Non-League focus: The FA Cup dream

Today sees the start of an FA Cup adventure – one that you can see live online – for many clubs covering the length and breadth of the country. Unknown to many the competition actually kicked off two weeks ago with the extra preliminary round. Today the competition reaches the Preliminary round stage, with the winners advancing to the first qualifying round.

Confused? No need to be, the FA Cup has a participation of 736 clubs this season, and involves many rounds until the big boys enter at the third round stage.

For many the early rounds is the pinnacle of their career. For many of us playing in the FA Cup is a distant dream. At this level it’s a chance to dare to dream.

Today I made my way to the Preliminary round clash between Malvern Town and Racing Club Warwick at The HD Anywhere Stadium.

35 miles south of Birmingham, Malvern are enjoying a renaissance of sorts following a takeover by local businessman Chris Pinder.

Football at this level is very much focused on community. Something you could argue is missing from the higher echelons of the professional game.

Players are local lads who are proud to represent their local club. With the help of volunteers, clubs like Malvern keep going on shoestring budgets, with those that give up their spare time being the heartbeat of the club.

Grounds at this level are obviously different to the stadiums of the more illustrious, but nevertheless they hold an atmosphere and give you a togetherness that is hard to find anywhere else within a local community.

The game itself was a proper traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kick off. TV companies are yet to take that away from this level of the game. (Tongue firmly in cheek)

In front of a good crowd of 230, the game started at a refreshing pace.

Both teams created early chances before a great through ball from Town’s Ben Lane set Josh Hunt on his way, the striker cooled slotted the ball home to rapturous applause and cheering from the home fans.

Chances were at a premium, and with 1-0 advantage it was Malvern who went in the happier at the break.

The 2nd half was a different story as RC Warwick came out ‘all guns blazing’.

Just after the hour mark the pressure subsided as Richard Powell sent the travelling fans crazy with an equalizer.

Town were finding it difficult to find a foothold as Warwick continued to dominate possession. With just over a quarter of an hour to go, it was the visitors that found a winner as Gerard McGahey finished from close range to secure a 2-1 victory.

RC Warwick will now advance to the first round qualifying. For Malvern it’ll be normal service as they embark on a long season with hope of securing promotion.

Moral of the story

Non-league football might not contain superstar signings, or receive endless news coverage.

However, watching your local Non-league club is an enjoyable experience due to a feel of togetherness and being a part of the focal point of a community.

The cost is considerably less, I paid £5 today. But most importantly beimg made to feel welcome, I left the ground fulfilled having enjoyed an entertaining afternoon.

There’s a lot to gain, so don’t hesitate to contact your local club or The FA to get involved.

 

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