With the first round proper of the FA Cup taking place this weekend, we have analysed the data from the first round draws from the previous 10 years to see how this season’s draw compares.
Firstly, let us take a look at the breakdown of the draw. The first round proper contains 48 league clubs (24 from League One, 24 from League Two) and 32 clubs from the non-league pyramid.
The following graph shows how the breakdown of this year’s draw compares to previous seasons. There are more non-league vs league ties than average so there should be plenty of chances for non-league clubs to make a name for themselves and emulate the heroics of Lincoln and Sutton last season.
If we look at the non-league teams in the draw, half of them are from the National League (the top tier of non-league football). The two lowest teams in the draw (Heybridge Swifts and Hyde United) are from level eight of the football pyramid.
The FA Cup is all about shocks and giant killings and this year’s draw could potentially yield a good number of surprise results. The following graph shows how this year’s draw compares to the previous 10 years in terms of the level difference between teams.
A whopping 23 ties feature teams just one level apart and there are surprisingly only two ties featuring clubs at the same level. The biggest difference is Hyde United from Northern Premier League Division 1 North (Level 8) drawn at home to MK Dons from League One (level 3). The following table shows this, and the other ties with the biggest step differences in the first round.
To re-iterate the potential this year’s draw has for shock results, the following graph shows how the number of shocks correlates with the number of ties featuring teams in the same level and one level apart.
Despite a disappointing number of shocks in 2016-17, the number of shock results this year could reach double figures. Taking a look at the fixtures involving non-league clubs playing against league opposition, we have highlighted those ties which we think could provide the much sought after ‘giant killing’.
The table shows the ties which feature league vs non-League teams along with the recent progress ratio for each team – this shows the number of times each team has progressed to round two versus the number of times they have appeared in round one (in the last 10 years). Peterborough have the best ratio, having progressed seven times out of seven appearances in the first round.
Cambridge vs Sutton
Sutton are flying high in the National League and will be keen to repeat last year’s success in the competition. They surely fancy their chances of at least a draw against League Two opposition and a replay would see Cambridge having to visit the 3G pitch of Gander Green Lane.
Forest Green Rovers vs Macclesfield Town
Although their form has picked up lately, Forest Green Rovers have generally struggled in League Two since their promotion from the National League last year. National League high flyers, Macclesfield, have a great pedigree in the competition and will not fear the league opposition.
Morecambe vs Hartlepool
Morecambe, struggling in League Two and with a poor recent record in the first round of the FA Cup, may not fancy a visit from National League side Hartlepool who have progressed from the first round of the FA Cup in each of the last four seasons.
Dartford vs Swindon Town
Free-scoring Dartford are top of the National League North – and if Swindon underestimate a visit to Princes Park they could well find themselves on the wrong end of a shock result.
Peterborough vs Tranmere
Despite Peterborough having a flawless record in the first round in recent years – Tranmere, who also have an excellent FA Cup pedigree – could well put an end to Peterborough’s impressive recent record at this stage.
Shaw Lane Association vs Mansfield Town.
This would be a massive shock. Shaw Lane are making their debut in the first round – and only formed in 2012 – but they are in fine form in the Northern Premier League and with Mansfield struggling for form in League Two, Shaw Lane will fancy their chances when Mansfield visit Sheerien Park.