HADLEIGH United and Halstead Town begin their FA Cup campaigns on Saturday hoping it will be the start of a fairytale journey in the world’s oldest and most famous domestic cup competition.
With both clubs six games away from the first round proper, they start out in the extra preliminary round with away ties at Ridgeons League Premier Division sides, with the winners set to pocket £750 in prize money plus half of the gate receipts.
Stuart Crawford’s Hadleigh side travel to Stanway Rovers (3pm), who finished two places (seventh) above them in the league last season with goalscorer Ben Deacon set to be on the bench after returning from travelling round America.
Crawford, whose side have won one and lost one in the league so far, said: “It is a tough game, the teams are pretty even and it depends which team turn up, we are a bit hit-and-miss like last season.”
He also revealed last season’s top goalscorer Josh Mayhew has turned down a deal to rejoin the club after he was released from his trial at Needham Market and has opted to join Woodbridge Town instead.
Halstead manager Jimmy Holder hopes his side will be up for the cup when they travel to higher-league opponents and fancied Premier Division side Wisbech Town (3pm).
“I played in the FA Cup for 23 consecutive years with various clubs. It is a special competition and they will find that out Saturday,” he said.
But Halstead, who have hit nine goals in their first two league wins, will have to do without striker John Root and winger Jordan Hutchings, who are both unavailable.
Meanwhile, Long Melford have received a bye in the competition following Saffron Walden Town’s withdrawal from the Ridgeons League, meaning they now face Team Bury at Stoneylands on Saturday (3pm) in league action.
The Villagers have added former Saffron Walden defender Peter Flack, 29, to their squad, who played in Tuesday’s 4-3 win at Stowmarket Town.
Cornard United face Downham Town, who Halstead put six past on the opening day, at Blackhouse Lane on Saturday (3pm) in a league fixture.
Prospective owner and new first-team manager Rob Batten has been quick to recruit goalkeeper Barry Lynn from Walsham-le-Willows Reserves after regular stopper Matt Walker injured his thumb, as well as Louis Newland from FC Clacton.
And following a 1-1 opening day draw at Swaffham Town, with Cornard just minutes from winning the game, he is pleased with how his new-look side are shaping up.
“We are progressing along the right lines and have picked up a few new players but Rome was not built in a day,” he said.
Batten, who has placed assistant Shaun Gascoyne in charge of team selection for the time being, is expecting a tough challenge from Downham, who picked up with a 2-1 win at Fakenham Town on Tuesday.