FA Cup 3rd Round Classics
The FA Cup 3rd Round. The classic cup graveyard for teams from the top two divisions as they enter the draw for first time, sometimes having to pit their wits against non-league opposition who've battled their way through the qualifying rounds.
Here are ten of the biggest cup upsets from the third round...
No.1 Hereford United 2:1 Newcastle United 1972
If there was ever an F.A. Cup tie that wrote a player into football folklore then it's this one, as Ronnie Radford's screamer on that muddy Edgar Street pitch provided non-league Hereford United with an equaliser against First Division Newcastle United, setting the scene nicely for the subsequent winner.
This tie was actually a replay, Hereford United having performed heroics up at St. James Park two weeks earlier to claim a 2:2 draw and send the tie to a second game. The replay itself was postponed three times, so the anticipation on the day of the match was huge - Edgar Street absolutely packed to capacity (and a bit beyond by the sounds of it!). There's no point in trying to describe the state of the muddy pitch or the quality of the Ronnie Radford goal, it's all best enjoyed on the video clip...
No.2 Walsall 2:0 Arsenal 1933
The first genuine giant-killing of the FA Cup Third Round.
To realise how big an upset this was at the time, we need to look at Arsenal's league form back in the early 1930's. In the five seasons between 1930 and 1935, the Gunners won four of the First Divison titles and were runners-up in the other. The team, managed by the legendary Herbert Chapman, were widely regarded by many as the best club team in the world at the time. Walsall, on the other hand, were struggling in the old Third Division North. More than 11,000 fans packed into Fellows Park to cheer the Saddlers on, and they were rewarded with the game of their lives, as second half goals from Gilbert Alsop and Bill Sheppard secured an unlikely, but deserved, win for the home side.
No.3 Wrexham 2:1 Arsenal 1992
One of the great F.A. Cup ties of the 1990s saw Arsenal, the reigning English league champions, travel up to north Wales to face a Wrexham team who'd finished rock-bottom of the football league in the previous season. George Graham's men were expected to cruise through the tie, especially as they'd named a really strong line-up, featuring the likes of Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Rocastle, Merson, Smith and Campbell. So, when Alan Smith tucked the ball away from Paul Merson's cross just before half-time to make it one-nil, most people thought that was game-over. After all, this was Arsenal with their rock solid defence. The "One-nil to the Arsenal" chant had been sung around First Divison grounds over the course of the previous few seasons for a reason - they were used to seeing out tight victories against the strongest of opposition.
However, with just eight minutes to go, and Arsenal still looking comfortable at one-nil, Wrexham got a free-kick outside the Arsenal penalty area. Wrexham's 37 year-old captain, Mickey Thomas, grabbed the ball. Thomas was back at the club where he'd started out in the 1970s, before he'd embarked on an eventful career that had seen him play for the likes of Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea. Thomas turned back the years to fire home an incredible free-kick to put Wrexham level. Then, just two minutes later, the unthinkable happened - Steve Watkin poking the ball underneath David Seaman to give the Dragons the lead.
No.4 Sutton Utd 2:1 Coventry City 1989
At the time Coventry City were flying high in the old First Division, going into the tie in sixth position and still featuring many of the players who, only two years previous, had become FA Cup winners following that dramatic victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Sutton United, on the other hand, were mid-table in the GM Vauxhall Conference, but, spurred on by the majority of the 8000 fans who'd packed into Gander Green Lane, they took the lead just before half-time with a header by their captain, Tony Rains.
A lacklustre Coventry City equalised early in the second half when David Phillips slotted home, before Matthew Hanlan put Sutton back into the lead just seven minutes later, knocking home from close-range following a corner. Coventry City had three great chances to equalise again, but Sutton held on, and the final whistle would lead to another pitch invasion from the fans of the giant-killers.
Sutton would go onto to pull another top-tier name out of the hat for the Fourth Round, but were sent crashing out after an 8:0 thrashing at Norwich City.
No.5 Shrewsbury Town 2:1 Everton 2003
The prospective league positions of these two clubs at the end of the season would show what a shock this result was. Whilst David Moyes' Everton side would go on to finish seventh in the Premier League, Shrewsbury Town would finish bottom of the Third Division and slip out of the league, demoted to the Conference League.
It was a former Everton legend who would mastermind his old club's downfall in the F.A. Cup though, as Kevin Ratcliffe pulled off the shock of the round to send his old club crashing out.
As Gay Meadow crackled with a proper old-school cup atmosphere, Ratcliffe's team of old heads, such as Mark Atkins, Nigel Jemson and Ian Woan, took the game to Everton, and it was no surprise to see Jemson give them the lead just before half-time. Everton had named a team full of experience, with the likes of Alan Stubbs, David Unsworth, Lee Carsley, Scott Gemmill and Thomas Gravesen in their ranks, as well as a young wonder kid called Wayne Rooney. Rooney had made his Everton debut only six months earlier but was already making people sit up and take notice. However, in this match, a Shrewsbury-born 34 year-old called Peter Wilding had the game of his life and completely marked Rooney out of the contest, not giving the youngster the sniff of a chance to show what he could do.
Everton grabbed a lifeline in the second half when substitute Niklas Alexandersson equalised, but just as it looked like the game would head to Goodison Park for a replay, Jemson popped up again for a winner, heading Woan's free-kick past Richard Wright and sending the Gay Meadow crowd into a state of complete bedlam!
No.6 Bournemouth 2:0 Manchester United 1984
Bournemouth's promotion to the Premier League in 2015, followed by five consecutive seasons in the top flight, meant that the club were no longer seen as a straightforward draw in the FA Cup. But back in 1984, as a team from the old Third Division that had only recently gained promotion from the Fourth Division, Bournemouth seemed like easy pickings for a club with Manchester United's pedigree. United were the current cup holders and fielded a strong side, featuring the likes of Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins, Arnold Muhren, Norman Whiteside and Frank Stapleton. They were lead by 'Big Ron' Atkinson, whilst the Cherries had a young manager in charge called Harry Redknapp.
An unremarkable first forty-five minutes finished goalless and there was no sign of the drama that was to unfold in the second half. However, fifteen minutes after the restart, United keeper Gary Bailey misjudged Chris Sulley's corner and Bournemouth's young midfielder Milton Graham was able to smash it in at the far post. The home fans packed into Dean Court went wild, and just two minutes later they were in a state of further disbelief, Ian Thompson capitalising on a mistake by Bryan Robson to lash in a second.
There were some unsavoury scenes near the end of the game as United's travelling support invaded the pitch in a bid to get the game abandoned, obviously frustrated that their team were about to be dumped out of a second cup that season by another Third Division side (Oxford United having knocked them out of the League Cup just before Christmas in a second replay). However, the police restored order and Bournemouth managed to see out the remaining minutes to claim a famous FA Cup scalp.
No.7 Worcester City 2:1 Liverpool 1959
Worcester City's finest footballing hour came back in 1959, as they beat a Liverpool team who, despite being in the Second Division at the time, were still a huge scalp to claim. Worcester were in the North-West Division of the Southern Football League at the time, so the footballing gap between the two teams was huge. However, they'd thrashed Millwall 5:2 in the previous round, so did take some confidence into the tie.
A frozen pitch at Worceseter's St. Georges Lane ground meant that the planned 3pm Saturday kick-off had to be postponed, so the tie went ahead on a Thursday evening instead. However, the conditions hadn't improved much and it was still bitterly cold as a record 15,000 fans crammed into the ground. If Liverpool expected the hosts to freeze on the night then they were in for a shock, as Worcester's young winger Tommy Skuse opened the scoring after just nine minutes.
Urged on by the capacity crowd, the home team entered the final stages of the match still a goal to the good, but with Liverpool piling forward, desperately trying to prevent an embarrassing defeat. With nine minutes to go, it would be the visitors who scored the next goal, but not an equaliser as they hoped, as Dick White scored an own-goal past his keeper, Tommy Younger, to make it two-nil.
A late penalty from Geoff Twentyman made it a nerve-jangling climax for the Worcester faithful, but their team held firm and the final whistle was greeted with a pitch invasion that saw the players carried triumphantly back to the changing rooms on the shoulders of the fans. A fitting end to what was the biggest Third Round shock since Walsall beat Arsenal in 1933.
No.8 West Bromwich Albion 2:4 Woking 1992
Having taken three matches to see off Kidderminster Harriers in the First Round, Isthmian League side Woking travelled back up to the West Midlands to face West Bromwich Albion in the Third Round knowing that they would have to play the game of their lives if they were to stand any chance of coming away from the Hawthorns with a positive result.
Nearly 120 places in the football league pyramid separated the two teams at kick-off, and it looked like it might be a comfortable afternoon for the Baggies as they took a first half lead through Colin West.
However, the game was turned on its head after the break as Woking striker Tim Buzaglo wrote his name into the FA Cup history books, scoring an incredible hat-trick in just fifteen minutes before substitute Terry Worsfold made it 4:1. Albion midfielder Darren Bradley pulled a goal back but Geoff Chapple's side held on and went through to pull Everton out of the hat for the Fourth Round.
No.9 Stevenage Borough 3:1 Newcastle United 2011
The biggest FA Cup Third Round upset for years saw League Two Stevenage Borough deservedly beat Premier League Newcastle United in 2011. More than 75 league places separated the two teams, but you'd never have known it as the match kicked off, Stevenage Borough having more possession of the ball and more attempts on goal.
After a goalless first half, Stevenage Borough took the lead just four minutes after the break, Stacy Long's shot from just outside the penalty area going in off Mike Williamson. Just five minutes later it was two-nil, Michael Bostwick firing in from outside the box to the bottom right corner of Tim Krul's goal. The visitors, struggling to get a foothold in the game, made things even harder for themselves when substitute Cheick Tiote was sent off for a reckless challenge just twelve minutes after coming on.
Joey Barton gave the Magpies a glimmer of hope with a long range strike as the game entered injury-time, but it was short-lived as Peter Winn scored almost immediately, sealing a 3:1 victory for Graham Westley's side and condemning Alan Pardew's Newcastle United to the club's worst Third Round result since the Hereford United match in 1972.
No.10 Burnley 0:1 Wimbledon 1975
In the 1988 FA Cup final against Liverpool, Wimbledon would achieve one of the biggest shocks in the entire history of the competition, but this giant-killing back in 1975's Third Round was the first real taste of what was to come from the Dons. Burnley were a top-tier team, sitting mid-table in the old First Division, whilst Wimbledon were non-league, flying high in the Southern Football League. They'd beaten Bath City and Kettering Town to reach the third round but weren't expected to get past Burnley at Turf Moor.
The Wimbledon side that day would include some real legends of the club, including goalkeeper Dickie Guy, who would make nearly 400 apearances for the club and go on to become president of the newly formed Wimbledon in 2004, midfielder Dave Bassett, who would become the manager to guide them up to the top-tier of English football, and Ian Cooke, a one club man through the 1960s and 1970s who would also go on to be involved in the new phoenix club. It's therefore fitting that keeper Dickie Guy was one of the heroes on this particular day, along with Mick Mahon. The latter would score the game's only goal, whilst Guy pulled off a number of fantastic saves to keep a clean sheet and help seal a famous victory, the first time in more than fifty years that a non-league club had beaten a top division side away from home.
Allen Batsford's side were rewarded with a fourth round tie against reigning First Division champions Leeds United. Goalkeeper Guy would perform heroics again, saving Peter Lorimer's penalty as they came away from Ellland Road with a remarkable 0:0 draw before narrowly losing the replay 1:0. It was a sign of the fighting spirit that would go on to be associated with the club as it gained election to the Football League, then gained promotions all the way to the First Division, and culminated in that famous FA Cup triumph over Liverpool.