Weekend Preview – Saturday 05/08/17

With the fuss having barely subsided from last season’s Final the FA Cup is with us again as the Extra Preliminary Round signifies the start of this season’s road to Wembley. Although the FA have slightly “widened” the draw over the last couple of seasons, there are still too many instances overall of Clubs from the same league being drawn against one another. A National Competition should be about playing and/or visiting sides that are not met within the confines of a League.

We have seven such instances this time round with SHOLING and ALRESFORD TOWN heading the list. This tie is being played on the Friday evening and should get the Round off to a cracking start BASHLEY and FAREHAM TOWN are next up with the two Clubs meeting for the first time for many seasons last year, and both will be anxious to claim the spoils as they renew rivalry again. CHRISTCHURCH, who will see promotion as their main aim, get a chance to savour Premier opposition when AFC PORTCHESTER make the journey to Hurn Bridge, no doubt hoping to make their senior status count. HAMWORTHY UNITED entertain BEMERTON HEATH HARLEQUINS in a tie that could go either way while the same could be said about LYMINGTON TOWN and ANDOVER TOWN. Both have strengthened their squads in the close season and it would take a brave man to predict the outcome on the day.  TEAM SOLENT host BROCKENHURST and both Clubs will remember the closely fought league Cup Tie last season. A similar game will be very much on the cards and the result could go either way. Lastly, relegated WHITCHURCH UNITED face LAVERSTOCK and FORD again in a Cup Competition. They met in two such Competitions last season with a win apiece to their name so it will be a case of third time lucky for one. So, to the matches where “foreign” opposition are involved with a number of probably first time meetings between Clubs. One such will be at Bonnymead Park where AMESBURY TOWN face the exotically named Eversley and California from the Combined Counties League Division One. The visitors are based vaguely between Basingstoke and Reading and a replay may be best avoided as their ground is far from the easiest to find. VERWOOD TOWN make the long journey to meet Badshot Lea on Sunday who ground share with Camberley Town. The hosts are also members of the Combined Counties League, finishing in the lower reaches of the Premier Division last season. Opposition from the same League await BLACKFIELD and LANGLEY when they travel to the delightfully named Krooner Park to meet Camberley who have been something of a force in their League over recent seasons. A potentially difficult draw for the Waterside Club. FAWLEY AFC also face a trip up the A31 en route to Farnham Town who, like Badshot Lea, finished in the lower reaches of the Combined Counties last season. Knaphill, in the vicinity of Woking, were similarly placed and entertain BOURNEMOUTH who will hope to progress after what will be a long and difficult journey in early August. In what could be one of the best matches on the day HORNDEAN will welcome Western League Melksham Town to Five Heads Park. The visitors finally moved to their new Ground last season and finished third in the League and will provide a stern test for the “Deans”. Combined Counties opposition again, but travelling opposition this time, as Guildford City cross the Solent to NEWPORT. Guildford recently spent a couple of years in the Southern League but came down last season to finish in sixteenth place. Another prize tie could be in prospect at Plymouth Parkway when Sydenhams Wessex League Champions PORTLAND are the visitors to their Bolitho Park ground. The South West Peninsula side have been something of a thorn in Wessex League sides over recent seasons and it will be a strong test for the re-shaped Dorset side. Another SWP side provide the opposition for SHAFTESBURY when Exmouth Town visit the Cockrams. The Devon side enjoyed a long run in the FA Vase last season so will arrive with some credential to their name. RINGWOOD entertain Ascot United from the Hellenic League, another Club who have proved too good for Wessex League Clubs in the past, but they did not enjoy the best of seasons last time round and may find their probably difficult journey unproductive. Also facing Hellenic League opposition are COWES SPORTS who have to travel to Bracknell for a game that will have a two o’clock kick-off. Their hosts have slipped from their Southern League days though the vast number of roundabouts encountered to find the ground remains unchanged. Last up are two old rivals meeting for the first time for a number of years with the visit of PETERSFIELD TOWN to Hellenic League Thatcham. Petersfield Manager Jim Macey enjoyed a spell at Thatcham and will know exactly what to expect at Waterside Park.

Away from the Cup there is one game in the Premier Division as long-time rivals Baffins Milton Rovers and Hamble Club cross swords at the highest level both Clubs have attained to date – though that will not lessen the rivalry in any way! After a handful of games in midweek, Division One continues to get underway with Alton travelling to Andover New Street to put their away form to an early test. New Milton, with numerous additions to their backroom staff, cross to meet East Cowes Victoria whilst Hythe and Dibden make the slightly shorter journey to Romsey. Two Clubs who could be in the shake-up come April, Tadley Calleva and US Portsmouth, meet at Barlows Park whilst Totton and Eling will have to brave the A31 as they head west to Weymouth Reserves.