Friday 9th July 2021
With the draws for the early Rounds of the Emirates FA Cup and Buildbase FA Vase now revealed, Royal Wootton Bassett Town will first have to overcome a pair of tough tests if they are to come close to matching the record-equalling success they had in both competitions in 2020-21.
Meanwhile, entering the competition for the first time since the 2009-10 season, Bassett's Under 18s will face Paulton Rovers in the FA Youth Cup, with a potential local derby against Corsham Town on offer should they advance.
Full previews of the ties Bassett will face are below.
Any FA Cup victory is a prized one – and last season Bassett tasted success in the competition on three occasions. Wins over Chipping Sodbury Town, Didcot Town and Cinderford Town helped equal the club's record run, seeing Bassett advance to the Second Qualifying Round where Sam Collier's side pushed National League South side Oxford City all the way in a narrow 2-1 defeat.
While it is perhaps unrealistic to expect to match that achievement, Bassett – and all other clubs entering the FA Cup – are entitled to dream. But to get within reach, Bassett will have to overcome significant obstacles in this year's Extra Preliminary and Preliminary Rounds.
In the opening Round, Bassett have been given an away tie against fellow Hellenic League Premier Division side Thornbury Town. Despite being in the same division the teams have never met, with Thornbury having been recently promoted after strong performances across the curtailed 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons saw them eligible to move upwards thanks to their points per game record.
The Gloucestershire-based side have enjoyed an excellent few seasons in recent years, having earned promotion to Hellenic League Division One West after winning the Gloucestershire County League title in 2016-17 and then going on to finish third in their first full season at step six.
They entered the FA Cup for the first time last year, losing 4-1 away against Leighton Town in the Extra Preliminary Round. Meanwhile, in the FA Vase they impressively ventured to the Second Round in 2019-20 in their first ever participation before falling at the Second Qualifying Round stage last season.
Should Bassett win on the road, they would potentially host a familiar face in the form of Ardley United in the Preliminary Round. Alternatively, their opponents would be Western League Premier Division newcomers Ashton and Backwell United. Preliminary Round ties are scheduled for Saturday 14 August.
Ardley have recently been transferred to the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division after close to three decades in the Hellenic League. In that time they faced Bassett 30 times in the league. Ardley held the upper hand in those meetings, winning sixteen times compared to six victories for Bassett. The teams also met in the 1994-95 Hellenic League Division One Cup final, which Ardley won.
In the FA Cup, Ardley's best run came in 2013-14 when wins over Ash United, Hartley Wintney and Slough Town saw them advance to the Second Qualifying Round where they were narrowly beaten by Chippenham Town. They have reached the First Qualifying Round on one other occasion. Their best run in the FA Vase came a season earlier when they made the Third Round.
Ashton and Backwell, meanwhile, have a more limited history in national competitions. Promoted to Western League Division One for the 2013-14 season, they made their FA Cup debut in 2015-16, losing to Odd Down in the Extra Preliminary Round. Their only other participation came a year later when they were beaten by Clevedon Town at the same stage. In the FA Vase, they have twice reached the First Round, losing at that stage to Brimscombe and Thrupp in 2013-14 and Cheddar in 2020-21.
They would nonetheless represent strong opponents should Bassett make it to the Preliminary Round, having earned promotion to step five by virtue of their points per game record across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round: Thornbury Town v Royal Wootton Bassett Town (Saturday 7 August 2021)
Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round: Thornbury Town or Royal Wootton Bassett Town v Ardley United or Ashton and Backwell United (Saturday 14 August 2021)
Just as in the FA Cup, Bassett went on a record-equalling run in the 2020-21 FA Vase as wins over Stonehouse Town and Camelford saw Sam Collier's team advance to the Second Round for only the third time in club history. There, Bassett's run was terminated courtesy of an agonising loss by the odd goal in three away at Bridgwater Town. While the Vase has historically been a competition in which Bassett have underperformed, they have now reached the Second Round in two of the past four seasons.
Reaching the last 128 is nevertheless a modest achievement. And the hope is that one day the club will be able to emulate its fellow Hellenic League sides who, in recent campaigns, have progressed deep into the Vase. Thatcham Town and Binfield may stand out most given they have both reached the final. But others, including Ascot United, Bracknell Town, Flackwell Heath, Highworth Town, Kidlington, Windsor and Westfields, have all advanced deep into the competition while part of the Hellenic League family.
First though, it will be necessary for Bassett to negotiate the qualifying Rounds.
In the First Qualifying Round Bassett have been handed a home tie against Combined Counties League Premier Division South side Knaphill. The tie is due to take place on Saturday 11 September at the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground.
The Woking-based outfit are entering the Vase for the eleventh time in their history and have reasonably good pedigree in the competition – particularly when it comes to playing Hellenic League opponents. In 2015-16 they saw off Lydney Town in the Second Qualifying Round before beating Highworth 3-1 in a Second Round tie at The Elms a season later.
Their best two runs came in those seasons. In 2015-16 they reached the Fourth Round, losing narrowly to Kidlington before making their way to the Third Round in 2016-17. They also have a pair of journeys to the Second Round to their name.
Knaphill failed to advance in 2020-21, losing on penalties away against Stansfield, while they were also eliminated at the Extra Preliminary Round stage of the FA Cup. Their best run in that competition was to the Second Qualifying Round in 2017-18.
Should Bassett prevail, they will travel to Western League Division One outfit Portishead Town in the Second Qualifying Round on Saturday 25 September. Frequent opponents of Bassett's Ladies side (indeed, Portishead eliminated Bassett from the Women's FA Cup in 2019-20), the teams' men's sides have never met.
Entering the Vase for the thirteenth season, the step six Posset have only advanced beyond the qualifying stages once. That came in 2015-16 when they triumphed against Elburton Villa and Wadebridge Town before being defeated by Newport Isle of Wight. In 2020-21 they lost on penalties away against Ilfracombe Town in the First Qualifying Round.
They have fared better in the FA Cup, winning twice in 2016-17 to reach the First Qualifying Round where they lost to Swindon Supermarine.
Buildbase FA Vase First Qualifying Round: Royal Wootton Bassett Town v Knaphill (Saturday 11 September 2021)
Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round: Portishead Town v Royal Wootton Bassett Town or Knaphill (Saturday 25 September 2021)
For the first time since the 2009-10 season, Bassett's Under 18s side will be participating in the FA Youth Cup.
It's a competition in which the club have previously enjoyed limited success. Overall, in seven previous participations Bassett have recorded four wins, advancing no more than one Round in any season they have entered.
The club's most recent FA Youth Cup win was in 2007-08 when goals from Jonny Aitkenhead, Phillip Forster and James Lewis secured a 3-1 Preliminary Round triumph away against Westbury United.
In this coming season's edition of the competition, Nick Warren's young charges will host Somerset-side Paulton Rovers in the Preliminary Round. The tie will take place week commencing Monday 30 August.
Paulton were eliminated at the Preliminary Round stage of the competition in each of the past two years, having reached the First Qualifying Round stage in each of the three seasons prior to that. Their best run in recent years came in 2016-17 when they made the Second Qualifying Round.
The winners of the tie will then go on to welcome either Corsham Town or Portishead Town in the First Qualifying Round in week commencing Monday 13 September. Like Bassett, this is Corsham's first entry into the competition for a number of seasons. Portishead, meanwhile, have been frequent entrants in recent years. In 2020-21 they were eliminated in the First Qualifying Round and they reached the Second Qualifying Round as recently as 2018-19.
FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round: Royal Wootton Bassett Town v Paulton Rovers (week commencing Monday 30 August 2021)
FA Youth Cup First Qualifying Round: Royal Wootton Bassett Town or Paulton Rovers v Corsham Town or Portishead Town (week commencing Monday 13 September 2021)
Historical details of Royal Wootton Bassett Town's participation in various national cup competitions are available in the history section of our website.
See the following pages for details: