There will be 12 CCL clubs competing in the Preliminary Round of the Emirates FA Cup this coming weekend, an increase of two over last season.
There are two all-CCL matches which means that we will have at least two clubs going through to the Preliminary Round, which in itself will match that of last season.
Two of this week’s matches are being played on Friday evening. One of them sees Badshot Lea who disposed of Ascot United in the previous round after a replay, making the 61 mile trip (as the crow flies) to Wessex side Christchurch FC. The latter sit midway in their table having won one, drawn one and lost one of their opening three games. IN the previous round they accounted for fellow Wessex League side Amesbury Town by seven goals to two. The writer is unsure why the match is being played on a Friday evening but his best guess is that it is due to cricket. Neither club web site gives a clue.
The other Friday evening match sees Sutton Common Rovers entertaining Eastbourne Town at Sutton United. This will certainly be a tough one for SCR, as their opponents have never finished lower than 5th in the Southern Combination League since dropping down from Step 4 at the end of season 2013-2014. This season they look strong again, having won all four of their league games a record that has taken them to the top of the table and all without conceding a goal.
In no particular order, the next tie will see Egham Town travelling down to meet Horsham YMCA. Egham are smarting from an unexpectedly heavy loss last Saturday, going down 1-6 at home to Balham. YMCA are 16th in the Southern Combination League and, apart from two short spells in the Isthmian League, have played in one or other of the Sussex League divisions right back to the 1959-60 division.
It’s a very local tie next as Bedfont Sports take on Hanworth Villa, or ex-CCL v present CCL. Neither side has made the greatest start to the new season but Sports will be the favourites, playing one step higher than their opponents.
One of the all CCL ties sees Redhill taking on Balham. The latter only dodged relegation after the final match of last season but have made a storming start to this season, winning all their league games. Redhill have been just the opposite so far, losing their opening three league matches.
The other CCL tie will feature Southall taking on Spelthorne Sports at Ashford Town (Mx) in a match that looks too close to call, with both clubs having made an unbeaten start to the season. Southall drew an amazing match at SCR last week 5-5, a scoreline you don’t see too often whilst Spelthorne overcame Cobham 2-0.
Abbey Rangers face a tough task away at East Grinstead who play at Step 4 in the Isthmian SE Division. Since being promoted to that level, East Grinstead have been rather holding on but a distinct improvement last season saw them achieving a 13th place finish. Will Abbey concede their first goal of the season in their 5th competitive match?
Moving on, Guildford City finally return to the Spectrum and will host Old Varndeanians who hail from the Brighton area and are one of the few Step 6 sides to even compete in this year’s FA Cup and even fewer to have survived to this stage. They currently play in Division One of the Southern Combination.
The next one is CCL v ex-CCL as CB Hounslow take on Horley Town at Green Lane. Horley have made a good start to life in the Southern Combination but this is another match that looks a close affair.
Finally Knaphill will be at home to Fareham Town from the Wessex League, in which they have yet to taste defeat this season. Following last week’s 3-0 victory at Banstead, Knaphill seem to be finding their form but Wessex League clubs are usually tough opponents.
The draw for the 1st Qualifying Round (as far as we know) will be announced around lunch time on Monday and if everything goes to plan we will have ten clubs in it. The worst scenario though is that only two will get through.