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Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Preview…..

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For five clubs, their 2017/18 Emirates FA Cup adventure could be all over by Friday night!

That`s because there are five ties kicking-off this season`s competition at the Extra Preliminary Round stage.

Most of the clubs competing at this early stage are of a similar level, but Friday`s opening ties could see well-known Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague`s dreams of a Wembley visit come to a very early end!

Balague, who is director of football at Spartan South Midlands League side Biggleswade United, makes the short trip to play ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division One side Potton United as favourites to win – but this is the FA Cup after all!

Burnham, a Southern League side a couple of seasons ago, also start early with a short trip to face Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division rivals Flackwell Heath, while East Midlands Counties Leaguers Aylestone Park will be looking to make an early `upset` when they travel to take on Midland League Premier Division side Heanor Town.

Friday`s other two ties are `local` affairs with Sydenhams Football League (Wessex) Premier sides Sholing and Alresford Town doing battle and Southern Counties East League side Crowbrough Athletic entertaining Southern Combination League neighbours Lingfield.

The likes of Morpeth Town, Whitley Bay and Dunston UTS may have a terrific record in the Buildbase FA Vase, but they are having to start from scratch in the FA Cup as they play in the Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday.

One tie in particular leaps out of the list – Northwich Victoria versus 1874 Northwich!

The Vics` fall from the top level of non-League football to Step 5 of the Hallmark Security League has been staggering.

Founder members of the Alliance Premier League (now the National League) in 1979, Vics were always a hard side to beat, even though they didn `t win many honours at the top level.

But sides always knew they were in for a tough afternoon at the Drill Field.

However, it all started to go wrong when the club sold their old ground and the building of the new Victoria Stadium.

Ownership battles between Jim Rushe and Mike Connett ensued and in the end, the Victoria Stadium plans fell through and it was sold to a chemical manufacturer in January 2012.

The Vics then had various groundshares at the likes of Stafford Rangers and Flixton and fell rapidly through the divisions and the Conference North champions of 2005/06 now find themselves playing at Barnton in the same division – the Hallmark Premier Division.

1874 Northwich came into existence as a consequence of Vics` problems and was formed in 2012 by former members of the Northwich Victoria Supporters Trust.

They were accepted into the NWCL Division One in 2013/14 and were promoted in their first season and now find themselves in the same division as Vics!

And they probably start as favourites as they won the Mid-Cheshire Senior Cup with a 1–0 win over Vics in the final at the end of last season!

Several teams will be playing at this early stage of the competition for the first time having suffered relegation at the end of 2016/17.

Rugby Town fell out of the Evo-Stik League South and will now play in the Midland League.

They have home advantage on Saturday as they host new league rivals Coventry United.

Rugby are joined in the Midland League by another fallen `giant` of the non-League game – Worcester City.

Their well-documented financial and ground problems saw them decide to drop down three levels after being relegated from the National League North at the end of last season.

Worcester travel to United Counties League Premier Division Daventry Town on Saturday – the teams having been FOUR divisions apart this time last year!

Histon were members of the National League and finished eighteenth in 2008/09.

But they were relegated to the National League North the next season and successive relegations have seen them now drop into the Thurlow Nunn League for 2017/18.

The Stutes have a home tie at the Glassworld Stadium against United Counties Leaguers Northampton ON Chenecks, who would have struggled with a home game as cricket is still being played on their ground!

Bridgwater Town, who came down from the Southern South West at the end of last season, host Toostation Western League Division One side Keynsham Town, while another former Conference (National League) side, Redbridge, play Essex Senior League rivals Stansted at home.

There are several FA Cup `virgins` this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how the likes of AC London, Woodley United, Biggleswade FC, Birstall United, Brackley Town Saints – the development squad of National League North outfit Brackley Town – City of Liverpool, Framlingham Town, Litherland Remyca, Sussex seasiders Little Common, Charnock Richard, Chipping Sodbury Town, Eversley & California, Kimberley Miners Welfare, Rusthall FC, Stockton Town, Wadham Lodge, Nottingham outfit West Bridgford, West Essex FC, Whitchurch Alport and Widnes all get on this weekend.

You`ll be able to find out by checking into Pitchero Non-League.

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About Author

Former Swansea City and Kettering Town defender who has been managing the likes of Kettering Town u18s, Rothwell Town, Desborough Town and Wellingborough Town for 33 years as well as being technical director at AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Began in non-League journalism as editor of Team Talk magazine back in the early 1990s and then as editor of Non-League Daily, joining Pitchero to set up Pitchero Non-League in January 2011. Also works for the National League.

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