- FA Cup second round
A leap of faith for football's minnows
The second round proper of the FA Cup gets underway this weekend, meaning some of football's minnows are potentially one win away from a crack at a Premier League bug gun.
Ahead of the second round, ESPN takes a look at some of the most intriguing ties:
Harrogate Town v Hastings United
Route to round two:
Bishop's Stortford 1-2 Hastings
Torquay United 0-1 Harrogate Town
Harrogate are taking on the role of Goliath on this occasion, with the North Yorkshire side in the Conference North compared to Hastings who are further down the pyramid in the Ryman Isthmian League Premier Division. Wetherby Road has seen crowds in the 300s this season, but Harrogate are hopeful of having a gate close to their 3,000 capacity.
Player to watch:
Chib Chalaka (Harrogate): The powerful striker is in his second spell at Harrogate Town, having joined from Braintree in February. He has nine goals to his name this season, including four in the cup. Hastings will need to be on their guard.
Bradley Goldberg (Hastings): Goldberg is the club's top scorer, but had been on the sidelines for three weeks on account of injury. He marked his return to fitness with a brace of goals in the 4-1 Sussex Senior Cup win at home to Pagham.
Simon Weaver (Harrogate): Weaver spent much of his playing career in the non leagues, although he did have a spell in the professioal ranks with Lincoln City. He took on the manager's job at Wetherby Road in 2009.
Sean Ray (Hastings): Ray has been in charge of Hastings for a year in what is his second spell at the club. He still lashes on his boots and operates in the centre of defence.
"We've been training on the Astroturf at Wetherby High School but even that was waterlogged this week," Harrogate boss Simon Weaver admits the weather has been causing problems this week. "You make do, though, and we trained in a little gym. You do whatever you can - you can't control everything - and when you've got good spirit and good lads like us it helps."
The FA Cup throws up lots of fairytale stories of bricklayers, postmen and the like. Town striker Chib Chalaka does a bit of coaching with people battling substance abuse. He said: "It was only meant to be a one-time thing but I really enjoyed it and so did the lads. We formed a really good relationship so I took it on from there.
"I'm helping people to change their lives and use something they love to further their lives and careers. Scoring in the FA Cup is great but life is about more than just yourself."
Hastings are in form, having lost just once from six games since beating Bishop's Stortford, and player-boss Sean Ray is ready for the challenge. "It's the biggest game in the club's history and now we can start looking forward to it. The challenge at the start of the year was to get one win so we have exceeded our expectations."
Milton Keynes Dons v AFC WimbledonRoute to round two:
York City 1-1 AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon 4-3 York City - replay
Cambridge City 0-0 MK Dons
MK Dons 6-1 Cambridge City - replay
Well pretty much everyone knows the background to this one. The highs of FA Cup glory in 1988, the lows of administration and acrimonious move to Milton Keynes followed by AFC's rise from the ashes. Understandably, this first meeting has captured a whole load of headlines.
Player to watch:
Luke Chadwick (MK Dons): Chadwick's career never truly hit the heights it promised while at Manchester United, but he still carries a real attacking threat and has eight goals to his name this season.
Byron Harrison (AFC Wimbledon): Harrison emerged as a doubt for the game when missing last week's clash with Morecambe on account of a back injury, but he is back in full training and will be looking to add to his eight goals.
Karl Robinson (MK Dons): Robinson's playing career never took him into league football, but as a striker and midfielder he secured plenty of experience, while he cut his coaching teeth with Liverpool and Blackburn before taking the reins at MK Dons in 2010.
Neal Ardley (AFC Wimbledon): Ardley is well versed in the history, having played over 200 games for the old Wimbledon. He got as high up the ladder as England Under-21 honours. Injury forced him into retirement in 2007, but he was immediately handed a coaching role with Cardiff's academy and has been in charge of AFC for a mere two months.
The wounds are still sore and MK boss Karl Robinson has revealed his scouts were advised not to head to AFC's Kingsmeadow home. "They asked us not to [go]," he said. "That's what we've got to respect. They played at Morecambe at the weekend and [scout] Alex Rae went down. We've watched DVDs and everything else and we've tried to do our job. We're a professional football club and we've got to rise above any negativity. I'm sure AFC Wimbledon want to do the same."
Neal Ardley is just two months into the job and admits the cup clash with MK has been an eye-opener. "Eight weeks into my first managerial job, it's certainly been a test of the media skills," he said. "There is a lot of emotion behind it and a lot of history. It's unique. I don't think there is any other game where this has been the case."
Alfreton Town v Leyton Orient - Live on ESPNRoute to round two:
Wrexham 2-4 Alfreton Town
Gloucester City 0-2 Leyton Orient
Alfreton Town were formed in 1959 and have made their way up through the lower leagues and are now in the Conference Premier. Leyton Orient have the distinction of progressing to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1978 and chairman Barry Hearn has spoken bullishly about taking the club higher than their current League One position.
Player to watch:
Danny Emerton (Alfreton): Emerton has only been with the club a matter of days, having joined on loan from Hull, but the midfielder has been cleared to play in the FA Cup and it's a competition for fairytales.
Kevin Lisbie (Leyton Orient): Orient have hit form with a vengeance in recent weeks and manager Russell Slade feels the return from injury of Lisbie has been key to their good run, bagging four goals.
Nicky Law (Alfreton): Law was a reliable defender who had long spells with Barnsley, Rotherham and Chesterfield. He has had management spells at professional level, but is in his sixth year at the helm of Alfreton Town.
Russell Slade (Leyton Orient): Slade is in an unusual position that his background was not in professional sport. He had been a teacher before taking his coaching badges. He has had spells with the likes of Sheffield United, Yeovil and Brighton, and has been in charge of the O's since 2001.
Alfreton chairman Wayne Bradley is aware of the challenge ahead. He said: "We have to be hopeful that our players can turn it on like they did against Newport recently and even then it is probably going to take something special to see us competing in the third round. We are going to need some luck and an awful lot of endeavour but let us just hope it is going to be a day to remember."
Leyton Orient are on a decent run of form but midfielder Lloyd James feels it would be folly to underestimate their opponents. He said: "At the end of the day you've just got to be prepared for a battle. That's what it's going to be and hopefully we can get the result. Everyone looks forward to the FA Cup and we fancy our chances, especially in the form we're in at the minute and it would be good to keep the run going."
Cheltenham Town v Hereford United - Live on ESPNRoute to round two:
Cheltenham Town 3-0 Yate Town
Hereford United 3-1 Shrewsbury Town
Cheltenham have a long history dating back to 1887, but they have only progressed as high as the third tier of the game. They are currently well placed to mount a promotion push to equal that feat. Hereford fell out of the Football League last season and are in real financial strife, meaning the television money from the live ESPN game has provided a real shot in the arm for the Bulls.
Player to watch:
Billy Jones (Cheltenham): Jones is something of a set-piece specialist, he has nine assists under his belt this term, and he will be a threat to Hereford if he gets his delivery right.
Sam Clucas (Hereford): Clucas has been an ever present for Hereford this season, with manager Martin Foyle deploying him in a left wing role. His tricky feet could well play a key role on Monday.
Mark Yates (Cheltenham): Yates had extended spells as a player with Kidderminster and Cheltenham, making over 200 appearances for both, and they are the two clubs he has managed. He has been in charge at Whaddon Road since 2009.
Martin Foyle (Heferord): Made his name during a long playing spell at Port Vale where he bagged over 100 goals. He went on to manage Port Vale and has been in charge of Hereford since the summer.
Mark Yates has insisted his side will not take Hereford for granted. He said: "We know the record they have against us, even since I've been here I don't think we've been able to beat them. They've got some good players, they've been on a good run. Martin's done a really good job there in what sounds like really difficult circumstances. They'll be as clued up as any other team will be, as switched on as any other team would be against us. They'll be well supported and we've got to match that and their support from the terraces, for the fans to get behind the players and look forward to what will be a decent game of football."
Brian Smikle will pull on the Hereford shirt against his former club and he is looking forward to the challenge. He said: "It was a strange feeling when the draw came out because we had a fairly local derby match against Shrewsbury and I didn't think for a minute we'd have another one in the second round. It's a very good draw and everyone knows Hereford have a good record against Cheltenham, so we want to keep that going. I loved my time there and I am still in touch with a lot of the lads."