Its been a wonderful and exciting few weeks following our Non-League football clubs around as they have battled away in the FA Cup.
Watching the commitment of players, managers and fans alike it is reassuring that this famous old institution is as important as ever.
Over that time, I have been to Hampton on the Thames, The Dripping Pan, got totally soaked at Culver Road and made a tricky but very enjoyable mid-week road trip to Poole in Dorset. During that evening we managed to take in some sightseeing on Sandbanks and enjoy a fish and chip supper.
On the field the Hornets of Horsham started very strongly with Sparks giving them a well-deserved lead. However, Poole Town of the Southern Premier League were just too strong and ran out two one winners.
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The third qualifying round proved a step to far for several of our clubs this season.
Whitehawk, Lewes and Hastings all pulled tough away ties which couldn’t be won. Through it all two clubs have been quietly getting on with things and now both face sensational Saturday afternoons. With £25,000 and the first round proper up for grabs it’s without a doubt that managers Jamie Howell and Adam Hinshelwood will have broken sleeps this evening!
The Rebels of West Sussex Worthing have to make a short hop to north Kent to take on Ebbsfleet United. Its been a while since I was last at Stonebridge Road but can recall it was a down beat stadium in a bit of a rundown area.
However, a lot of improvement has taken place and the National Conference team are an exciting unit at that level. They have a real legend amongst their forward line in the guise of Danny Kedwell.
He starred for AFC Wimbledon during their rise through the ranks and then scored 40 goals for Gillingham. He is a real match winner if he gets a chance. The club are comfortably sitting in 17th place with five wins thus far. However, Worthing manager Adam Hinshelwood has his Woodside Road squad purring and it seems that they can do nothing wrong. They are flying in the Bostik Premier league and are scoring goals for fun.
In the third qualifying round they showed real grit when beating lower ranked Moneyfields away on a wet and windy afternoon. An occasion that was underwritten by a huge and noisy away section.
It might be a David and Goliath occasion but for me I take the James Crane to be the star man as ‘Hinsh’ secures a place in the 1st round proper hat. A replay.
For the second round running Priory Lane Eastbourne plays home to the glamour tie here in Sussex. Conference South Eastbourne Borough take on fellow Conference outfit Slough Town. In the previous round Borough raced into a four-nil lead against Dulwich but were pegged back late in the 2ndhalf during a thrilling game. Manager Jamie Howell was very pleased to hear the final whistle as his team held on.
Slough had to slug it out in a replay against Bristol Manner Park away but came through that relatively unscathed four nil. With both teams sitting in very comfortable league positions they will be able to fully focus on the FA Cup and play their strongest teams. It’s a home banker for me with goals galore!
Traveling to North Kent was a very attractive prospect for yours truly but my two best mates John, Bryan and I have decided to head East by train. With John being stanch Chelsea and Bryan a southern red there will be a little matter to be sorted out before we head to Priory Lane. We are really looking forward to having an exciting day on the road perhaps with the odd beer or two. Please follow the day on twitter @sussexintheFAc
Let’s hope that the Sussex footballing community will be celebrating come 5pm on Saturday with two non-league clubs in the 1st round proper.