Non-league football: Newport aim to end long absence: Wight men seek right road to the first round

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OF THE 56 clubs contesting the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup tomorrow, all no doubt dreaming of a tie against a League club when the big boys join the fray next month, no fewer than 10 have never reached the first round in the 113- year history of the competition.

Two of these sides meet each other in Worcestershire, where Pershore Town, in their debut season in the FA Cup, entertain Yeading, from Middlesex, at the King George V playing field. Of the other eight, the ambitious Northamptonshire club Rushden and Diamonds, who are backed by the footwear company, Dr Martens, will fancy their chances at home to Bromsgrove Rovers. So too will Stevenage, at home to Nuneaton, Molesey, who entertain Tooting and Mitcham, and Bashley, who meet Carshalton in the New Forest.

Another intriguing tie sees Weston-super-Mare play host to Newport, from the Isle of Wight. It is many years since either club has reached the first round. Weston have made it only once, in 1961, when they were beaten by their Somerset rivals, Bridgwater Town. The Islanders have endured an even longer absence: their last first-round appearance was in 1958, when they lost to Shrewsbury Town.

Before then, Newport had a proud record in the FA Cup. As members of the Hampshire League (like Weston, they are now in the Beazer Homes League), they removed Clapton Orient from the tournament in the first season after World War II, and played in the first round on six occasions in the 1950s. Two regular supporters from those days will be cheering them on at Weston: Jack Byrne, a committee member then and now, and Ray Hamilton, the supporters' club chairman.

Newport are tackling their challenge in a professional manner: they are staying in a Bristol hotel tonight rather than make a tiring day-trip. Thanks largely to a hat- trick from Clifton Soares, they secured tomorrow's tie with a 4-2 win in the third qualifying round on Monday against a Newbury side containing several experienced former Reading players.

Newport's manager, Steve Mellor, has been given the backing to strengthen his squad this term. 'The money doesn't come from one rich individual,' Chris Cheverton, the club secretary, said, 'we have to raise all our funds ourselves.'

John Docherty, the manager of Slough Town, has resigned 'for personal and professional reasons' and has been replaced by the club's player-coach, Les Briley, the former Millwall midfield player. Another GM Vauxhall Conference club, Telford United, have named George Foster, formerly in charge at Mansfield, as their new player-manager, in succession to Gerry Daly.