By Paul Damper
The cup tie against Dorking Wanderers will be the clubs 100th match in the FA Trophy.
Worthing, as members of the Athenian League until 1977, entered the FA Vase and continued to do so while members of Division 2 of the Isthmian League; clubs in the Premier Division and Division 1 of the Isthmian League entered the FA Trophy.
Worthing first entered the FA Trophy in 1982-83 after we had been promoted to Division 1, with our first match in this competition, at home against Addlestone & Weybridge Town on 23rd October in the 1st Qualifying Round, ending in a 1-0 victory, Steve Gill scoring the only goal.
We were knocked out that season in the 3rd Qualifying Round at Carshalton Athletic (by 1-0), the week after we had played at Oxford United in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup.
At this time there was a rule that the top two clubs in the Premier Divisions of the Isthmian, Southern and Northern Premier leagues would have a bye to the 1st Round Proper and so, having been league runners-up the season before, in 1984-85 we were given an exemption to the 1st Round.
In that first round match we had our first competitive encounter with a Gola (now National) League side, namely Worcester City, whom we defeated 3-2 in a home tie. In the 2nd Round we lost to another Gola League side, (the original) Maidstone United, in a home replay that was ruined as a spectacle by the thick fog that engulfed Woodside Road.
At this point it should be noted that there is some confusion about the furthest that Worthing have progressed in the FA Trophy.
Until 1998, and from 2005 to 2020, 64 clubs competed in the 1st Round, making the 4th Round the quarter-finals. From 1998 until 2005, and since 2020, the 3rd Round had/has 64 participants and therefore the quarter-finals were/are the 6th Round.
This means that when we reached the 4th Round in 2003-04, losing to the eventual winners Hednesford Town in a replay, we were in the last 32. This is often quoted as the furthest that we have progressed in the Trophy, but it is actually bettered by our achievement of reaching the 3rd Round in 1985-86, when we lost in a replay at Kettering Town, which was the last 16.
On the other hand, we only needed to win two matches before facing Kettering (including our only-ever meeting with a Welsh side – Bridgend Town) because of our exemption to the 1st Round, whereas we had won four ties before meeting Hednesford in 2003-04. We have never won more than four Trophy matches in one season, but equalled that feat in 1993-94 and 2016-17.
In the 1980s, as well as the rule about byes being given to league champions and runners-up, there was also a set of exemption rules relating to performances in the FA Trophy over the previous 2 or 3 years. These days the round in which a club enters the competition is purely based on the league in which they compete; Isthmian League Premier Division clubs currently have exemptions to the 3rd Qualifying Round.
1986-87 was the only time that we met a club from a “County” league, when we won 5-0 at Weston-super-Mare, who were members of the Western League.
Worthing’s record win in this competition came on 16th October 1993 when we won 7-1 at Croydon in the 2nd Qualifying Round; we went on to lose in a 2nd Round replay at (the original) Enfield.
Our heaviest defeat in the FA Trophy is 4-0, which we have managed to do five times, all in away fixtures. The victors were Whyteleafe, Cheltenham, Folkestone, Bedford and Hendon. The last of these was played at Harrow Borough’s ground, which was home to Hendon in 2014-15.
Our 100 matches in the Trophy cover 38 seasons (we played in the FA Vase again between 1991 and 1993, following relegation to Division 2) and includes 19 replays. One of these replays was also drawn (at Thame United in 2000) and we progressed 4-2 on penalties.
There are currently no replays and last season we drew 4-4 at Leiston before being knocked out 4-2 on penalties.
We have won 42 matches and lost 36 (the matches that went to penalties being counted as draws), and we have scored 154 goals while conceding 146. We have faced 62 different clubs, with the most matches (five) being played against Thame United.