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FA Cup First Round: The Non-League Years

5 November 2021


FA Cup First Round: The Non-League Years

5 November 2021

Phil Yelland goes back through this archives to see how The Bluebirds got on in FA Cup First Round ties during the Club's non-league days.

Saturday sees us back in the FA Cup at the First Round Proper stage automatically as a Football League club.

Over our 48 years as a non-league club, we qualified for the First Round Proper on 14 occasions but just once automatically. That happened in 1990, having won the FA Trophy, and on that occasion we were drawn away to Northern Premier League side Bishop Auckland who, at that time, played on their atmospheric Kingsway ground. On a misty afternoon, a goal from Ian Burgess secured victory for us.

Our first outing at the First Round stage after losing Football League status came in 1976 when former Liverpool giant Ron Yeats was in charge. There was disappointment when we drew fellow Northern Premier League side Goole Town at home and even more disappointment when the Yorkshire side won 2-0 on the day.

It took us 12 years to reach the First Round again, and then we found ourselves drawn away to Rotherham United of Division Four. They were already chasing promotion and we matched them for most of the game before losing 3-1. However, Barrow fans will always remember a wonderful solo goal from winger Mickey Carroll that brought us level in the game.

After the trip to Bishop Auckland, we had to wait until 1995 when Tony Hesketh guided us to the First Round stage where we defeated fellow non-league side Nuneaton Borough 2-1 on on home soil before losing out against Wigan Athletic at Holker Street.

The Kenny Lowe era saw us reach the First Round Proper in three successive seasons. In 2000, the visitors were Leyton Orient, then in the bottom tier of the Football League. They won 2-0 but that game is remembered for a dreadful challenge in the first half which saw Troy Bennett stretchered off; he never played for the Club again.

The following year we were drawn away to Oldham Athletic, then in League One, and got a flying start to that game with Steve Housham scoring inside two minutes. The Latics equalised and the replay at the end of November 2001 brought a full house with the visitors getting home with the only goal of the game.

2002 saw us progress to the First Round stage after a comfortable home win over another non-league side, Moor Green, before losing at Shrewsbury Town in Round Two.

Many fans don’t remember the time when Phil Wilson was in charge as a great era but he took The Bluebirds to the First Round Proper in two successive seasons. In 2006/07, we lost 3-2 at home to Bristol Rovers, then in League Two. The game is best remembered for the awful weather – a gale force wind, driving rain, and the off the ball incident involving James Cotterill and Sean Rigg. What is often forgotten is our comeback from 3-0 down to almost snatch a draw with goals from Tom Pope (on loan from Crewe Alexandra) and Nick Rogan.

12 months later, in what was to be Wilson’s final game in charge, we were drawn at home to struggling League Two side AFC Bournemouth, who equalised at the end of the first half after Kevin Rapley had given us the lead. By the time of the replay ten days later, Dave Bayliss, Darren Sheridan and Paul Jones were in temporary charge as we lost in injury time at the end of extra time.

That was a time of what might be termed unparalleled success in the Cup as, in the next two seasons, we reached Round Three with Bayliss and Sheridan in charge.

In 2008/09, our First Round opponents were fellow Blue Square Premier side Eastbourne Borough and, after a 0-0 draw in Sussex, we won the replay 4-0. The following season, in a monsoon, we played Eastleigh (then in Blue Square South) at home and the game looked to be heading for a replay before a wonder striker from Jason Walker took us through.

The 2011/12 season saw us drawn at home to Rotherham United and a chance to avenge the 1988 defeat. We led for a long time through a goal from Paul Rutherford, but Lewis Grabban scored twice for the visitors, with one of the goals coming after a controversial incident that left Mike Pearson with a broken leg for the second time.

The following season saw us drawn at the First Round stage against non-league opposition again. The trip to Nethermoor to play Guiseley was always difficult on paper, and we were two goals down before Adam Boyes and Gary Hunter got us level to earn a replay. Hunter netted a spectacular winner in the replay.

Since then, we have reached the First Round of the FA Cup just once when we played Taunton Town in the 2015/16 season. We eventually got past the Southern League side after drawing 2-2 in Somerset, with goals from a Byron Harrison penalty and Richie Bennett before Liam Hughes saw red. We won the home replay 2-1 with the winner being credited as an own goal following a wicked deflection off a Ryan Yates shot; the other goal came from Jordan Williams.

During our 48-year absence from the Football League, we have beaten two Football league sides in the FA Cup, both in Round Two. Brentford were defeated on a wonderful night at Holker Street in November 2008 and then we triumphed against Bristol Rovers in December 2016.

Last season, our postponed game against AFC Wimbledon of League One went to extra time before we were beaten on penalties.

Let’s hope we can drive through on Saturday and will be looking at a Second Round Tie.

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