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Friday, 02 December 2011

FA Cup Second Round: How Many Non-Leaguers Will Reach Round Three?


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This weekend is one with the promise of early Christmas presents for a  select band of non-league clubs. Twelve are in the draw for the Second Round of the FA Cup with a chance to mix it with the elite if they can progress.

It may be a cliche to say they will be dreaming of being paired with Manchester United, but that has been a reality for Exeter City, Burton Albion and Crawley Town (all now League clubs) in the past few seasons; and few will forget Havant & Waterlooville's heroics against Liverpool.

This year's dozen are a mix of retreads and newbies. This is unchartered territory for AFC Totton, Stourbridge and Redbridge. By contrast, Luton Town were losing finalists in 1959 and Grimsby Town reached the semi-finals back in 1936.

Two non-league representatives are guaranteed. Blue Square Premier sides Gateshead and Tamworth go head-to-head for a place in the hat - just four points lie between them in the division, so this is a close one to call.

Grimsby travel to Conference South side Salisbury and despite being away, they enter the tie full of confidence. They edged out League Two Port Vale in Round One and this week they have hammered seven past Stockport County.

Redbridge are a new name although they have been in the FA Cup proper before in their old guise as Ford United. They are the lowest ranked side left (from the eighth tier) and they have it tough away to free scoring Crawley Town.

West Midlanders Stourbridge dismissed the Football League's bottom club Plymouth despite conceding a last-gasp equaliser in the first game at Home Park. A visit from League One Stevenage will test the Glassboys to the limit.

The Football League side with most to worry about seems to be Yeovil Town - once the giantkillers par excellence and now the target for ambitious Fleetwood Town. The Cod Army will be out in force for the Friday night fixture and it would be a brave Glovers fan to make the long journey to the North-West coast.

Fleetwood are riding high in the Blue Square Premier and have already seen off Wycombe Wanderers at their Highbury ground. Such is the contrast in form between the two clubs that Yeovil enter this one as definite underdogs.

AFC Totton produced an astonishing 8-1 win over Bradford Park Avenue in the last round (the visitors did have a man dismissed early on). Their reward is a home tie with Bristol Rovers and a televised game. The Hampshire club are one of those treading new ground but Rovers are unlikely to roll over conveniently.

Sutton United by contrast are old hands. Famous as the last non-leaguers to beat a top division side, they have been handed a tough ask with a visit from Notts County, who are travelling nicely in League one. County probably have the firepower to hold off the Sutton challenge.

After dumping out Northampton Town, Luton will fancy their chances of doing the same to Cheltenham Town with home advantage. Wrexham bring tremendous form from their Blue Square season but have drawn a difficult game away to Brentford.

Finally, Chelmsford have a winnable home game with League Two Macclesfield Town. The Clarets were at this stage last year when they went down 3-1 to Wycombe.

Prediction

As well as the two definitely through, it certainly looks as if at least two more non-leaguers can make it. The best bets are Fleetwood and Luton, but Chelmsford will fancy going a round further than last year.

Related Articles:

Bristol Rovers: 10 Handy Facts on AFC Totton

The View From Outside the Premier League: Bristol City are on the march

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Hugh Larkin

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