Long trips for Bedford sides as the FA Cup kicks off

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A little over a month since Ilkay Gundogan’s double for Manchester City saw Pep Guardiola’s side win the second trophy of their historic treble, the journey to Wembley is kicking off again with the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.

208 fixtures have been drawn for the opening qualifying round to take place on Saturday 5th August, with a number of Bedford’s teams dreaming of a place in the first round proper and a date with the big teams.

Bedford’s clubs head east

Despite facing relegation last season, Bedford Town have received a bye into the Preliminary Round that takes place on 19th August, and will travel to face the winner of Mulbarton Wanderers or Sheringham, both of whom are based in Norfolk.

For other Bedford based clubs however, there is the prospect of the Extra Preliminary Round and there is a debut into the competition for Real Bedford who also face a lengthy trip to the seaside to take on FC Clacton.

The winner of that tie will go on to host Milton Keynes Irish or Dunstable Town in the Preliminary Round with a further four ties to get through if they are to reach the first round proper.

Kempston Rovers also face a trip to Norfolk as they face Harlestone Town with the winner hosting Biggleswade FC in the next round.

Perhaps the Region’s finest success story from last season however came from Shefford Town and Campton, the debutants reaching the third qualifying round – just two games away from the big time – before succumbing to Anstey Nomads.

They kick off their campaign this time round with a tough tie against Malden and Tiptree of the Isthmian League.

Real Bedford celebrate a South Midlands Division One league title at McMullen Park in April 2023
Real Bedford celebrate a league title Image: Real Bedford FC

Real Bedford begin life in the ninth tier of the English football pyramid in positive spirits after comfortably winning Spartans South Midlands Division One last season and while dreams of a first round proper tie may be in the air, expectations are tempered.

Meanwhile, over the way at The Eyrie, the great reset has injected new life to the Eagles’ fanbase with a host of signings under the guidance of new manager, Lee Bircham.

Kempston Rovers have also faced some upheaval as last season’s manager, Ash Fuller has left Hillgrounds along with his Assistant, Jonny Duggan.

Fuller has been replaced by James Hall who brings experience from Kings Langley and Watford FC Ladies to Hillgrounds, looking to take Rovers to the next level.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity given to me by the board”, said James.

“The set up at the club from the first team down is excellent and allows for an excellent pathway into the first team.

“I am keen to get started and get the locals re-interested again in this great side with a progressive based exciting brand of football… We’re all in for heck of a ride.”