The moment Chichester City's players realised they were through in the FA Cup without kicking a ball

The FA Cup throws up some wonderful stories every year - but has it ever seen anything quite like this before.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 9:41 pm
City's players and staff celebrate their rather straightforward progress to round two

It was enough that Chichester City had won through SIX qualifying rounds of the Cup to reach the first round proper for only the second time in their history and for the first time since 1960.

It was enough that they now stood a chance of landing a trip to Pompey or Sunderland - or perhaps a home tussle with another non-league side that might give them the hope of further progress.

All that was enough.

But no, it wasn't enough for the FA Cup. Just when you thought the City fairytale hard to grasp, the draw went and landed them with ... a bye!

Without kicking a ball, they are through to the second round, and £36,000 better off as a result.

As the draw took place on the TV screen in front of the players, staff and management, and their families, in the downstairs bar at Oaklands Park, there were 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' as big teams came out as home teams then sides other than Chi were paired with them.

There were teams the assembled guests wanted to play - others they wanted to avoid. As the number of teams left in diminished, people were working out which of those left would be best for City to play.

Then there were only ten left, then seven, then five, then three. There was one tie to go - and whoever didn't get pulled out for that tie would be through and would have all that lovely prize money to count.

Two teams left, now it was 50/50 - and Chi were the lucky ones. Ball number 71 left in the machine. Chi's name not called out by Mark Chapman, and the team through to the second round.

The bar erupted. Players and staff hugged, danced, chanted, some had tears in their eyes. It was as if they'd been drawn to play Sunderland, Pompey and Ipswich all rolled into one.

There were scenes, there were limbs everywhere. There was a bit of an air of disbelief. Through to the second round. Keep saying it and it will sink in.

One game from a pairing with Liverpool or Arsenal. And with every chance of the BBC coming to their gaff for the second round draw in three weeks.

Not bad for a team whose Cup jounrey started on August 10 and who had not got past one single round in each of the past three years.

And some of that prize money will be going to Bury FC - the team whose demise meant this spare place was up for grabs and who are fighting for their very survival. City chairman Andy Bell said before the draw that would happen if it was Chi who got a bye ... it's just that it seemed a very big if at the time.