The first qualifying round of this year’s SSE Women’s FA Cup is due to take place on 3rd September, with 276 teams entered into the competition as a whole (up 21 on last year’s tally), 174 of whom are in it right from the very beginning. The mainstream media show little interest in covering the cup until the WSL1 teams enter the fray, so to fill the coverage vacuum we’re going to have a brief look at each and every one of the 87 ties pulled out of the Football Association’s hat, beginning here with games 1 to 10.
1. Alnwick Town (@AlnwickTownLFC) v Washington
Alnwick are a newly-formed side, making their FA Cup debut this season. In fact they are so new that they have only played friendly matches so far and are yet to make their debut in a league. Washington are also newcomers to the cup and will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2016/17 season, when they finished rock bottom of Division One of the Durham County FA Women’s League.
This game sees two North East Regional League, Northern Division teams face off for a place in the next round. Blyth fell at the first hurdle in last season’s FA Cup, losing 3-1 to Boldon CA in the second qualifying round, while South Shields beat Gateshead Leam Rangers (2-0) and Cramlington United (penalties), before falling to Hull City of the WPL at the third qualifying stage. The last league meeting between the clubs ended in a 2-1 victory for South Shields back in April, and they also finished above Blyth in the final league table (3rd place vs 5th).
Another game between divisional rivals, this time from the North East Regional League Premier Division. Tynedale finished fifth in the table last season, while Norton were runners-up, just missing out on an immediate return to the WPL following their relegation the previous year. Both of these teams made it as far as the first round proper in last season’s FA Cup, Tynedale losing out in a local derby against Newcastle United, Norton falling to Hull City. When these sides met in the league last September it ended in a remarkable 6-5 victory for Norton & Stockton Ancients, who then completed the league double over Tynedale with a 4-1 win in February.
4. Penrith (@PAFCLadies) v South Park Rangers
Penrith can probably be considered strong favourites in this tie. The Cumbrians finished as runners-up in the North West Regional League Division One North last season, missing out on promotion by just a single point to Sir Tom Finney, while South Park rangers were mid-table finishers in the North Riding county league. In the cup Penrith made it as far as the fourth qualifying round, knocking out Bishop Auckland and Boldon CA before their cup run was halted by a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Norton & Stockton Ancients. South Park Rangers were beaten 6-1 by Leeds Ladies (now Leeds United) in the third qualifying round, having been awarded a walkover against Kendal Town at the previous stage.
5. Workington Reds (@WorkingtonLFC) v Redcar Town
Redcar Town are making their return to the FA Cup after having a year off from the competition last year. Their last appearance came in 2015, when they were knocked out in the second qualifying round by Hartlepool United. Redcar found the league hard going last season, finishing at the foot of the North East Regional League Northern Division with a final tally of just two points (thanks to a three-point deduction). This saw them relegated and they now find themselves in the North Riding county league. Workington were mid-table finishers in Division One North of the North Western region league, and were eliminated from last year’s FA Cup in the third qualifying round by RACA Tynedale, having previously seen off Birtley Town.
Prudhoe Town will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s disappointing run in the competition, when they were hammered 9-0 by Hartlepool United in the second qualifying round. Prudhoe found the league heavy going last year too, and narrowly avoided relegation from the North West Regional League thanks to Redcar Town’s three-point deduction mentioned above. At first glance Chester-le-Street SCFC also found league football difficult last season, but their ninth-place finish out of eleven teams in Division One of the Durham County League is slightly misleading as they would have finished much higher in the table but for a whopping twelve-point deduction (six for twice failing to fulfil fixtures and six for fielding ineligible players, all in the space of two weeks in April). They did not take part in last season’s FA Cup.
7. Bishop Auckland (@BishopLadies) v Gateshead Leam Rangers
Two teams from Durham County League Division One will face off in the seventh tie drawn out of the hat. Bishop Auckland ended last season in fourth place in the table, with Gateshead Leam Rangers finishing three spots below them. Both teams fell at the first hurdle in last year’s FA Cup: Bishop Auckland lost out to Penrith in the second qualifying round, while Leam Rangers were one of just two teams to be eliminated in the first qualifying round, where they were beaten 2-0 by South Shields. The sides played out a 2-2 league draw in Gateshead in January and the return fixture in May was won 4-1 by Bishop Auckland.@ShefWedLadies
Carlisle United’s stay in last season’s FA Cup was a brief one, starting and ending in the second qualifying round where they thumped 7-0 by Norton & Stockton Ancients. They manged a respectable fourth-place finish in Division One North of the North West Regional League, while Wallsend BC managed third place in the North East Regional League Premier Division. As well as outperforming Carlisle in their respective leagues, Wallsend had the better cup campaign too, making it as far as the fourth qualifying round. After beating Boldon CA Villa and Wigan Athletic, they were stopped one game shy of reaching the competition proper by a 2-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
9. Sheffield Wednesday (@ShefWedLadies) v Yorkshire Amateur
Both of these teams finished as runners-up in their divisions last year: Wednesday in the North East Regional League Southern Division, and Yorkshire Amateur in Division One of the West Riding County League, and while The Owls just missed out on moving up to the top division of regional football, Amateur were promoted to the Premier Division of their league. Yorkshire Amateurs are newcomers to the FA Cup, but Wednesday have a long history in the competition. The former WPL club saw off Brighouse Athletic in the second qualifying round of the 2016/17 edition, before upsetting higher-ranked opposition in the form of Steel City Wanderers and Wallsend Boys Club in the next two rounds. Their impressive cup run was eventually ended by Radcliffe Olympic in the first round proper.
10. Altofts (@AltoftsLadiesFC) v Bradford Park Avenue
Following promotion from the West Riding league in 2016, Altofts ended their first season in the North East Regional League Southern Division in a solid mid-table position. They didn’t take part in last year’s FA Cup, but their opponents in this round, Bradford Park Avenue, were knocked out in the second qualifying round by Sheffield United. Bradford PA finished in seventh place out of ten teams in the West Riding League premier division. Last time these two sides were in the same division, in 2015/16, Altofts won both of their league meetings (6-2 and 4-1).