Buildbase FA Vase - First Qualifying Round Preview - Saturday 9th September 2017
Fri 8th September 2017 | FA Challenge Vase | By Ian Templeman
The thoughts of many non-league footballers, managers, officials and supporters turn towards Wembley this weekend, with a host of ties taking place across the length and breadth of the country in the Buildbase FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
For some, simply progressing a few rounds to earn some worthwhile prize money will be a decent outcome, while for others, the genuine hope that this season will climax in a trip to the national stadium will be a motivation as they take the field in the opening round.
As far as our league is concerned, 32 of our 45 clubs are involved in ties being played in areas ranging from the North East right down to rural Leicestershire, and with just five all-Hallmark Security League ties, the hope is that we will, as a result, have a healthy representation of clubs in the next round.
The action kicks off on Friday evening, with Premier Division Northwich Victoria hosting First Division Stockport Town at Townfield.
This has the look of a fascinating game, with Town in good goalscoring form of late, and Vics struggling to find consistency, having gone four games without a win, and it could be that this kicks off the festival of weekend cup action in fine style.
Moving to Saturday, and two other ties involving four of our clubs take place a few hundred yards apart on the outskirts of Blackpool.
Squires Gate host Congleton Town at the Brian Addison Stadium, with both sides looking to regain the winning habit. Gate have lost all seven of their games so far, while for the Bears, the two successive wins at the start of the campaign now seem a distant memory.
Across the road, AFC Blackpool face a West Didsbury & Chorlton side whose early season form has been impressive, with victories and plenty of goals being a feature of their games so far. With the home side having banged in a few themselves, a goalless draw seems unlikely at the Mechanics Ground.
There's another First v Premier clash at Crilly Park, with Atherton LR playing Irlam, and the visitors will start as favourites having overcome an early season wobble when they lost their first two games.
The all-First Division clash between Alsager Town and New Mills at Woodpark Stadium looks an interesting tie, with the home side on the back of three straight wins facing a Millers outfit who scored seven against Holker Old Boys last weekend.
There's an air of familiarity about the game between Litherland REMYCA and Ashton Town at the Litherland Sports Park, with the visitors of course having visited the same venue on league business last year, but are now plying their trade in the Cheshire League.
Another of our former clubs, Vauxhall Motors, host 1874 Northwich at Rivacre Park, and the Greens will certainly be looking to progress against a side from two leagues below.
Somewhat unusually at this stage of the competition, the draw has largely kept our sides away from Northern League opposition, with just three of our sides facing teams from the North East.
The toughest looking gig of the trio is Barnoldswick Town's home tie against Dunston UTS. The visitors, who lifted the Vase in 2011-12, have made a good start to the season, and sit in third place in the league just a point off the leaders Morpeth Town.
In form Silsden, however, will fancy their chances at Chester-le-Street Town, with the Cobbydalers maintaining their 100% start to the season after a midweek win over Atherton LR, while the Moor Park outfit have won just once in the league this season.
The third tie sees Carlisle City make the trip along the A69 to face Heaton Stannington at Grounsell Park, for their first ever away tie in the competition.
By contrast, 14 of our clubs face opponents from the Northern Counties East League, seven at home and six away.
Two grounds host an FA Vase tie for the first time, and Hemsworth Miners Welfare's visit to St Helens Town's new home at Ruskin Drive is notable for another reason, in that they are the first team from outside our league to visit the ground for a competitive game against Town.
For Prestwich Heys, their game against Liversedge at Adie Moran Park is the first time that venue has hosted a Vase game, and it's the first time since season 1990-91 that Heys have played in the competition.
The only time that Widnes have hosted an FA Vase tie at the Select Security Stadium was last season when they lost 4-1 to Chadderton, so they will be looking to break their duck against Glasshoughton Welfare.
Barnton will be mindful that Penistone Church won 4-3 at Charnock Richard in the FA Cup a month ago, so their visit to Townfield could prove to be a tough task for Steve Lloyd's men, and Maine Road will once again try to break their long standing jinx in the FA Vase when Pontefract Collieries come to town.
Road have only won their opening game in a Vase campaign on four occasions since 1999-00, and may find it tough going again, with Pontefract sitting six points clear at the top of the NCEL Premier Division table.
Thackley were one of the clubs who inflicted an opening round defeat on Maine Road, back in 2004-05.
Located a few miles down the road from Silsden, the Yorkshiremen often have squad members who are no strangers to our league, and they make the trip to face Padiham at the YESSS Electrical Arena, with the Storks likely to note that their opponents have lost all their away league games up to now.
That same statistic can be mentioned in connection with Athersley Recreation, who visit the Marine Travel Arena to match up with AFC Liverpool on Sunday.
The draw has not been especially kind to three of our First Division sides, who all have to travel to face opponents from a league above.
Garforth Town host Holker Old Boys, Maltby Main's Muglet Lane ground is the destination for Cammell Laird 1907, and Daisy Hill visit Parkgate. In each instance, a tough test for the visitors.
However, three other clubs travel to face NCEL Division One opponents, and Cheadle Town must now be wondering what it's like to host a Vase game at Park Road, with their game at Rossington Main being their sixth successive away draw in the competition.
High scoring Charnock Richard will fancy their chances of emerging victorious from their game at Selby Town, as will Abbey Hey, who are the latest in a long list of our clubs who have made a trip on a Sunday to face Hallam, who began the season by knocking Bootle out of the FA Cup at Sandygate.
Once again, our Staffordshire and Shropshire clubs were placed in the Midlands section of the draw, and as a result they all face opponents that may be unfamiliar to many who follow our league.
Hanley Town host Lichfield City at Potteries Park in what has the look of a tricky encounter with the Midland League Division One sitting in 9th place in their league having lost just once all season.
Whitchurch Alport also face Midland League Division One opponents with Pershore Town the visitors at Yockings Park. Alport are looking to break their duck in FA competitions, and this is another game that has the look of being a goalfest, with Pershore sitting in 14th place in the league, but have scored 16 and conceded 16 in their seven league games.
The village of Ellistown, near Coalville in Leicestershire, doesn't immediately appear to be a venue familar with hosting clubs from our league, but Stone Dominoes and New Mills were both in town in the past for Vase ties with Ellistown FC.
Ellistown FC have since merged with Ibstock United to form the Ellistown & Ibstock United club that will welcome Eccleshall to their Terrace Road Ground.
The club finished bottom of the East Midlands Counties League in 2016-17, failing to win a league game all season, and were relegated to the Step 7 Premier Division of the Leicestershire Senior League.
They also had a day to forget in the Vase, losing 13-0 to Bromsgrove Sporting at the same First Qualifying Round stage.
This season they have played four league games so far, winning just one, and Eccleshall will fancy their chances of earning their first win in the Vase since 2014-15, when they beat Atherstone Town in the Second Qualifying Round.
Arguably one of the toughest tests of the day is faced by FC Oswestry Town who travel to play Wolverhampton Sporting Community. The West Midlands Regional League side - a Step 6 club - has played and won all six of their league games so far, the last two by scores of 8-2 and 6-1.
With Town still searching for their first win of the season, Pride Park looks like a tough place to go looking for it.
But overall, a fascinating day's football with some cracking ties to look forward to - good luck to all our clubs at the weekend.