As the qualifying rounds of the 2023/24 Emirates FA Cup come to a conclusion, we have seen twelve of our sixteen (including Reading FC) clubs eliminated from the competition at various stages.
Bracknell Town, Maidenhead United and Slough Town will compete in the FA Cup Fourth Round Qualifying in a bid to earn a place in the First Round Proper and a chance to host, or travel to, an EFL side.
As we saw with The Robins welcoming Ipswich Town to Bottom Meadow in front of the nations broadcasters last season, the First Round can really give non-league clubs a national platform to showcase their talents and increase their exposure to a wider audience.
Bracknell will be looking to emulate last seasons successes in the competition by reaching the first round proper for just the third time in the clubs history when they welcome Dagenham & Redbridge to Bottom Meadow. The tie has been selected by the BBC as their ‘Red button’ match of the round, meaning an earlier kick off time of 12:30pm.
While the first round is fairly new territory for Bracknell – bar a trip to Lincoln City in 2000 and Ipswich Town last season, both Maidenhead United and Slough Town have made the competition ‘proper’ on over ten occasions. Maidenhead will be looking to make that fourteen times, while Slough for the twentieth.
Weston Super-Mare vs Maidenhead United – 15:00
The Magpies have achieved a place in the first round in four of the last five seasons and will be looking to make it five in six when they travel to Somerset to face a Weston Super-Mare side seemingly struggling to find a run of form in the Vanarama National League South.
Alan Devonshire’s side will be given confidence going into the fixture by their hosts poor home form so far this season. Having just won twice at The Woodspring Stadium this season, once in the league and once in the FA Cup when dispatching of Truro City in the Second Round Qualifying.
Maidenhead United are currently on an eleven game winless run, with their last victory coming at home Bracknell’s opponents Dagenham & Redbridge all the way back in late August. The York Road side will be hoping this fixture will be a welcomed disctraction from their winless league run to build some confidence away from home with progression through to the first round proper of this seasons Emirates FA Cup. Failure to do so would be the first time since the 2020/21 season where they were defeated at home to Cray Valley Paper Mills – who subsequently reached the First Round for the first time in their history.
Ebbsfleet United vs Slough Town
The Rebels travel to National League side Ebbsflert United in good form. Despite facing defeat in six of their opening seven fixtures, Slough Town have seen a turn in their fortunes and find themsleves unbeaten in seven, in all competitions, including a previous round win against Salisbury City, albeit after a replay.
The sides have faced each other five times in the National League South, with Slough only winning the once, away at Ebbsfleet in February of 2022. Despite this, Slough will bring into the fixture a great deal of confidence purely based on form of both teams. With Slough unbeaten in seven games, and seemingly contunuing on an upwards trajectory.
Slough failed to score in their previous two league games, but a brace from Johnny Goddard in their three nil win at home to Salisbury in the replay for the last round will show that goals can come from all over the park and not just from George Alexander or Nathan Minhas. With Ebsfleet conceding eight in the last three, The Rebels know that opportunities will arise at the Stonebridge Road Stadium.
Bracknell Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge
The Robins will once again welcome national broadcasting cameras to Bottom Meadow in the FA Cup as they look to overcome higher leaague opposition in the lunchtime kick off.
Last season saw Bracknell Town reach the First Round of the competition for only the second time in their history, and they will be looking to make it back to back for the first time ever.
Despite sitting in the relegation zone of the Vanarama National League, Dagenham & Redbridge will prove a formidable task to overcome as the East London side look to pick up their first win in eight. Bracknell Town have shown that higher league opposition are beatable as they overcame Havant & Waterloovile of the National League South in the Second Round Qualifying last month.
All three Berkshire sides competing in this round of the competition have a fantastic chance of progressing, and who knows, could we see an all-Berkshire tie in the first round when Reading enter the competition for the first time since the 2001/02 season where they beat Welling United to progress.
Bonus fact: No other Berkshire side have made it further than Reading FC in the FA Cup since the 1982/83 season where the Royals were knocked out in the First Round, while Slough Town made it to the Second Round after beating Milwall at home.