Good luck to Hastings and Horsham as they fly the FA Cup flag for Sussex this weekend
The Sussex footballing family can be very proud of Hastings United and Horsham, who have made their way through to the all-important 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup
Both clubs have avoided banana skins, won games on the road and created memorable giantkilling acts. We take a peek of the story so far and assess their chances as they go into battle with Nartional League premier clubs Maidenhead United and Woking. There is also a cool £9,375 prize fund up for grabs - and of course a place in the first round draw alongside the likes of Charlton, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Crawley Town.
Maidenhead United v Hastings United
Hastings boss Chris Agutter was very proud of his team and travelling fans after a 1-0 victory at Chippenham in the previous round. He said: "Of course the league is very important for us but the fans are always looking for a decent FA Cup run."
He can be very pleased that his team is delivering on both fronts with Hastings sitting a handy ninth place, with games in hand, and now have this chance to progress to the FA Cup 1st Round Proper.
This current run started in the Preliminary Round with a convincing 3-0 away win against Beckenham. A banana skin was professionally avoided when Hastings beat County League Harefield 4-0 on the road. Gary Elphick became the hero when scoring a last-minute header away at Broadfield to spark wild celebration among all Pilot Field connections. Then United made it four FA Cup away wins from four when Kenny Pogue smashed home the only goal at National South Chippenham. That’s some run when you consider all matches have been away from their Pilot Field home.
The club are now preparing to do it all again as those FA Cup balls revealed yet another away fixture on Saturday. The desire and professional approach will be the same, but this tie represents a classic FA Cup David and Goliath for Agutter and his men. Maidenhead United operate in the National League which is three levels above Hastings. They will have the use of a squad of players who train every day and are used to playing teams like Grimsby, Halifax, Notts County and Torquay.
However, all is not well within the Maidenhead camp as after a brilliant start to the season, two straight wins, results have tailed off dramatically leaving the club with just eight points from ten matches. Manager Alan Devonshire will be acutely aware their proud National League place will be under threat if they do not pick up, and perhaps a visit from Hastings United might be an unwelcome burden at this delicate time.
I will be at York Road on Saturday so please follow the action on @bowmanontheroad on Twitter from midday. You get the feeling momentum is with Agutter and his troops and it wouldn’t surprise me to see yet another FA Cup away win.
Horsham v Woking
This is the only FA Cup tie of the day in Sussex which should have the cash tills ringing loudly around the Camping World Stadium. It's Isthmian Premier league versus the National League.
Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola can be rightly proud of his team after the way they have battled in the FA Cup. In the 1st Qualifying round they needed a replay to get past a stubborn Haywards Heath. They needed another replay to get past fellow Isthmian Premier outfit Kingstonian 1-0 then In the 3rd qualifying round, Horsham and National South Eastbourne Borough played out a very exciting 2-2 draw at the Camping World. Then in yet another replay it was Eddy D'sane who put Horsham through with the only goal of the game.
Woking have been a proud member of the National League for many seasons and are again looking very comfortable in the league. They beat Notts County 4-1 on the road to start October then beat Dagenham 1-0. They are mid-table with 15 points of the board. They will travel in confident mood to West Sussex and will be looking to progress with the minimum of fuss.
If you are at a loose end on Saturday why not join the excitement and drama of the FA Cup at the Camping World Stadium? There’s great parking and brilliant facilities in the ground. It's going to be a very tough afternoon for Dominic and his squad but they will be doing everything possible to get into the 1st round hat. Even if it is through yet another replay...
I send huge messages of good luck to both Hastings and Horsham as they go into battle on Saturday. There are some huge rewards for the victors including that £9,375 prize fund and the prospect of welcoming a Sunderland, Portsmouth, Bolton, Wigan or Sheffield Wednesday here to Sussex in the 1st round proper.
- Colin Bowman (Cobo) - @bowmanontheroad