Your Non-League Rooting Guide To The FA Cup
The FA Cup just finished the final round of qualifying over the weekend, and we now know which 32 non-league sides will be joining the 92 Football League clubs to compete in the 140th iteration of football's most storied competition.
The cup was first contested in 1871-72 with Wanderers defeating Royal Engineers in the final. The competition now encompasses the top 10 divisions of English football with the final played in the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London.
This year's first round draw was announced October 26, and first round matches will be played the weekend of November 7-9.
One of the main attractions of the FA Cup is the upsets caused by lower level opposition. Last year was a relatively tame competition as no non-league side advanced past the third round, and no League Two side advanced past the fourth round (as well as all-Premier League quarterfinals).
Maldon & Tiptree was responsible for last season's biggest upset. The eighth-tier side defeated League Two's Leyton Orient in the first round.
This season, Skelmersdale United is the lowest-ranking team remaining and the first ninth-tier club to reach the first round since Westfields FC did so in 2016-17. They will face a difficult away tie against League Two newcomers Harrogate Town. Skelmersdale will be joined by 20 sides in the sixth-tier or lower, as well as 12 National League (fifth tier) teams.
It is these non-league sides that are the heart and soul of the competition, and they will hope to deliver "The Magic of the Cup."
While there are 32 different non-league sides to support in this year's cup, we picked out six of the most obscure and likeable clubs to root for this FA Cup season.
Non-League Sides To Root For In The FA Cup
The Blueboys are the lowest-ranked team in the cup, hailing from the North West Counties League Premier Division, the ninth tier of English football. United began the qualifying process back in August with the Extra Preliminary Round, since progressing through six qualifying rounds (the most of any remaining side) to reach the main tournament. The club has never advanced further than the First Round Proper in the cup, with its last first round appearance coming in 1971-72.
First Round Match: At Harrogate Town (League Two)
Maldon & Tiptree
The eighth-tier side made a miraculous run to the FA Cup Second Round last year, and this year find themselves in the First Round Proper again. The club is the product of the combination of Maldon Town and Tiptree United in 2010, and a fan poll performed after the merger devised the nickname "the Jammers," an ode to the local jam-making industry,
First Round Match: Vs Morecambe (League Two)
— Maldon & Tiptree FC (@MaldonTiptreeFC) October 24, 2020
Cray Valley Paper Mills FC
If you often find yourself inclined to root for football teams based on name alone, then the Millers are the side for you. Formed in 1919, the club wears a green and white kit, representing the original colors of the paper mill's vehicles and company banner. The mills closed in 1981, but since then the club has enjoyed success, gaining promotion from the 12th to the eighth tier in the last two decades.
First Round Match: At Havant & Waterlooville (National League South, sixth tier)
600 fans were in attendance Saturday afternoon to watch seventh-tier Banbury score twice in the final ten minutes to defeat Bury Town 2-1, sending the Puritans to the First Round Proper for the first time since 1973. "I nearly pulled a muscle when Landers struck the winner," Banbury manager Andy Whing said. Given a favorable home draw, the club could reach the second round for the first time ever.
First Round Match: Vs Canvey Island (Isthmian League North, eighth tier)
The club is most famous for having the longest-serving manager in post-war English football, Roly Howard, who was at the helm for 1,975 games from 1972 to 2005. Howard's tenure included five league titles and a run to the FA Cup Third Round Proper in 92-93. The Mariners were relegated last season after 40 consecutive years in the Northern Premier League Premier Division but managed to join four other sides as the only eighth-tier sides left in this season's FA Cup.
First Round Match: At Colchester United (League Two)
Marine's Rossett Park as it looked in 1978, plus a programme cover from 1964/65. (Pics Bob Lilliman). Rossett Park, which underwent a modernisation programme in 1999 that saw both end stands replaced, is featured in our book The Cemetery End details here- https://t.co/urhrZ2a16b pic.twitter.com/f3mx4z8Mad— Vince Taylor (@Groundtastic) June 6, 2020
Hampton & Richmond Borough FC
A sixth-tier club in Southwest London, Borough looks to build on its second FA Cup proper appearance in three seasons. Yet its most famous FA Cup moment might be goalkeeper Alan Cooling's goal for the club in the 4th Qualifying Round against Barnet in 1977, believed to be the first goal ever scored by a goalkeeper in the competition.
The club also carries a unique nickname, the Beavers (named after the nearby Beaver Close housing division). Supporters often call themselves "The Beaver Patrol" and sing out chants such as: "Up the Beavers."
First Round Match: Vs Oldham Athletic (League Two)