The magic of the FA Cup is certainly alive and well. Many may associate cup upsets with the so called “big boys’; however, the magic and the upsets come along much sooner than the third round. There are clubs that have reached their Holy Grail by competing at this stage. Can they now progress further than they ever could have dreamed? Here are four games to look out for in this years FA Cup First Round.
Merstham vs Oxford United
Everyone loves a giant killing in the cup, and this could be the equivalent of one. League One side Oxford United, the former League Cup winners, could be in for a tough afternoon if they let the occasion get to them.
Surrey side Merstham currently compete in the Isthmian League, four leagues below their opponents. They warmed up for this fixture with an impressive 5-0 away win in the FA Trophy last weekend. With manager Hayden Bird having fully fit squad to chose from, one, which every player is desperate to play, he has a selection headache. This is without doubt their biggest game ever and the TV cameras will be in attendance amongst a capacity crowd.
Oxford boss Michael Appleton has already stated that he will make changes for this game. This is by no means a sign that he will be taking this game lightly. The Cup must be respected; however, there will be players currently on the sidelines who deserve a chance to show their worth. Many are expecting an upset here, but the U’s will be hoping to spoil the party.
Taunton Town vs Barrow
Taunton, currently of the Southern League South and West Division, entertain National League promotion hopefuls Barrow. The Bluebirds have not lost a game since 20th August and must be favourites heading into this away fixture. Barrow have tasted the big time in the cup before, visiting Sunderland in the third round in 2010. There is no doubt that the current team would like to follow suit and some are already dreaming. Full-back Nick Anderton said “If we get into the second round, then say we get another tie with a team who are at a similar level to us, then we’ve got it all to play for to get that big team in the third round, which is great for the club and all the players.”
However, this is only the second time Taunton have reached this stage of the competition. They aren’t going to give up without a fight. Taunton have negotiated their way through five rounds and seven games to get this far. However, their cup exploits look to have hindered their league position. They currently sit 12th, 20 points off top spot. Even with this being the case, they will not want to exit the cup anytime soon. Both teams are dreaming and both won’t give those dreams up easily.
Westfields vs Curzon Ashton
Two lower non-league sides come face to face in this tie. Westfields are currently on their most famous FA Cup journey. Never before have they been this far and they plan to make the most of every second. They currently play in England’s ninth tier, the Midland League Premier Division. It also makes them the lowest ranked team left in the competition. To get to the second round would be a remarkable achievement and would surely make their 50th anniversary their greatest ever year.
Curzon Ashton, based in Ashton-under-Lyne, play in the National League North, two divisions below the Football League. Curzon are looking to at least equal their best ever run the competition. In 2008 they made it to round two, only to be knocked out by Kidderminster Harriers. Can the underdogs and the lowest rank team continue their magical run? Their form this season suggests they should not be taken lightly. So far they have 19 wins in 21 games and 77 goals to their name. Curzon are currently 19th in the league but are undefeated in six cup games so far and their away form is much more impressive than their home form. Something may have to give.
Peterborough United vs Chesham United
Promotion chasing Peterborough of League One face being one of the biggest casualties if they are beaten this weekend. They take on Chesham United, currently ninth in the Southern League Premier League. Chesham have previous against league opposition. Ask Bristol Rovers. 12 months ago the Pirates were knocked out of the competition 1-0 by Chesham. It earned the non-league side the Ronnie Radford Giant Killing Award at the FA Cup Final in May.
Chesham, although sitting in mid-table are currently on an excellent run of form. Nine of their last 10 games have been won, they have games in hand on teams above them and confidence is high. An upset could definitely come at ABAX Stadium this weekend.
The Posh will of course have other ideas. They will not want to be added to the list of shocks, which happen each year. Manager Grant McGann is aware of the threat that the opposition pose, “We know where their strengths lie and we also know where their weaknesses can be exploited, but it will be a tough test.” Upsets happen at every stage of this competition and this game could be one to keep an eye on.”