A key fixture of the post-Christmas football calendar is FA Cup 3rd Round weekend. The FA Cup is the oldest cup competition in the world. Steeped in history the cup was first held in 1871-72 and for the preceeding 140 years has been part of the fabric of English football.
The third round is held on the first weekend in January and is where the big teams from the top two divisions enter. In previous rounds teams from all walks of life have played in qualifying rounds, extra preliminary rounds plus the first and second rounds to get this far – and are now hoping for a tie against one of the heavyweights.
In the third round of the FA Cup form goes out of the window as teams who are miles apart in league standings meet. On cold, windy January afternoons players used to more luxurious surroundings at the top end of the football league ladder find themselves travelling to small grounds with the fans inches away from the touch-line. Portakabin dressing rooms and muddy, sloping bobbly pitches are the norm and those things combined can make it an uncomfortable game of football – unless you’re the home team.
The third round has thrown up many shocks down the years and proven that sometimes the minnows can have their moment of glory. We all love a good underdog taking on the favourites and having a go – this week Toppo’s Top Ten celebrates that – with ten great third-round Cupsets.
10: Everton 0-1 Oldham 2008
Three years ago Oldham Athletic from League One pulled off one of the shocks of that year’s FA Cup by winning at Goodison Park. Everton were flying-high in the Premier League and Oldham were mid-table in the third tier but it was John Sheridan’s team who prevailed thanks to a stunning 25-yard strike from Gary McDonald seconds before half-time. Everton pushed for an equaliser, Yakubu hitting the post deep into the second-half, but Oldham’s lead remained comfortable and their disciplined display saw them through to the fourth round.
9: Birmingham City 1 Altrincham 2 1986
Altrincham certainly enjoy the magic of the FA Cup. No team from non-league has knocked out more league clubs in the FA Cup than the Conference National outfit – 16 in total – the most famous coming in January 1986 at St. Andrews. Birmingham City were in the top-flight at the time and went a goal up through Robert Hopkins. Altrincham equalised before Birmingham fan Hopkins, in attempting to make a tackle, put the ball past his own goalkeeper (one David Seaman) to give Altrincham the lead. The minnows held on for a 2-1 victory and it remains the last occasion to date that a top-flight club were knocked out of the competition at home by a non-league team.
8: Havant and Waterlooville 4-2 Swansea City 2008
In 2008 Havant and Waterlooville grabbed headlines for twice taking the lead in the fourth round at Anfield, before finally losing 5-2 to Liverpool. To get there though they had to overcome League One Swansea, 83 places above them in the football league pyramid.
Having earned a replay with a draw at the Liberty Stadium, the Blue Square South side hosted the Swans on home turf and made the most of it, taking a shock early lead at Westleigh Park. Swansea couldn’t find a reply and found themselves 3-0 down with Havant fans in dreamland. The Welsh side did show their class by beginning to dominate and coming back to 3-2 but Tom Jordan, son of former Scotland striker Joe, restored the two goal cushion with a glancing header. A few nervy moments followed for Havant but they held on and got their dream trip to Anfield.
7: Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United 1984
In 1984 Manchester United entered the FA Cup in the third round as holders and faced what seemed a relatively easy trip to Third Division Bournemouth. The Cherries were near the bottom of the league and United had lost just once on the road that season, boasting the likes of Bryan Robson, Arnold Muhren and Frank Stapleton in their team. Bournemouth’s manager was Harry Redknapp, three months into his first managerial position.
United failed to offer much during the game and went behind on the hour after goalkeeper Gary Bailey fumbled a cross. Milton Graham was on hand to score and send 16,000 fans at Dean Court into raptures. Four minutes later Ian Thompson added a second goal and sealed a well-deserved 2-0 win for Bournemouth.
6. Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United 2010
A huge result for Leeds United came during last year’s third round as they humbled great rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. The clash was a throwback to the turn of the century when the two were going for the Premier League, but also a reminder of how far Leeds had fallen. At the time Leeds were gunning for promotion to the Championship with Jermaine Beckford scoring freely and it was his goal in front of the Stretford End which gave Leeds a memorable victory. A historic win too as it was the first time United were knocked out in the third round of the FA Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson.
5: West Bromwich Albion 2-4 Woking 1991
Twenty years ago this week one of the great FA Cup third round shocks took place and it made one man a household name (for a few weeks at least.) West Brom were in the old Second Division and were expected to turn over Woking from the Isthmian League, four divisions below them.
The Baggies led 1-0 at half-time but Woking’s Tim Buzaglo would change all that in the second half. He equalised with a low curling shot, then put Woking in front, reacting quickest to a long goal kick. After some great team play Buzaglo then bagged his third, scoring a famous hat-trick at the Hawthorns. Terry Worsfold added a fourth late on to complete a remarkable result. Baggies manager Brian Talbot lost his job whilst at the final whistle Brom fans ran onto the pitch applauding Buzaglo, chanting “Sign him up!” An unforgettable day for those who witnessed it.
4: Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton 2003
In 2003 Shrewsbury Town manager Kevin Ratcliffe, Everton’s most successful captain in their history, masterminded an FA Cup shock against his former club, knocking them out of the competition with victory at Gay Meadow. Shrewsbury, in the Third Division were 80 places below their opponents in the league standings but two goals from veteran striker Nigel Jemson – the second coming two minutes from time – sent the Shrews fans into delirium and humbled an Everton team with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Tomas Radzinski and Niclas Alexandersson in their ranks.
3: Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City 1989
In 1989 a small club on the outskirts of London pulled off one of the greatest FA Cup giant-killings of all time as they defeated the top-flight side that had won the trophy just two years before.
Conference outfit Sutton United got through to the 1989 third round and got a plum home draw in the shape of Coventry City – established in the top flight for over 20 years at that point and cup winners in 1987. On a cold, blustery January day at Gander Green Lane reputations counted for nothing. Sutton went at Coventry, working hard to stop them playing and they eventually came more into the game. From a free-kick wide on the left the underdogs took the lead, captain Tony Rains nodding past Steve Ogrizovic for 1-0.
In the second half Coventry equalised with a goal from defender David Phillips and it was expected that the Sky Blues would now go on and win the game – however Sutton had different ideas. A short corner caught Coventry out and Matthew Hanlon stole into the six yard box to volley home and the crowd were at fever-pitch. Coventry tried in vain to get an equaliser, hitting the woodwork several times but Sutton held on and at the final whistle their fans spilled onto the pitch in jubilation. Their reward for their memorable victory was an away trip to Carrow Road – where they lost 8-0 to Norwich City.
2: Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal 1992
At the Racecourse Ground in 1992, Wrexham wrote themselves into FA Cup history with an unforgettable victory over George Graham’s Arsenal side. The Gunners were league champions and were expected to brush aside the Welsh outfit, bottom of the fourth division whilst Arsenal were near top of the first.
Arsenal took the lead through Alan Smith, but with ten minutes to go 37-year-old Mickey Thomas, formerly of Manchester United and Chelsea powered a 25-yard free kick past David Seaman to level matters. With the crowd still in raptures after Thomas’ thunderbolt, the minnows from North Wales had another sting in the tail – Steve Watkin squeezed an effort under Seaman’s dive to give Wrexham a 2-1 lead late into the game. That’s how things stayed and at the final whistle, home fans raced onto the pitch to celebrate the most unlikely of FA Cup victories.
1: Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United 1972
A real classic FA Cup upset but it’s arguably the most famous and makes it to number one. This was the game that launched John Motson’s commentary career and when Ronnie Radford scored a truly memorable goal.
In the 1972 third round Newcastle were drawn at home to non-league Hereford but could only manage a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park and the Magpies faced a replay at Edgar Street. The Southern League side were still unfancied despite their draw at Newcastle as their opponents were playing in the old First Division. Fans flocked to the ground taking up all vantage points, including trees and standing on floodlight pylons.
The pitch soon became a mud bath and the game was 0-0 well into the second half, until Newcastle striker Malcolm McDonald headed home a deep cross to the back post and then it seemed as if the top flight side had the victory they needed to progress. With five minutes to go Hereford levelled. In midfield Ronnie Radford won the ball and played a one-two with Brian Owen. The ball sat up off the muddy surface and Radford unleashed an unstoppable 30-yard strike which flew past the goalkeeper and caused scenes to be replayed for years to come with a pitch invasion from many Parka-clad Hereford fans.
In extra-time Hereford came forward again and Ricky George on the right hand side of the penalty area hit a low shot which beat the Newcastle ‘keeper and sparked another pitch invasion. Newcastle players couldn’t find a response and Hereford held on for an incredible victory and possibly the greatest FA Cup giant-killing of all time.