Hastings United will be out to bury five years of FA Cup hurt today (Saturday).
The U’s entertain Cray Wanderers in first round qualifying not having won a match in the world’s most decorated domestic knockout competition since way back in September 2006.
United manager Jason Hopkinson said: “Cray are a good side. They’ve got ability in the attacking third, they’re scoring goals for fun and they don’t concede too many.”
A 2-0 win away to Dartford at the same stage in 2006 was the last time United tasted FA Cup success. That was the season when United, then managed by Nigel Kane, lost their first four Ryman Football League Division One South matches, but went on to clinch promotion via the play-offs.
United were beaten 5-1 in a second round qualifying replay away to Metropolitan Police five years ago, and have since lost at home to Ramsgate in 2007, and away to Dartford in 2008, Farnborough in 2009 and Bognor Regis Town in 2010.
The barren sequence is a far cry from the halcyon days of 2002 when United, under George Wakeling, memorably made their way through to the first round proper where they played Stevenage Borough, who are now in the top six of Npower League One.
A decent FA Cup run is not only nice because of the competition’s prestige, but also due to the significant financial rewards on offer, particularly as United are without a main sponsor this season.
They will have their work cut out, though, because Cray are flying high in second in the Ryman Premier with 16 points from seven matches and no team in the division has scored more goals.
United captain Sean Ray returns from suspension, but Arron Hopkinson and Ross Sutton are struggling, and Lee Carey also has a knock. George Jones should come into contention next week.
TODAY’S SENIOR FOOTBALL FIXTURES (ALL 3PM)
FA Cup, 1st qualifying round: Hastings Utd v Cray Wanderers.
SCFA RUR Charity Cup, 2nd round: Storrington v Westfield.
Sussex County League, Division 1: Lancing v Rye Utd; Sidley Utd v Pagham.
Division 2 Challenge Cup, 1st round: Little Common v Seaford Town.
Division 2: Bexhill Utd v Wick.