A spotlight on the 2013-14 F.A. Challenge Cup competition

By next week, the world’s greatest and oldest cup competition will be in full swing. Everybody says the absolute zenith of the competition at its finest is the final tie at Wembley. I beg to differ. What has made, and continues to make the F.A. Cup one of the most revered competitions in the world is its qualifying rounds, leading up to the First Round Proper. It always seems to lose some of its allure when the last non-league side has been eliminated.

For anyone unfamiliar with the F.A. Cup, its earliest qualifying rounds begin in the middle of August with the Extra Preliminary Round. Clubs from the North West Counties League and equivalent regional feeder leagues enter at this stage. This will be followed by the Preliminary Round where clubs from the Northern Premier League First Division, North and South, and their like in the Southern England come in.

Last week, clubs from the Northern Premier League’s, Isthmian League’s and Southern League’s Premier Divisions entered in the First Qualifying round. This coming Saturday will see Conference North and Conference South sides join the F.A. Cup in the Second Qualifying Round. Some non-league clubs in Greater Manchester are in this round, with Stalybridge Celtic, Stockport County and Altrincham starting their road to Wembley on the 28 September.

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Fixtures (28 September 2013)

The following Greater Manchester clubs, denoted in bold type who will feature in the F.A. Challenge Cup Second Qualifying Round are as follows:

  • AFC Fylde v Ashton United;
  • Barrow v Ramsbottom United;
  • Curzon Ashton v Lancaster City;
  • Stalybridge Celtic v Worksop Town;
  • Stockport County v Brighouse Town
  • Trafford v Altrincham.

Ashton United‘s opponents AFC Fylde are riding high in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and beat fellow league opponents Blyth Spartans 3-1 at Croft Park. The Robins overcame Witton Albion in a 2-1 win at Hurst Cross.

Ramsbottom United booked their place in the Second Qualifying Round versus Barrow over two games against Stocksbridge Park Steels. At Bracken Moor, they drew 2-2 before beating them 3-0 in the replay at Nuttall Park.

Curzon Ashton‘s reward for an excellent 4-2 win over Marine is a home tie with Lancaster City, it being one of four home ties in Greater Manchester this coming Saturday. Worksop Town had to settle their fixture with Bootle with a replay. They drew 1-1 at Babbage Way before beating them 4-0 at New Bucks Park. For their troubles, they face Stalybridge Celtic at Bower Fold.

After being demoted from the Conference National, Stockport County face their first F.A. Cup fixture in the earlier qualifying rounds for the first time in their history. Coming to Edgeley Park is Northern Counties East League Premier Division side Brighouse Town.

Altrincham are away to Trafford, with their trip to Shawe View made possible by the latter side’s 5-1 thumping of Droylsden at the Butchers Arms. This will be the first time that Trafford have played against Altrincham in any first class competition. Hyde FC, being Conference National members have a bye to the Fourth Qualifying Round.

Also in the First Qualifying Round, FC United of Manchester lost 1-0 to Chorley, who face a trip to Vauxhall Motors’ Rivacre Park ground. Radcliffe Borough bowed out, losing 2-1 to Burscough at Victoria Park. The West Lancashire side are away to Workington. Glossop North End lost 2-1 to Runcorn Linnets, who have another home draw versus Cammell Laird. Cammell Laird beat Worksop Parramore 3-1 on Sunday 15 September. New Mills drew 0-0 with Warrington Town before bowing out in a home replay, losing 1-0.

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Preliminary and Extra Preliminary Rounds

Leaving us in the Preliminary Round was Mossley, who lost 3-2 to Worksop Parramore in a replay at Sandy Lane, after a 1-1 draw at Seel Park. Atherton Collieries too bowed out, losing 2-1 to Radcliffe Borough in a replay at Stainton Park, after drawing 1-1 at Alder House.

In the Extra Preliminary Round, we said goodbye to Abbey Hey, who 2-0 to West Didsbury and Chorlton. Stockport Sports lost 2-1 to Winsford United. Cheadle Town lost 1-0 to AFC Liverpool.

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Preview: Stalybridge Celtic versus Worksop Town:

Stalybridge Celtic would be foolish to underestimate the might of Worksop Town in spite of their lowlier position in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. Though 15th, clashes between the ‘Bridge and the Tigers have often been feisty ones, home and away. The present Worksop Town side includes Leon Mettam, who some may remember from Gainsborough Trinity, and former Mossley favourite Tom Denton.

This coming Saturday will see the ‘Bridge’s fifth F.A. Cup match against the North Nottinghamshire Tigers. So far, Stalybridge Celtic have beaten them twice in 1980 (after a replay) and 1991. The last fixture, in this competition saw the ‘Bridge lose 2-1 in 1998, in the Second Qualifying Round.

‘…It Was The First Time That We Met…’

  • First Fixture: Saturday 18 October 1980, Bower Fold (D. 0-0);
  • Round: F.A. Challenge Cup Third Qualifying Round;
  • UK Number One Chart Single: Don’t Stand So Close To Me, The Police;
  • On the TV: Larry Grayson’s Generation Game, Juliet Bravo, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century;
  • On Grandstand: Racing from Bangor-on-Dee, International Rugby League from Central Park, Wigan: Great Britain v New Zealand;
  • On World of Sport: Racing from Kempton and Newmarket, Motorcross from Halstead, Wrestling from Southend-on-Sea.

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Will the Mighty Stalybridge Celtic make it three F.A. Cup wins out of five against Worksop Town? Could Trafford shock Messrs Reeves and Walshaw? Will Curzon Ashton and Ashton United continue their cup runs? We shall see…

S.V., 22 September 2013.

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