Friday 7 November ~
The FA Cup first round proper begins tonight as Leeds take on Northampton at Elland Road. The reason for the Friday night fixture is, of course, the demands of television. This season is the first that ITV and Setanta are sharing live rights to FA Cup matches. So along with this game, Havant & Waterlooville versus Brentford on Sunday and AFC Wimbledon against Wycombe on Monday night will also be shown live.
Havant & Waterlooville's heroics at Anfield last season were probably the basis for their game against Brentford to be chosen by ITV for Sunday afternoon – prepare for Andy Townsend live from West Leigh Park. The side from the edge of Portsmouth are enduring a poor season, however, and having lost their last six games it seems unlikely they will beat a Brentford side currently ninth in League Two. A team doing better than Havant & Waterlooville in the Conference South are AFC Wimbledon. The Dons Trust will welcome the club's first national TV appearance. But hosting Wycombe Wanderers at Kingsmeadow is a formidable task – the visitors are currently joint top of League Two and unbeaten this season. Don't tune in expecting shocks.
A more evenly balanced tie is that taking place at Twerton Park, Bristol, where the club currently joint third in the Conference South with AFC Wimbledon, Team Bath, take on Forest Green who lie 21st in the Conference. The football section of the controversial Team Bath, the self-declared University of Bath's “sports brand” (also know as Team Tax because they are partially funded by public money) reached this stage of the competition last season too before losing to Chasetown in front of a crowd of 2,067.
The lowest placed team in the pyramid system still in the FA Cup are Leiston, from Suffolk. Though established in 1880, it wasn't until 2001 that they reached the Eastern Counties Football League with promotion from the Suffolk & Ipswich League. They currently sit fourth in the Premier Division. Reaching this stage of the Cup this season is the furthest Leiston have ever progressed. Though they made the fourth qualifying stage in 1945-6, they then lost 9-0 to Chelmsford City. Ten years later then were beaten 14-1 in the first qualifying round by Sudbury Town. So their game against Fleetwood Town at home on Saturday is a chance to break a number of records – their best home attendance at Victory Road, totalling 847, was set on October 25 as they beat Lewes in the fourth qualifying round. However, Conference North side Fleetwood – managed by former Blackpool midfielder Micky Mellon – will provide a stern test.