MEANINGFUL non-league football returns to Oxfordshire tonight for the first time in more than five months.

After seeing last season halted and then expunged following the coronavirus outbreak, for half a dozen sides the 2020/21 campaign begins now in the Emirates FA Cup.

They are part of 168 ties in the extra preliminary round, where a useful £1,125 in prize money is on the line.

The winners also progress to the preliminary round on September 12, when the county’s Southern League Division 1 sides enter.

Ardley United are among the early starters, hosting Edgware Town for the right to visit either Lydney Town or Fairford Town in the next round.

For boss Lee Matthews it has been a long wait, having been permanently appointed in April.

And the fact it marks his first game as a manager in the FA Cup only adds to the significance.

“It’s definitely special,” he said.

“It feels an eternity since our last game – the last six months have just felt like a blur.

“It’s good for the lads, because they have something to focus on after working so hard in pre-season.

“I don’t know too much about Edgware, but it will be the same for them about us.

“The nice thing is it’s all on the day.

“We’re buzzing really. I’ll be bouncing off the walls all week if we win.”

After steadily opening up the facilities in the last couple of weeks, Ardley are able to accommodate a crowd of 300 tonight.

While the turnout is unlikely to get close to that figure, they did get more than 100 in for Saturday’s friendly against Didcot Town.

And the fact they are among the first to provide spectators with a competitive match is expected to provide a spike in attendance.

Chairman Ian Feaver said: “We’re firing on all cylinders now, having gradually stepped things up over the last couple of weeks.

“We’ve had lots of interest from people who want to go the FA Cup match.

“I think there’s a number of reasons why we think attendances will be up.

“There’s only us and Easington in this area who are at this level now.

“We have more local players in the squad this season and with there not being any crowds at professional games, people may want to come and watch. We’re really excited to get this game on.”




  • Ardley United v Edgware Town
  • Clanfield 85 v Long Crendon
  • Dunstable Town v Thame Rangers
  • Easington Sports v Tring Athletic
  • Holmer Green v Shrivenham
  • Leighton Town v Abingdon United