First Round Proper: Enter the League boys

The 129th FA Cup rumbles on, and now the Football League teams enter the fray, writes Neil Redpath.

The draw for the First Round Proper, as it's known to those of us who have been following the competition through its six qualifying rounds, was made on October 24.

The home teams were pulled out of the bag by Chris Powell, the former Charlton defender and England international, while the away teams were selected by Jimmy Anderson. Apparently he plays cricket.

As the balls were pulled out one by one, fans across the country from Leeds United to Paulton Rovers had their fingers crossed.

Some for an easy tie to get ever closer to the money spinning Third Round when the big boys enter; some for a Football League team, so they can cash in sooner.

Eighth-tier Paulton are the lowest-ranked team still left in the competition, playing in the Zamaretto Division One South & West.

No surprise, then, that there was massive media interest when they were drawn against Norwich City, who were in the Premier League in 2005.

Within days the Paulton Rovers website says it all: SOLD OUT.

It's the biggest game in the club's history and the locals will be out in force to maybe witness one of the biggest cup upsets in recent years.

Paulton – it's near Bristol, if you're wondering – reached the First Round Proper after entering at the Preliminary Round stage, beating Chippenham Town, Bideford Town, Tiverton Town, Didcot Town and Newport County on the way.

The other big tie of the round is Northwich Victoria against Charlton Athletic. The Cheshire side would be sitting sixth in the Blue Square North but for a 10-point deduction.

The Vics are still having a good season, and they may have a scalp on their hands after the encounter with high-flying Charlton three divisions above them.

And like Paulton-Norwich, a watching live TV audience will be willing them on.

Your FourFourTwo blogger won't be crowding in among the mass-market media at either of those fixtures, or at the New Den as Millwall welcome AFC Wimbledon for the young club's biggest ever game.

No, it's off to the Abbey Stadium for Cambridge United vs Ilkeston Town.

It's four years since the U's were relegated from the Football League, and despite financial troubles they have been knocking on the door since: for both of the last two seasons they've finished second and reached the play-off final, only to be beaten at Wembley.

Visitors Ilkeston Town will be looking to reach the Second Round for only their third time in their history.

Now a Conference North side under former Northern Ireland international Kevin Wilson, they're at the highest point in their history and will fancy their chances.

Which is what the FA Cup is all about...

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