Whyteleafe are just 90 minutes away from becoming the first non-league club from the Croydon area to make it into the first round proper of the FA Cup in the 21st century.
Goals from Ronald Sobowale, the club’s top scorer this season, and Junior Aikhionbare helped Harry Hudson’s side win 2-0 at Abbey Rangers on Saturday in the FA Cup third qualifying round, and so continue their best cup run since the 1999-2000 season.
In yesterday’s draw for the fourth – and final – qualifying round, they were handed a home tie against either Chippenham or Slough Town, with the prize for the winners to become one of the 32 non-league sides that make it all the way through to the FA Cup first round, the stage at which the Football League clubs enter this year’s competition for the first time.
It’s a tough task in prospect for the Leafe, who play in the eighth tier of English football in the Isthmian League South-East, as both Chippenham and Slough are from tier six, the National League South.
If successful, Whyteleafe will play in the FA Cup first round for only the second time in the club’s history. In November 1999, they managed to take Chester to a replay, which they lost.
Whyteleafe’s run this season has seen them beat Cray Valley, Merstham and Moneyfields before disposing of Abbey, and it comes as a welcome relief to Hudson and his backroom staff after last year, when they were thrown out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player against Corinthian-Casuals.
Whyteleafe are one of only seven sides from the eighth tier left in the competition. Their cup run so far has won them a valuable £31,000 in prize money.
Croydon’s two other non-league clubs, FC and Athletic, slipped out of the cup back at the start of the annual odyssey, but you don’t have to look too far for other south London sides who are progressing in the competition.
Carshalton Athletic, managed by Peter Adeniyi, are also enjoying their best cup run in years, and they were handed a plum tie in the fourth qualifying round when they were drawn at home to former League club Dagenham and Redbridge. The Daggers are managed by the former Palace and England boss, Peter Taylor, and are part-owned by former Manchester United and Everton keeper Tim Howard; they are currently seventh in the National League, effectively the fifth division.
Carshalton are in the Isthmian Premier (tier seven), but they continued their impressive run on Saturday courtesy of two goals from Ricky Korboa against Southern Premier side Lowestoft Town.
Other south of the river sides looking for a bit of FA Cup glitter to brighten their seasons include Dulwich Hamlet, who having won their battle against property developers for their famous Champion Hill ground, now have the chance to play FA Cup first-round football there for the first time since 1998. The Hamlet face Havant and Waterlooville in the fourth qualifying round.
All fourth qualifying round ties are to be played the weekend of the October 19-20.
- This Saturday is Non-League Weekend, with Croydon FC at home against Meridian. Click here for matchday details
- Check out Andrew Sinclair’s previous Non-League football round-up by clicking here
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