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Second-tier teams target prized scalps

Tre McCallan, St George’s 16-year-old, scores against Southampton Rangers in the Shield last month. He is one of the youngsters St George’s are banking on when they face Devonshire Cougars in the FA Cup first round on Sunday(Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Premier Division teams will be wary of First Division opponents during the first round of the FA Cup this weekend.

Four top-flight teams crashed out to sides in the second tier in the first round last season and a few upsets could be in store among the eight matches tomorrow and Sunday.

Somerset Trojans, nine-times winners, make the journey east to Wellington Oval to meet First Division side Hamilton Parish, who are looking to end a three-game losing run. The Trojans, bottom of the Premier Division, will welcome a win in any competition.

Somerset lost to St George’s in the FA Cup first round last season, the same weekend that Paget Lions, BAA and Southampton Rangers, the top three teams in the First Division, all claimed top-flight scalps.

X-Roads went down 3-1 to Paget; Boulevard lost to BAA and Devonshire Cougars were beaten 4-2 on penalties by a Rangers side who went on to reach the final before losing to Robin Hood.

Somerset will meet Parish in the 12pm match at Wellington Oval on Sunday before St George’s face Devonshire Cougars in the 2.30pm game. St George’s, who lost to Cougars 4-1 in the first round in 2016, are hoping to beat a third straight Premier Division team, following wins over Boulevard in 2017 and the Trojans last season.

“We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge; Cougars have won it all,” said Jarreau Hayward, the St George’s player-coach. St George’s are out of the running for promotion after their loss to Somerset Eagles last weekend.

“We were disappointed to drop the points to Eagles, as I thought we thoroughly deserved the win, but we lacked a bit of experience in certain areas,” Hayward added. “We’re a young team and that’s expected, but I’m really proud of the guys.

“Sunday is just another game for us to look to make progress. It’s another opportunity to show our growth.

“I know Cougars have a lot of experience, some youth as well, and I know they will be prepared and won’t underestimate us. I’m sure my good friend Mark [Steede], the new Cougars president, is letting them know that we’re not going to be pushovers. I know they will be coming full force and they can expect the same from us.”

The FA Cup represents the best chance for Cougars to win some silverware this season.

They last won the FA Cup in 2013 when they defeated Somerset 3-0 in the final to complete a first Triple Crown success.

Cup holders Hood will meet Eagles at White Hill Field tomorrow at 2.30pm. Hood pair Jaylon Bather and Daniel Andrade will meet their former team who are unbeaten in the First Division.

Boulevard’s match against BAA has been switched from Lord’s to Goose Gosling Field at 8pm, while St David’s will play Southampton Rangers at 2.30pm at Lord’s tomorrow.

Sunday’s other matches will pit PHC and Village, two teams with 20 titles between them, playing at PHC Field. The two teams met in the 2017 final, with PHC winning 1-0 for their eleventh title.

The Zebras have the most wins in the competition while Village have nine along with the Trojans, making them the three most successful teams in the competition which began in 1955-56 with BAA beating Southampton Rangers 3-2 in the first final.

Dandy Town play Paget at St John’s Field in another all-Premier Division tie on Sunday, while Wolves will look for an upset when they take on tenants X-Roads at Garrison Field.

The BFA has confirmed there will be no replays in the FA Cup. Matches deadlocked after 90 minutes will go into extra time and then penalties.

n Nahki Wells’s Queens Park Rangers are at home to Preston North End in the Sky Bet Championship tomorrow.

QPR are eleventh in the table with 39 points from 27 games and four points adrift of the play-off places. Wells, on loan from Premier League side Burnley, has scored six goals in 23 matches for the QPR.