DESPITE coming into the second round from opposite ends of the GM Vauxhall Conference, the country and the alphabet, Altrincham and Yeovil Town are twinned in FA Cup lore for reasons which should make Port Vale and Hereford United tread warily in the mud today.
The non-League pair share the record for beating League clubs in the competition, each having registered their 15th victims in the first round. Both have home advantage, and that, after the recent deluge, could prevent their supposed superiors from imposing their skills.
Coincidentally, both Vale and Hereford have used local swimming baths this week because their practice pitches were unplayable, as if trying to insure against a watery grave. Current form, a notoriously fickle guide in the Cup, suggests Hereford may be particularly advised to pack snorkles with their shin-pads.
Yeovil are buoyed by five wins, including the 5-2 success at Torquay, in six games. Hereford, fourth bottom in the Third Division, at least know what to expect, having won at Sutton United last month and survived three trips to non-League territory a year ago.
Altrincham, 19th and without a home victory in the Conference, have a tougher task against Vale. The sight of menswear salesman-cum-Alty defender Clive Freeman thumping an unstoppable drive high into Chester's net, one of the BBC's Goal of the Month candidates, ought to have been warning enough for the side sixth in the Second.
Three other Conference clubs receive League opposition. Macclesfield, conquerors of Chesterfield, are likely to find Stockport made of sterner stuff. But Bath City and the runaway leaders, Wycombe Wanderers, look a match for Northampton and West Bromwich Albion respectively tomorrow.
Bath against Northampton sounds more like the Pilkington Cup. Their rugby brethren have been knocked off the Twickenham trail, leaving the round-ball 'Romans' to uphold civic honour. The Guscott-like pace of Deion Vernon, who has been on trial at Leeds, may prove decisive.
Wycombe will not lack confidence against Albion, having won 10 of their 11 home matches and become Britain's top scorers. While resilience is not Albion's strongest suit, the word 'Woking' may suffice as Ossie Ardiles' pep-talk. Woking, 4-2 winners at the Hawthorns in 1991, today visit Brighton, and would settle for a replay.
Of the HFS Loans League trio, Marine appear best placed to join Liverpool and Everton in tomorrow's draw. They entertain Conference stragglers Stafford at Crosby, just down the road from where Waterloo put out Bath last week. Merseyside rivals Southport, beaten once in 27 games, also expect to give a good account at Hartlepool tomorrow.
The romance will be provided by Accrington Stanley, who have a 30-year ignominy to avenge against Crewe Alexandra at Blackburn. On a snowy night 30 years ago, Stanley fulfilled what proved to be their final Fourth Division fixture. It ended in a 4-0 defeat . . . by Crewe.
At nearby Burnley, Shrewsbury also have something to prove on behalf of their manager, John Bond. He will be absent, on police advice, after threats from Burnley fans who blame him for the club's disastrous decline in the Eighties.
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