The FA Cup is back with us tomorrow, only one hundred and seventy four days since we last had a set of competitive fixtures. Can you remember Wednesday 11th March? Fans of Lewes, Romford and Cheshunt can, as they all won- and Romford get the chance to extend that winning streak tomorrow!
We're going to start our preview by turning on the TV and heading to the BBC iPlayer, as our first match is live in your living room. AFC Sudbury travel to face Burton Park Wanderers, who play in United Counties Football League Division One- Step Six- and are based in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire. They finished ninth in their division last season, and this is their first time ever in the FA Cup.
AFC Sudbury were eleventh in the North Division when last season came to an end, and their young side struggled to find consistency, but when they were good they were very good indeed, and with one defeat in six at the end of last season everything looked to be coming together for them. They also knocked higher Division Harrow Borough and Worthing out of the FA Trophy, walloping Worthing on their own patch by four goals to one.
Late news: AFC Sudbury have just announced (Monday afternoon) that this match has been postponed and victory awarded to them, following a positive coronavirus test on a player from their opponents. Read more here. Our sympathies to Wanderers, that's no way to exit the competition- and our best wishes to the affected player.
Whyteleafe are also on the road, as they head down into Kent to take on Glebe. Their hosts are managed by former Greenwich Borough and Ashford United boss- and distinguished professional striker- Gary Alexander, and drew two-all with Hastings United at the weekend. This will only be their fifth ever FA Cup campaign, and the furthest they've progressed is the Second Qualifying Round, where they lost on penalties to Phoenix Sports in 2017-18. More about Phoenix Sports later!
Leafe got to the Fourth Qualifying Round last year, a record they've only beaten once, when they made the first round back in 1999-2000 and took Chester City to a replay. They defeated Bedfont Sports at the weekend. Manager Harry Hudson, speaking to the club website about the first part of this years FA Cup journey, stated:
"Glebe have made some excellent signings and really seem to be going for it this season so it is a tough draw. However, we don’t fear anyone and will be travelling there to take the game to them!"
Harlow Town are entertaining Enfield, with the visitors spearheaded by a certain Mr Jamie Cureton. So far in pre-season the Hawks have fallen two-one to Romford, defeated Woodford Town by the same margin, and beaten Stansted two-one. Enfield have defeated Witham Town three-one, Harpenden Town three-one, and lost ten-one to Bishop's Stortford. They were fourteenth in last season's Essex Senior League when everything crashed to an end.
Hullbridge Sports have had a rather positive pre-season. They entertain Hadley, who were in fourth place in the Essex Senior League when it came to an end last season, nine points off the top with three matches in hand. They got to the Third Qualifying Round last season, defeating our Ramsgate on the way before losing to Havant and Waterlooville, and will be no pushovers. They defeated Edgware Town five-nil at the weekend, and put six past London Colney.
Sports pre-season has seen them defeat Coggeshall United three-one at the weekend, and they have also defeated Stansted, four-one, with defeats against Southend United and Bowers & Pitsea. They've assembled what looks to be a strong squad for the forthcoming campaign, and will hope to surpass their best ever cup run, which saw them reach the Second Qualifying Round in 2015-16.
Phoenix Sports travel to Lancing. The two have met before, with Sports defeating their hosts after a replay in the 2018-19 competition before being thrown out for inadvertently fielding an ineligible player- something which saw Lancing reinstated and travelling to face Hendon in the next round.
There is every likelihood that had last season managed to come to a natural conclusion that the two would be Isthmian South East rivals this campaign, as Lancing were six points clear at the top of the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division when everything ground to a halt. They will certainly be no pushovers for Sports- and we'll be reporting on this match so you can read all about it at around half past nine tomorrow!
Our boys lost two-nil to Basildon United on Saturday, after defeating Hollands and Blair in their previous pre-season game. Last season they were in ninth place when everything came to an end, and had they been able to find some consistency would undoubtedly have been higher still. They won thirteen and lost twelve of their twenty seven matches, with only two draws, and those statistics perhaps tell you all you need to know- they traversed the line between magnificent and awful for much of the campaign.
Romford ended last season on a high, and we've no idea what their squad looks like for the new campaign! They travel to face Sawbridgeworth Town, who have had rather a busy pre-season, with six matches played- two wins, three draws and one defeat. They were bottom of the Essex Senior League when last season came to an end, and have left the FA Cup at this stage in seven of the last nine years.
In pre-season Romford have defeated Harlow Town, as we mentioned earlier, and also won one-nil against Saffron Walden Town.
Finally, Ware are off to the seaside, where they take on Southend Manor. So far in pre-season, Manor have defeated Rochford Town two-one, Barkingside five-nil, drew one-all with Stanway Rovers, drew two-two with Shenfield, and lost two-one to Leigh Town. They signed Darnell Bromfield and Deivid Sertveitis from Aveley over the summer, and look much stronger than the side which ended the Essex Senior League campaign third from bottom.
Ware were- of course- six points clear at the top of the South Central Division when all came crashing down, and look to have a similarly strong squad this year. They defeated AFC Dunstable two-nil at the weekend, and this is the first time the two clubs have ever met.
Please remember, there will be no extra time and no replays. Any matches that end level will go straight to penalties.