Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 10 November 2007

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup 1st Round Proper

This is it, folks - this is the bit where the FA Cup starts getting really serious. Today saw the First Round Proper of the 2007/08 FA Cup (sponsored by E.On) where only those amateur teams with nerves of steel and toughness to boot can win against the might of the professionals who enter at this stage.

In two rounds time, the big boys from the Premier League and the Championship join in the fun, but for now those non-leaguers that thought it was tough so far now have the League 1 and League 2 sides to contend with.

Luckily for us, we were following Maidenhead United from the Conference South who today travelled to play a team below them in the 'league pyramid' - Horsham, from the Isthmian Premier League.

Maidenhead, you may remember, became our latest team on the Road to Wembley by beating the previous incumbents Hayes & Yeading United in the Fourth Qualifying Round. So what do we know about them?

Well Maidenhead are fresh back in the Conference South having been relegated two seasons ago. They gained promotion again in the summer but so far this season they've been struggling. Last Saturday's away defeat to Bishop's Stortford saw them drop into the bottom three so another sortie into the FA Cup will no doubt come as a welcome respite for them.

The Magpies (they play in black and white striped shirts, you see) were once managed by former West Ham midfielder Alan Devonshire but currently have Johnson Hippolyte in charge who, with considerable irony, was once joint manager of Yeading.

Of the players in his squad, Manny Williams was easily the man to keep an eye on today as he's scored six goals in the Blue Square South so far, while Lee Newman's scored three and Errol Telemaque and Dwane Lee have picked up two each.

And so it was that our brave men headed down to Horsham for today's First Round clash, but little did they know that the SPAOTP jinx was about to strike once again. In front of a crowd of 3,000 at the Atspeed Stadium, it was the home side that rose to the occasion first. Nigel Brake's excellent long-range shot put Horsham 1-0 up just before half time and Lee Carney's overhead kick doubled their lead after 62 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, Maidenhead's dead-ball specialist Dwane Lee pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but Horsham were able to finish the game off with two goals in the last eight minutes thanks to a second from Carney and one from substitute Lee Farrell. Maidenhead were out of the Cup 4-1 and their return to an arduous and thus far largely unfulfilling league campaign once again becomes their main priority.

We therefore send our sympathies to Maidenhead and welcome Horsham as our new Road To Wembley team. We also send our congratulations as today's convincing performance means they can now look forward to a place in the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever.

Who will they play? We'll find out tomorrow when the draw for the next round of the FA Cup (sponsored by somE.ONe) takes place at FA Headquarters at 17:15 GMT.

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