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First-round fun gets under way

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Lance Hardy | 14:40 UK time, Friday, 27 October 2006

This Saturday marks one of the most exciting Saturdays on the non-league football calendar when the first-round draw for the FA Cup is made, and you can watch it live on Final Score, BBC ONE, at 1710 BST.

The fourth qualifying-round scores will also be on the website from 1645.

The competition is now at the stage when the Nationwide Conference teams (nine of which are former Football League clubs) join the best of the rest from the non-league pyramid.

I think the pick of the bunch is AFC Wimbledon's visit to Exeter City. This is the furthest the club has got in the competition since its formation in 2002 when Wimbledon (now known as MK Dons) relocated to Milton Keynes.

Three promotions in four years have put AFC Wimbledon back in the Isthmian League, the level the original club was in when they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1963.

As a Southern League side in 1975, The Dons won 1-0 at First Division Burnley and then drew 0-0 at Elland Road against then all-conquering Leeds United. They lost the replay at Selhurst Park due to an own goal from future manager Dave Bassett.

That Cup run went a long way to gaining the club Football League status in 1977 and, of course, 11 short years later they famously won the FA Cup.

Now, the biggest match in the new club's short history will see over one thousand fans travel down to Devon to take on Exeter for a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup. It is one of our featured matches on Score.

Win or draw, they will be in the hat for the first-round draw - hosted by Sir Trevor Brooking - live on BBC ONE, with the possibility of drawing MK Dons! Only football could throw up a story like this!

Elsewhere, six other teams are attempting to get into the first-round proper for the first time: Brackley Town, Clevedon Town, Hucknall Town, Newcastle Benfield, Potters Bar Town and Haverhill Rovers, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition. Haverhill play in the Eastern Counties First Division, five leagues below their opponents Aldershot.

Three teams from below step two of non-league football (Conference, Conference North and Conference South) are guaranteed a place in the first round. Fleetwood Town play Wisbech Town, Maidenhead United play Merthyr Tydfil and AFC Sudbury play Leatherhead.

Leatherhead also had a famous FA Cup run back in 1975, which resulted in them taking a 2-0 lead at First Division Leicester City in the third round before going out, 3-2. It featured on Match Of The Day and made a star of their striker Chris Kelly, who became well-known nationwide as the 'Leatherhead Lip' during that Cup run. I remember it well from my childhood.

Somewhere, one team is waiting to make the headlines this season. It could be AFC Wimbledon, or maybe Leatherhead or someone else. What is for sure, is that there will be a story.

Live coverage of a first round match on BBC ONE beckons on Sunday, 12 November, with the dream of a place in the third round on 6 January 2007 the ultimate aim for all 64 non-league teams in action this weekend.

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