Whether or not you are of a religious ilk, the name “Christchurch” and the FA Cup are connected by one thing – belief – and Ascot United will certainly take that into their opening competitive fixture of the season when they face up with the south coast Wessex League Premier Division side on Tuesday evening.
The Yellamen have waited almost six months for a return to action and they will walk out at Christchurch’s Hurn Bridge Sport Club (Avon Causeway, Hurn, Christchurch, BH23 6DY) buoyed by a 2-1 victory over step-three outfit Harrow Borough in their final pre-season friendly on Saturday; Ed Jabbari and Riccardo Andrady on target to overturn a 1-0 half time deficit.
Ordinarily, both sides would be happy to be playing FA Cup football in September as it would normally have resulted in two qualifying round victories in August, but the current uncertain times have led to a delayed start which means the world’s most famous cup competition will provide the first game of the season for hundreds of step five-and-below sides this week. And, the reward for victory on Tuesday will be a trip on Saturday 12th September to the winners of the Bashley (Wessex Premier) v Whitchurch (Wessex D1) tie.
Christchurch and Ascot both ply their trade at Step 5 and last season ‘Church “finished” fourth in the Wessex League, although with four games in hand on all those above them and the best points-per-game ratio in the league they were also left disappointed when the season was curtailed. They also played our league rivals Badshot Lea at home twice last season having met in both the FA Cup and FA Vase. Firstly, they lost 2-1 in August before gaining revenge in November when they reversed the scoreline in their favour.
Back with Ascot’s squad, and Saturday’s scorers Jabbari and Andrady are amongst a handful of additions to the ranks largely unchanged from last season. Jabbari returns to the UK after a spell in the US whereas Andrady arrives from Basingstoke Town. And, with defenders Mitchell Gutteridge returning to the US and Chris Ellis still recovering from long term injury, former Flackwell Heath skipper Dan Bailey returns to the club having previously made four appearances in 2014-15.
Finally, back to Tuesday, and Christchurch have confirmed there are tickets available on the gate for travelling Ascot fans. Both teams have a modest FA Cup record with Ascot having only ever won two ties to reach the first qualifying round and Christchurch reaching the second qualifying round on three occasions. So, who will earn that trip to Bashley or Whitchurch?!? Read all about it in the match report, which we are hoping to have online before midnight.
But, most importantly of all, travel safely and observe the home side’s social distancing measures throughout your stay.
Image is Ian Davies being challenged during the Aldershot pre-season friendly (shooting-stars.co.uk).