Eight new senior status clubs found out their first ever BBC Essex Senior Cup opponents when the draws for the Preliminary and First Rounds were broadcast live from the station’s Chelmsford studios on Wednesday 1st August.
The competition is back again for the new 2018/19 season with a fresh structure for the early stages to reflect the new Eastern Senior League at Step Six of the non-league pyramid. 33 clubs were initially involved in the draws and they discovered their first hurdle on a path which could eventually lead to a prestige final at Colchester United FC’s Jobserve Community Stadium.
Included amongst the Preliminary Round teams are eight competition newcomers: Benfleet, Coggeshall United, Fire United Christian, Frenford, Lopes Tavares London, May & Baker Eastbrook Community, Newbury Forest and White Ensign. Meanwhile Harwich & Parkeston also return.
As normal, 26 teams from the Football League, the National League and the Isthmian League receive a bye to the Third Round. Two guests helped with the proceedings on Glenn Speller’s ‘Wednesday Sport’ show. David Forbes, Manager of new entrants, Frenford, pulled out the home teams while the away sides were selected by Mark Ashford, the recently-installed Witham Town boss.
For Forbes, this is a huge step for his club following many successful years in the Saturday Premier Cup. He reacted: “There are some massive changes, and it’s a proud time for the club. It was an ambition from a few years ago now, and it’s been a long journey, but to finally be stepping up a level and taking part in the Senior Cup, is beyond what we thought we could achieve.”
“We were a small side playing when I first went to the club at Goodmayes Park Extension. Suddenly now we’ve in semi-professional football! We want to be up there, we want to be challenging. It’s a bold statement to make, because we don’t know a lot about the other sides, but we’ve been a strong intermediate side.”
“Some clubs who have come in from the same sort of level as us have improved - clubs like Little Oakley who we played in the Essex Premier Cup two seasons ago. We’d like to do the same. We don’t just want to be a part of it, we want to push on to the next level.”
Meanwhile Ashford’s new-look Witham side enter in Round Three, and he’s looking forward to getting started: “I’ve done a lot of time and qualifications in football and I want to bring a lot of that into the club. I’m very big on player development - probably one of my most personal things is that I don’t want a player ever to work with me for half a season or more and not leave a better player.”
“If he hasn’t then I’ve failed, as far as I’m concerned. If there are young, exciting players out there who want to go somewhere they can be really educated and give them a good foundation, we want to be a club that is known for being that stepping stone.”
On the Senior Cup, he added: “Cup competitions are always a welcome distraction. I remember at Stansted we played a very good Tilbury side and we drew 2-2 and lost on penalties. It was a season when Tilbury went all the way to the Semi-Finals and narrowly lost that to Billericay Town.”
“It was a great experience for our players seeing themselves pitched against a club from a higher level who were doing very well. It can be a catalyst for giving people a lot of encouragement. You’ve got some big clubs who come in at the Third Round, professional clubs and some clubs from high up, and you can come up against some really strong sides. I personally love that challenge.”
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Preliminary Round (by 25th August)
Little Oakley vs Lopes Tavares London
Newbury Forest vs Fire United Christian (pictured below)
Frenford vs Coggeshall United
First Round (by 8th September)
Saffron Walden Town vs May & Baker Eastbrook Community
Stansted vs Stanway Rovers
White Ensign vs Holland
Newbury Forest or Fire United Christian vs Benfleet
Burnham Ramblers vs Leyton Athletic
Halstead Town vs Southend Manor
Frenford or Coggeshall United vs West Essex
Wivenhoe Town vs Barkingside
Redbridge vs FC Clacton
Walthamstow vs Ilford
Takeley vs Harwich & Parkeston
Hullbridge Sports vs Little Oakley or Lopes Tavares London
Second Round (by 29th September)
Halstead Town or Southend Manor vs Walthamstow or Ilford
White Ensign or Holland vs Wivenhoe Town or Barkingside
Newbury Forest or Fire United Christian or Benfleet vs Burnham Ramblers or Leyton Athletic
Stansted or Stanway Rovers vs Redbridge or FC Clacton
Takeley or Harwich & Parkeston vs Hullbridge Sports or Little Oakley or Lopes Tavares London
Saffron Walden Town or May & Baker Eastbrook Community vs Frenford or Coggeshall United or West Essex