The fascination comes from hopefully following one of our teams through to the third round one day. It nearly paid off in the 2019-20 season when our friends from the West Sussex county town of Chichester did something amazing. In one of the early rounds, baked in late August sunshine, my dad Alfie and I went to watch them at the beautiful Hartley Wintney in Hampshire.
In an exciting 0-0 draw it was the Sussex side who looked the dominant force. There was no surprise when they went on to win the replay back in Sussex. In the 1st round proper draw owing to the financial demise of Bury FC there was a bye up for grabs. You guessed it - Chi were last out the hat that day and amid wild celebrations in the clubhouse, with the BBC watching on, manager Miles Rutherford and his squad got automatic passage into the second round and all the financial trimmings attached.
In the second round proper they drew League One club Tranmere Rovers away. Yours truly travelled up the Wirral that day along with over 1,000 Chi fans. It wasn’t the fairytale ending we were dreaming about as Rovers won 5-1. But it did go to show that FA Cup magic can strike at any time. Hopefully it can come calling for one of our teams this term.
This weekend is the first qualifying round (the first of four before the first round proper) and we start our round up with the two Southern Combination Football League clubs who are our the most junior outfits still in the competition.
Farnborough v Peacehaven and Telecombe, 3pm Sat 4th September 2021
On 21 August Peacehaven beat fellow Sussex rivals Crawley Down Gatwick in the with a 2-1 home victory. In the League Peacehaven have started well with 12 points from six games and are in 5th place.
Farnborough, in Hampshire, have a solid tradition as a non league football club and are currently playing in the Southern Premier League, no less than two steps higher. Plus, they are playing well with three league wins under their belts already and second place.
Manager Mark Shutt will be under no illusions of the tough assignment to come on Saturday. Peacehaven will face a stiff challenge to their 2021/22 FA Cup ambitions.
Littlehampton Town v Whitehawk, Sun 5th 3pm
Hopefully playing on a Sunday will attract a huge crowd to the Sportsfield. It’s a tantalising prospect as those noisy Whitehawk fans will be in town making a right old din.
Littlehampton have started in great form currently holding a second spot in the SCFL. In the cup they have beaten Broadbridge 6-2 and performed a giant killing when beating Sittingbourne, from the Isthmian league four nil at home.
Whitehawk have got off to a great start in the League with a brilliant draw at Cray and then a 1-0 home win against Sittingbourne when Ronnie Conton netted. This has the makings of a special afternoon and it's too close to call. Lets all get down their to see what happens!
We now move on to the Isthmian League sides involved this weekend...
Haywards Heath Town v Horsham, Hanbury Park 3pm Saturday
I will go as far to say that this match is the tie of the round here in Sussex on Saturday afternoon. After years in the doldrums the Mid Sussex club have performed a rags to riches story. Manager Shuan Saunders is the kingpin of a rise from County 2 through to nearly reaching the Isthmian Premier. The club are shining again with two league wins and hammering Lancing 4-0 in the previous round. It's safe to say that all is well around Hanbury Park at the moment!
Horsham, under the guidance of manager Dominic Di Paola, will be looking for Isthmian Premier success this season. The club will be hoping to take their new home into National South come 2022. That ambition got huge boast with a three nil home win over Merstham on 28th August. The Fa Cup will also be high on their agenda.
Hanbury Park will be heaving, and I am sure it's going to be pulsating afternoon for all concerned. I'm going to go for Shaun Saunders celebrating a narrow win on home turf!
Harefield United v Hastings, Preston Park Middlesex. 3pm Sat 4th Sept.
Hastings boss Chris Agutter might have had to dash for Google maps when Harefield United away came out of the hat. This is one of the more intriguing ties of the round and it's what the FA Cup is all about. Harefield proudly operate in the the South Midlands League Premier Division which is one step below the Sussex team. They haven’t had the best start in the league picking up just two points from four games. However you get the feeling that they will be using all their efforts and resources to putting up a good show in the FA Cup. In the last round they beat Binfield 2-1 at home.
For Isthmian South East favourites Hastings it's sure to be one of those very tricky FA Cup away ties and the players will have to be very professional. I predict Agutter to get the job done in an East Sussex replay.
Northwood v Chichester, Northwood Park Middlesex 3pm, Sat 4th Sept
Our 2019 heroes are on their travels again when they make the longish trip to Northwood in Middlesex. The hosts operate in Isthmian South Central division so are at the same level. They have picked up one point from two games. In the Cup they beat Burnham 4-1 away in a replay.
Chichester were in sparkling form when beating taking a fine three one at Winchester in the last round, Scott Jones, Ethan Prichard and Gicu Iordache producing the goals. I am backing manager Miles Rutherford to get all the angles aligned to take a narrow but well-deserved away victory.
Burgess Hill v Bracknell Town, More Than Tyres Stadium, 3pm, Saty 4th September
Burgess Hill Town boss Jay Lovett will be looking to mix league success with a hopeful tilt towards the 1st Round Proper. Having been involved with the club for many seasons I feel there is an over-riding desire with making that milestone. We have been to the fourth qualifying four times in our history. After a brilliant win at Bearsted in the last round, the club are on their way.
Bracknell Town operate in the Isthmian South Central and have started well with a win and a draw. In the Cup they beat Bashley one nil at home on 21st August. I am backing Jay and the boys to get this done at the first time of asking.
Lewes v Met Police, Dripping Pan, Sat 4th Sept 3pm.
Manager Tony Russell will be looking for a strong showing in the FA Cup and will be happy that a home draw came out of the hat. The Pan should be very busy for the visit of Southern Premier Met Police.
Lewes have started the league well with a win, draw and loss taking a mid table position. While the Police have started very well with two wins from four games and 5th place. You get the feeling this could be a very tough afternoon for both teams and the result could hang on one piece of FA Cup magic. I am going to go a draw.
Worthing v Corinthian Casuals, Woodside Rd, 3pm Sat 4th Sept
Worthing, under the studious management of Adam Hinshelwood, will be content if with their Isthmian start to the season. They have beaten Bowers and Pitsea 4-1 at home and the produced a brilliant 2-1 away victory at Cray Wanderers. The team will be looking to finally gain access to National South come 2022. Having said that I am sure that Adam will also be looking for a long run in the FA Cup.
Casuals operate in the same division and have just one point in three games thus far. I am prepared to say this will be the home banker of the weekend!
Hayes and Yeading v Bognor, 3pm, Sat 4th Sept
Hayes have a real pedigree in the FA Cup and are one of the powerhouses of non League football here in the south east. To underline that they are top of the Southern Premier with five wins from five.
Bognor have won just once in the league so far, although that was at Worthing.
You get the feeling club legend Jack Pearce will be looking forward to the challenge. It’s a real tough one for Bognor and a victory will be the best Sussex result of the day.
I send best wishes to all our teams as we go into an important weekend of FA Cup football. Let's get a load of us through!