­ity of 3G pitches, Haringey’s fa­mil­iar­ity with the sur­face at Coles Park could be an­other fac­tor that might just tip the scales in the favour of the Bostik Pre­mier side. Tom Loizou’s men are the story of the com­pe­ti­tion so far and there may be an­other chap­ter to be told.

Maiden­head United v Portsmouth (Sat, 12:30)

Given that, prior to their visit to Dover this week­end, Maiden­head had shipped 13 goals against Fylde and Ha­vant & Water­looville in the last week, you wouldn’t im­me­di­ately fancy their chances against the League One lead­ers. And there’s no doubt they face an ar­du­ous task.

Not only do they boast an ar­ray of at­tack­ing tal­ent, but Kenny Jack­ett’s men have been far more as­sured on the road than at Frat­ton Park this sea­son.

Nev­er­the­less their visit to York Road will be a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion al­to­gether. Alan Devon­shire’s men will have a lit­tle more fuel added to their fire if they see a teamsheet ar­rive with a raft of changes.

Maiden­head’s cred­itable ven­tures to this stage against Port Vale and Coventry City in the last few years should give them be­lief that they can hold their own.

Hamp­ton & Rich­mond Bor­ough v Old­ham Ath­letic (Mon­day, 19:45)

The first ever game to be broad­cast from the Bev­eree will be for the wel­come of three-time semi-fi­nal­ists Old­ham Ath­letic. Dis­tant days, of course, and the Beavers can take heart from the fact that, with­out Sam Sur­ridge, the in­jured on-loan Bournemouth striker, Old­ham have strug­gled for goals in League Two.

The Lat­ics have Pre­mier League ex­pe­ri­ence in the form of Jose Bax­ter and Ish­mael Miller but it’s been a tu­mul­tuous sea­son al­ready for Frankie Bunn’s side, with wages paid late and play­ers re­port­edly re­fus­ing to train last month. On the pitch, you’re never sure what you’re go­ing to get from one week to the next ei­ther.

Gary McCann’s Hamp­ton will be hop­ing their vis­i­tors have one of their off days on Mon­day night and I would not bet against Bor­ough reach­ing the sec­ond round for the first time in their his­tory.

One more FA Cup mem­ory… or night­mare

A tie I played in for the Spire­ites against Droyls­den a decade ago stands out for all the wrong rea­sons. The first leg at Sal­ter­gate was aban­doned at half-time due to fog, and our vis­i­tors, who were in the lead at the time, were not best pleased.

When the re­play came round, and with the scores level, Jack Lester de­cided to lob Droyls­den’s goal­keeper rather than pass­ing the ball back to him af­ter a stop­page in play. Our vis­i­tors weren’t best pleased about that ei­ther. Nor was our chair­man, Barry Hub­bard, who could be seen lean­ing out of the di­rec­tor’s box wildly re­mon­strat­ing against the de­ci­sion of our man­ager, Lee Richard­son, to let Droyls­den score an un­op­posed equaliser from kick-off.

To a sec­ond re­play, then, and with us 2-0 to the good with 16 min­utes re­main­ing, the flood­lights mys­te­ri­ously went out! To the third re­play, and the fourth and thank­fully fi­nal meet­ing ended in a 2-1 win for Droyls­den, we’re out, or so we thought. The next morn­ing we dis­cov­ered that that Sean New­ton, their goal scor­ing left-back, had in fact been in­el­i­gi­ble.

Four games, some highly ir­ri­ta­ble ex­changes, and a Christ­mas do down the swanny, but in to the thir­dround round we went! The magic of the FA Cup eh?

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