Yes, that’s right. The FA Cup doesn’t start in January.
This weekend sees the 1st round of the famous competition, with League One and League Two teams joining non-league teams as low a down as the eighth tier of English football who began qualifying back in August.
Below are five ties that have caught my eye this weekend, with perhaps a shock or two on the cards?
Warrington Town vs Exeter City
The FA Cup first round kicks-off this evening with Warrington, of the Northern Premier League Division One North (eighth tier of the English football pyramid, hosting League Two’s Exeter City. The hosts currently sit 17th in their league (albeit with a few games in hand) and have reached this stage for the first time in their 65 year history – and with it has come media coverage never seen before in the North West town near Liverpool. Exeter, who sit 11th in League Two, have been eliminated in Round 1 in each of the last four FA Cups, but have won three of their last four FA Cup games against non-league opposition, being beaten by Curzon Ashton at this stage in 2008/09. To see if the minnows can pull of a historic shock, tune into to BBC Two at 7:30 this evening, with the game kicking-off at 5 to 8.
Potential Upset Rating: 4/10
Barnet vs Wycombe Wanderers
This has all the makings of a high quality clash between two high flying teams. Barnet, who were relegated from the Football League in 2013, sit top of the Conference table with 42 points from 19 games, already nine points clear of their nearest rivals. They are unbeaten in four league games, and have won their last three. Wycombe are top of League Two, a point above Luton with 32 points from 16 matches. They’ve only lost one in ten, and will be confident of progressing, especially as they have progressed in eight of their last 10 FA Cup ties against non-league opposition. Saying that, the Chairboys did lose their most recent match against Fleetwood Town in November 2011. This could come down to who is more distracted by their promotion chase.
Potential Upset Rating: 7/10
Halifax Town vs Bradford City
Bradford made their name as giant killers themselves in the League Cup a couple of years ago, when they made it all the way to the final before being beaten by Swansea City. This weekend, they will be trying to avoid a similar shock when they travel to Conference high-flyers Halifax, who are renowned for their excellent home record at the Shay. Halifax are fourth in the Conference, and have picked up four points from their last two games, while in contrast,Bradford are 14th in League One and without a win in five. The visitors have also not won an FA Cup fixture in six matches (D3 L3) although they did progress on penalties once during this run. BT Sport are showing this game live on Sunday afternoon from 11:30am, with the game itself starting at Midday.
Potential Upset Rating: 5/10
Havant & Waterlooville v Preston North End
The surprise team of the 2007-08 competition are back! Conference South side Havant & Waterlooville, who beat Swansea City and led Liverpool twice at Anfield before going down 5-2 six years ago, host League One side Preston this time around in the first appearance in Round One since 2011. The visitors are second in the third tier, have won four and lost none of their last five FA Cup clashes with non-league opponents and have kept five clean sheets in their last nine FA Cup matches. It looks a difficult side for the hosts to repeat their historic heroics, but to see if they can do it, watch the game live on Monday night on BT Sport 1 from 7:45pm, with kick-off 15 minutes later.
Potential Upset Rating: 2/10
Portsmouth vs Aldershot
The home of the navy versus a Garrison town on Remembrance Sunday. You couldn’t write it. The game on the South Coast is shaping up to be much more than a piece of history though. The two clubs have had similar tales of financial woes over the last few years. 2008 Portsmouth winners are a shadow of the side that graced the final of the competition a little over four years ago. However, they are hopeful of revival this season as they find themselves in ninth place in League Two, just a couple of points off the play-offs. They’ve lost just three of their last ten league matches, and should be too strong for the Shots at Fratton Park. Aldershot sit 16th in the Conference, and have won just two of their last ten.
Potential Upset Rating: 4/10