With the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup coming up on Saturday, we have just seven clubs left in the competition, although that is nearly double the number that reached this stage last season when just four were left and all of them went out at that stage.
In no particular order, Epsom & Ewell, who returned to the CCL this season, find themselves with a trip to the seaside as they will be travelling to Eastbourne United. They are a similar Step 5 side currently sitting in 5th place in the Southern Combination table and are so far unbeaten in the League. To reach this point, they have defeated both Phoenix Sports and Sheerwater. Epsom though had an impressive win in the previous round, knocking out Step 4 Metropolitan Police.
Redhill also knocked out Step 4 opposition in the shape of Ashford Town (Middlesex) and now have another home tie against Herne Bay FC, who themselves, needed a replay to eliminate Bedfont Sports. Herne Bay play in the South Eastern Division of the Isthmian League and are currently in 10th place, having won one, drawn one and lost one to date. Redhill though have made an excellent start to the season, currently in 3rd place, after winning their opening three matches, and will hope to make home advantage count.
The next one is really the CCL “match of the day” as it sees Flackwell Heath playing at home to Farnham. Farnham, so far, have swept all before them, winning all five of their league matches, whilst Flackwell have achieved similar but have only played three league games so far. In the FA Cup, they have so far defeated both Kidlington and Cirencester Town. Farnham, pre-season favourites to win their division will be undeterred but this one looks a close call. Whatever happens, it does guarantee at least one CCL club a place in the 2nd Qualifying Round. The target is the 4th Qualifying Round as only Hanworth Villa have managed that in what might be determined “modern times” and that was a few seasons ago now.
On we go and the next one sees Marlow at home to AFC Croydon Athletic, an interesting tie given recent happenings at Croydon, who now have well known people involved in the club who have enjoyed a publicity boost as a result, attracting over 500 people to their opening home match. Marlow are always strong though and this one is obviously a tough ask for Croydon.
Next up we have Reading City playing at home to Shaftesbury FC. Reading saw off Easington Sports in a replay to reach this stage and have home advantage but visitors Shaftesbury sit in 2nd place in the Wessex League and this looks like another close game.
The final encounter involving a CCL side sees Knaphill playing at home to Hanwell Town, now in the Southern League at Step 3. On paper, Hanwell will be favourites, but they are currently in the bottom half of their division with 7 points from 5 games and will not find it easy at Knaphill, another side with an excellent start to the campaign behind them, including knocking out Jersey Bulls after a replay in the previous round.
Whatever happens, good luck to all our clubs concerned tomorrow.