FA Cup third round day is a key fixture of the post-Christmas football calendar. Held on the first weekend in January, the third round is where the big sides from the top two divisions enter the competition.
In the earlier preliminary rounds, plus the first and second rounds teams from all over the country have fought to get this far, in the hope of securing a money-spinning tie and having a chance of upsetting one of the heavyweights.
League form goes out of the window on third round weekend as teams from the lower leagues take on some of the country’s most decorated sides. This stage of the competition has become famous for throwing up its fair share of shocks down the years, with underdogs upsetting the odds. Here’s ten Football League sides who did just that….
10: Liverpool 1 Reading 2 2010
In January 2010, Championship strugglers Reading forced a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium to earn a replay at Anfield 11 days later – where it was expected the home side would win.
However Reading had other ideas. Despite falling behind when Ryan Bertrand unluckily deflected Steven Gerrard’s cross into his own net a minute into first-half injury time, the Royals held their own against Rafa Benitez’s side. With 91 minutes on the clock, a throw in led to Reading striker Shane Long being fouled in the Liverpool penalty area, winning a dramatic late penalty for the visitors. Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up, sent goalkeeper Cavalieri the wrong way to force extra-time.
Having saved themselves, Reading then took the lead with ten minutes of extra-time remaining. Brynjar Gunnarsson nutmegged Emiliano Insua down the right hand side and sent in a cross which Long met with a glancing header into the far corner in front of the Kop. Liverpool were unable to find an equaliser as Reading held on to win 2-1 as Anfield was left stunned.
9: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1 2010
When League One Leeds United travelled to Old Trafford to face great rivals and reigning Premier League champions Manchester United in the 2010 third round, a rivalry was rekindled. The tie evoked memories of the beginning of the century when the two were challenging at the top of the Premiership, but was also a reminder of how far Leeds had fallen since.
At the time of this match Leeds were seeking promotion to the Championship, with Jermaine Beckford’s goals keeping them in the hunt. The striker would produce the one crucial moment against United, as his goal in front of the Stretford End gave Leeds a memorable victory and progress into the fourth round. An historic result too as it was the first time United were knocked out at this stage under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.
8: Burnley 1 Liverpool 0 2005
This game was memorable not only for Burnley’s unexpected win, but the comical own goal which gave them their victory. Liverpool travelled to Turf Moor for this third round tie but failed to put in a meaningful performance, and were punished.
After a first-half in which Burnley were the better side, the Clarets took the lead six minutes after the break when Richard Chaplow rolled a low cross into the Liverpool penalty area from the left, and Reds full-back Djimi Traore thought he was Zinedine Zidane, with disastrous consequences. The defender tried to turn as he controlled the ball, only to complete a dragback on the spin which ended up with the ball rolling into the back of his own net. A ridiculous goal which gifted Burnley a place in the fourth round.
7: Bournemouth 2 Manchester United 0 1984
In January 1984 Manchester United entered the 1983/84 FA Cup third round as holders, having beaten Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1983 final. Their defence of the triphy began with what seemed a straightforward 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, with 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: Sunderland 1 Notts County 2 2010
When former Manchester United team-mates Paul Ince and Steve Bruce went head-to-head in the dugout in January 2010, it was the former who earned the bragging rights, as Ince’s League One strugglers Notts County secured a memorable 2-1 success over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
It was Notts who took the lead five minutes in when Craig Westcarr’s flick was fumbled into his own net by Black Cats goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and despite some efforts at goal in reply, Sunderland could not find a goal and fell further behind with fifteen minutes to go. County striker Lee Hughes saw his first effort saved by Mignolet but tucked in the rebound from an acute angle to make the game more comfortable for the visitors.
Darren Bent pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 81 minutes, but it was not enough as Notts secured an impressive victory.
5: Everton 0 Oldham Athletic 1 2008
Four years ago Oldham Athletic from League One pulled off one of the shocks of that year’s FA Cup by beating Everton 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 strong rearguard display saw them through to the fourth round at the expense of David Moyes’ side.
4: Swindon Town 2 Wigan Athletic 1 2012
Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon Town side gave us one of the shocks of this year’s third round, as they came from behind to beat Premier League Wigan Athletic at the County Ground.
Callum McManaman looked to be setting the visitors on course for victory when he tucked home the rebound after Ben Watson’s penalty kick came back out off the post, but the League Two hosts fought back. Five minutes before the break, Alan Connell glanced a header into the far corner of the net from Matt Ritchie’s right-wing cross to level matters going into half-time.
Swindon continued to hold their own against Roberto Martinez’s Latics and got their reward fifteen minutes from the end. A 25-yard shot from Ritchie deflected off the legs of striker Paul Benson and rolled into the back of the net with Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi stranded. Swindon held on to defeat a side three leagues above them to the joy of the capacity crowd at the final whistle.
3: Stevenage 3 Newcastle United 1 2011
The 2011 third round draw pitted Stevenage against Newcastle United, rekindling memories of the time when the two met at the fourth round in 1998, where a goal from Giuliano Grazioli saw the non-league outfit secure a replay at St. James Park, which the Magpies won 2-1.
In 2011 Stevenage were playing their first season as a Football League club under the management of Graham Westley and were 13th in League Two as Alan Pardew’s Premier League Newcastle visited Broadhall Way. After a goalless first half the underdogs took the lead when Stacy Long’s strike deflected off Mike Williamson and sent Tim Krul the wrong way as it crossed the line. Newcastle fell further behind five minutes later when Michael Bostwick drilled a low shot in off the post to give the hosts a shock 2-0 lead.
Newcastle had midfielder Cheik Tiote sent off for a wild lunge on what would be an uncomfortable night for the visitors and despite Joey Barton’s outstanding 30-yard drive which halved the defecit two minutes into injury time, Stevenage extended their lead and sealed their place in the fourth round three minutes later, as Peter Winn clipped an effort over the advancing Krul after being played in by John Mousinho to send the home fans into raptures.
2: Shrewsbury Town 2 Everton 1 2003
In Jnauary 2003, Shrewsbury Town manager Kevin Ratcliffe, the most successful captain in Everton 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 took the game to their more illustrious opponents, being denied on several occasions by Toffees goalkeeper Richard Wright.
However two goals from veteran striker Nigel Jemson either side of a Niclas Alexandersson equaliser – the second coming two minutes from time – sent the Shrews fans into delirium and humbled David Moyes’ Everton team which boasted the likes of Wayne Rooney and Tomas Radzinski in their ranks.
1: Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 1992
At the Racecourse Ground in 1992, basement division Wrexham wrote themselves into FA Cup history with an unforgettable victory over George Graham’s Arsenal side. The Gunners were reigning league champions and expected to brush aside the Welsh outfit, bottom of the fourth division whilst Arsenal were near the top of the first.
Arsenal took the lead through a close-range finish from Alan Smith and looked to be going through, but with ten minutes to go 37-year-old Mickey Thomas, formerly of Manchester United and Chelsea, rolled back the years as he powered a superb 25-yard free kick past David Seaman to level the game.
With the crowd still in raptures after Thomas’ thunderbolt, the minnows from North Wales were not content with a draw as Steve Watkin squeezed an effort under Seaman’s dive to give Wrexham a 2-1 lead late on in the game. That’s how things stayed and at the final whistle, a pitch invasion ensued as the home supporters celebrated the most unlikely of FA Cup victories.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Steven tweets at @steven_toplis