Alan Jessup-Peacock writes about Concord Rangers’ adventures in the FA Trophy this week.
The FA Cup is the most revered & traditional cup competition in football, it’s the one all teams want to play in & win. As we know this year Concord Rangers fell agonisingly short of making the first round when they lost 3-0 to Barnet, FA Cup dreams then took a back seat until next season.
However, the FA Cup is not the only competition organised by the FA for teams such as ours in the Skrill Conference South. There’s also the FA Challenge Trophy, or FA Trophy as it is more commonly known. The competition is open to teams in steps 1 to 4 of the Non League Pyramid, with higher teams entering in the latter stages. The competition begins with the Preliminary Round, 64 regionalised ties between 128 teams from the Ryman Division 1 North & South, Evo Stick 1st Division North & South, and the Calor Gas Division 1 Central & South West.
80 more teams enter the competition in the 1st Qualifying Round, those being the clubs in the Ryman, Calor Gas & Evo Stick Premier Divisions. Again this round is regionalised, as are all the qualifying rounds in this competition. 72 matches take place at this level, leading to 36 in the 2nd Qualifying round as no new teams enter at this stage. The victors from this round then are joined by the 44 clubs plying their trade in the Skrill North & South divisions (including Concord Rangers) in the 3rd and final qualifying round. The Beachboys have never made it past this level prior to this season, so history was just 90 minutes away (or more if it went to a replay).
Nothing ever goes smoothly in football, and it took a lot more than 90 minutes for Concord Rangers to reach the First Round of the FA Trophy, but reach it they did! The lads were drawn away to Dulwich Hamlet, the team Concord had beaten the previous season in the Ryman Isthmian League Cup final. A hard-fought 1-1 draw was the result on the day, and a replay was held the following Tuesday at a very cold Thames Road! Held the same night as an England game, some would have thought to stay indoors rather than brave the cold; however those that did endure the freezing temperatures were rewarded with 7 goals over 120 minutes of football! Oh and my announcing of course, as I was filling in for the normal guy on the night.
Concord took an early lead through James White, however they were pegged back within 5 minutes after Dulwich showed some great pace going forward resulting in Nyren Clunis being able to put the ball past Jamie Butler. The second half started exceptionally well for Concord, as an attack within the first minute found Sam Higgins in the right place at the right time to smash Concord into the lead! Dulwich, much like the Beachboys, never know when they are beaten, & after fighting their way through the second half, equalised in the 3rd minute of stoppage time to force another 30 minutes play. Extra time is always a nervy time, this was no different, with the first period ending goalless & the second seemingly heading that way. Reece Harris had other things on his mind though, as he cut in from the right and hit a great shot past the diving Hamlet ‘keeper, helped by a great dummy by Steve King (shocker I know)! Sam Higgins looked to have put the game out of site with just minutes to go as he notched his second of the game, but the end was destined to be a tense one as almost immediately Hamlet scored in reply to make it 4-3!
That was how the game ended though, credit to Dulwich for what was an excellent game of football to watch, they took it to Concord but were outdone in the end by the Beachboys undeniable spirit and resilience! History is made once again, as Concord now head to Gosport Borough in the 1st Round of the FA Trophy. This round was still regionalised at the draw even with the addition of the 24 Skrill Conference Premier teams, however if we make it past them then there could be some long old trips heading our way! Exciting times for the Beachboys, and I hope we see as many fans as possible cheering the lads on as we progress!
Alan Jessup-Peacock, Concord Supporters Association Chairman. Follow Alan on twitter: @BullJet.
This article was reproduced with kind permission from Alan’s excellent blog, BullJet Blogs.