Ashton United are on the verge of FA Cup stardom, as they take on Southport this weekend for a place in the draw for the first round proper of this year’s competition.
A huge opportunity for a club surviving and thriving in the shadow of the two Manchester clubs, to bring more and more fans along to watch non-league football in a competition that means something to everyone. To find Ashton’s best FA Cup showing, you have to go back to 1885 when they reached the second round proper (a feat they matched in 1883 as well) however, they are far from strangers to the competition. Over their 140 year history, they have played their part in this cornerstone of English football.
A victory against Southport will mean a ball in the velvet bag with Ashton’s number on it, and a chance to play the big boys for the first time since 1955.
Coincidentally, that year, Ashton came up against Southport in the first round proper, and despite being down to 10 men in the first few minutes of the game when Peter Blease suffered a dislocated shoulder (these were the days before substitutions), the Robins were just 1-0 down at halftime.
Fatigue took its toll in the second half as Southport ran out 6-1 winners, including a goal from Tom Lawrenson (father of Mark), who had previously played at Preston North End with the great Sir Tom Finney and soon to be great, Sir Alf Ramsey.
Far from being “also-rans” in the competition, there is a small piece of FA Cup history that resides within the walls of Hurst Cross. The fastest goal ever scored in the FA Cup was scored by Gareth Morris against Skelmersdale United. From all of 60 yards out, well inside his own half and in under 4 seconds, this will take some beating for as long as the competition continues.
This year, the club is hoping to highlight the progress they have made, attract more funds into the club and to help them continue to develop their fan base in the community. Let us not forget the few but loyal fans, and the great sense of achievement that a cup run brings to any club, regardless of the size, budget or fanbase.
Given they are the only Tameside team left in the competition, I hope that rivalries are put aside and that the whole borough can get behind The Robins as they go for glory this weekend.