East of the M60’s Road to Wembley: Here Come the Big Guns

F.A. Challenge Cup Second Qualifying Round draw

For many fans, this is where the magic of the F.A. Cup starts to unfold. From the 1st October, the Step Two sides enter the Second Qualifying Round. By then, the likes of Stalybridge Celtic, Altrincham and Hyde battle it out for a place in the next round and (hopefully by November) the First Round Proper, along with sides from Step Three downwards.

From the First Qualifying Round, Ashton United, Radcliffe Borough and Buxton have made it through to this round at the first attempt. Tomorrow night, we shall see if Woodley Sports or FC United of Manchester will join them at Surrey Street, Glossop.

The Draw

Without a doubt, the tie of the round, nationwide as well as locally, is Stalybridge Celtic v Guiseley. The ‘Bridge and the Lions are second and third in the Blue Square Bet North league table, so this promises to be a crunch match. It is also the third meeting between the two sides in 2011 alone (the other two being the F.A. Trophy fixture at Nethermoor and a home league fixture) and their first ever meeting in the F.A. Challenge Cup. It is one of three all Blue Square Bet North F.A. Cup ties, and the opponents which most ‘Bridge fans didn’t want.

The other all Blue Square Bet North ties are Histon v Corby Town and Workington v Droylsden. Borough Park has seldom been a happy hunting ground for Pace’s side, and for similar reasons as the ‘Bridge faithful, another team he wished to avoid. By contrast, Hyde are away to Pickering Town or Staveley Miners’ Welfare, Step Four teams from the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.

Also at home are the Robins of Altrincham and Ashton United. At Moss Lane, Altrincham host Cheshire rivals Witton Albion. A 236 and 408 bus journey away from Bower Fold, Hurst Cross sees Tameside’s other F.A. Cup home fixture, this time with Northern League Spennymoor Town the visitors. Their visitors from the Brewery Field were formerly two separate clubs: Spennymoor United and Evenwood Town.

Should Woodley Sports overcome FC United of Manchester at Surrey Street on Tuesday, they will be rewarded with a home tie against Lancaster City, 5 – 1 victors of Maine Road at The Giant Axe in the previous round. So far, Surrey Street has seen more F.A. Cup action from Woodley Sports than Glossop North End, due to the latter club’s early exit against Boston Town, and the F.A.’s ban on plastic pitches in the competition (such as Lambeth Grove’s).

Also in Greater Manchester, a little way north west of the M60 motorway, Radcliffe Borough are away to Burscough or Clitheroe. We shall see if tomorrow night’s replay at Shawbridge would see the Boro travelling to the West Lancashire College Stadium (Burscough’s new home) or Clitheroe’s Shawbridge ground.

In Derbyshire, John Reed’s Buxton side are at home to Rushall Olympic. His former number two from Stalybridge Celtic, Mark Atkins, also has a home tie at Causeway Lane. This time, Matlock Town entertain Hinckley United. Conquerors of New Mills, Deeping Rangers also have a home tie, against Leek Town.

Bamber Bridge, who beat Curzon Ashton in the preliminary round are away to Bradford Park Avenue, should they beat Warrington Town at Irongate this Tuesday. Ramsbottom United, should they beat Nantwich Town, are away to Northwich Victoria. Another away tie is gifted for the victors of Squires Gate versus Runcorn Linnets, this time for a lengthy trip to Hebburn Town. Carlton Town, victors of Heanor Town in the last round, are at home to Hednesford Town.

SCORE UPDATES: 20 September 2011:

  • Woodley Sports 1 (Gee), FC United of Manchester 4 (Roca (pen), Deegan, Jones, Norton);
  • Runcorn Linnets 1, Squires Gate 0;
  • Ramsbottom United 1, Nantwich Town 2;
  • Bamber Bridge 0, Warrington Town 4;
  • Clitheroe 5, Burscough 2.

The Fixtures (week beginning 01 October 2011, updated 21 September 2011):

  • Northwich Victoria v Nantwich Town;
  • Stalybridge Celtic v Guiseley;
  • Workington v Droylsden;
  • Clitheroe v Radcliffe Borough;
  • Pickering Town or Staveley Miners’ Welfare v Hyde;
  • Ashton United v Spennymoor Town;
  • Hebburn Town v Runcorn Linnets;
  • FC United of Manchester v Lancaster City;
  • Bradford Park Avenue v Warrington Town;
  • Altrincham v Witton Albion;
  • Deeping Rangers v Leek Town;
  • Buxton v Rushall Olympic;
  • Carlton Town v Hednesford Town.

Getting There:

Stalybridge Celtic v Guiseley: 236, 237 and 387 buses from Stalybridge railway station and Ashton-under-Lyne bus station. All services operated by Stagecoach in Manchester except for 387 (operated by First Manchester).

Ashton United v Spennymoor Town: 38, 39, 231, 331 and 333 buses from Ashton-under-Lyne bus station; 408 bus from Stalybridge railway station. All services operated by First Manchester except for 231 (operated by Stagecoach in Manchester).

Altrincham v Witton Albion: regular trams from Manchester city centre to Altrincham Interchange; hourly trains from Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Northwich and Chester (choose back carriage, alighting at back door nearest exit to car park, cut through car park, turn right then left onto Moss Lane). Continue route by walking to Moss Lane (7 – 10 minutes).

FC United of Manchester v Lancaster City: regular 135 and 524 services from Bury Interchange to Manchester and Bury to Bolton via Radcliffe (operated by First Manchester) stops by the Swan and Cemetery and the Staff of Life public houses, then a short walk to Gigg Lane from Manchester Road (A56). Also regular trams to Bury Interchange then 15 – 20 minute walk to Gigg Lane.

Game on…

Already looking forward to the next round of the F.A. Cup? Will you be making the pilgrimage to Bower Fold, Hurst Cross or anywhere much further afield? Feel free to comment whether you’re sick of starting the F.A. Cup campaign against a familiar foe or looking forward to visit a weird and wonderful ground in North Yorkshire or Derbyshire.

S.V., 19 September 2011 (updated 21 September 2011).

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