By Connor Steel
Photograph from the Football Association
IT IS THE dream of many non-league clubs that they will play in a Wembley final in May, with their journeys starting nine months earlier with multiple knockout games in-between.
With this in mind both AFC Portchester and Fareham Town learnt who they will face in the early rounds of several FA-related competitions; which were announced at 1pm on Friday, July 9. Details are listed below, whilst supporters are asked to visit individual club media platforms
In the Extra Preliminary Round of England’s famous cup competition, AFC Portchester will be facing Wessex League and South Coast rivals Horndean at the Crest Finance Stadium with a large crowd expected. Across the Creek Fareham Town also have a home tie as they host Somerset-based outfit Street FC (think shopping centre) at Cams Alders; with both ties being played on Saturday, August 7 (3pm kick-off).
If both sides progress to the Preliminary Round, they will face away ties although the opponents are yet to be fully confirmed. AFC Portchester will travel to Blackfield & Langley or Cowes Sport; whilst Fareham face a trip to either Alresford Town or Odd Down FC (from Toolstation Western League Division 1) if they are successful against the Cobblers. These ties will be played on Saturday, August 21 (3pm kick-off).
Entering the first qualifying round, this competition presents AFC Portchester with arguably their best chance to get a Wembley final with only step 5 and 6 teams able to participate despite some tough draws. The Royals have drawn another home tie in the FA Vase as they face Romsey Town at the Crest Finance Stadium. This game will be played on September 11, with the winners due to play Moneyfields or Totton & Eling two weeks later on 25/09.
Unlike previous campaigns, Fareham FC weren’t included in this latest draw although this was for a good reason. The Creeksiders will instead enter at a later stage due to their Vase exploits in the 2020-21 season, in which they reached the fourth round proper before losing to Plymouth Parkway in mid-April. They will therefore wait until the draw to be held after the second qualifying round to learn their first opponents, likely in late September or early October.
FA YOUTH CUP
It isn’t just the first teamers who learnt their fates, with the Under-18s set to have their own Wembley dreams as the academies participate in the FA Youth Cup. Both AFC Portchester and Fareham Town will enter the Preliminary round of this competition, with the Royals drawn at home to Basingstoke Town in the week commencing August 30. The winners will then play the youngsters of either Christchurch or US Portsmouth in the First Qualifying Round away from home.
Fareham Town’s young team will travel across the South Coast to face a tough test of Dorchester Town in the Preliminary round, with the winners set to have home advantage in the First Qualifying Round. If successful in Dorset, the Creeksiders will host either Bemerton Heath or Poole Town at Cams Alders in the week starting September 13 with the exact date yet to be confirmed pending first team commitments.
It has been confirmed that no replays will be held in the FA Trophy or Vase competitions, with Gosport and Sholing joining the latter competition from early October entering at a later stage. However should FA Cup ties remain level at 90 minutes, a replay will be held in the following week and take priority over league encounters. Extra time and penalties are a final resort if scores remain equal after the replay’s standard allocation of 90 minutes.
Price money for each competition has also been announced, although fans are asked to look at the FA website or non-league expert Ollie Bayliss’ platform for more information. Kick off times and dates are also yet to be confirmed, but is likely to be a 3pm start for weekend ties with 7.45pm being the standard time for midweek encounters.